Sporting Heritage Committee confirms controversial grant - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Sporting Heritage Committee confirms controversial $500,000 grant

MADISON (WKOW) -- Despite its name, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin has no track record of providing training in hunting, fishing or trapping.     

But on Thursday, the DNR-led Sporting Heritage Committee voted to recommend that the group receive $500,000 over the next two years to do just that.

"It would provide $200,000 in the first fiscal year and $300,000 in the second fiscal year to a group that met specific specifications," said Scott Gunderson, DNR Executive Assistant.

Those specifications are what several members of the public showed up at the meeting to complain about.

"This was set up in such a way that it truly is only available to one organization and an organization that has been, at least until this moment, a political front-group and nothing more," said Anne Sayers, Program Director for Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

United Sportsmen has been very active in promoting and funding conservative political causes and candidates.  Sayers says the grant is nothing more than a political favor slipped into the state budget and that Republican legislators purposely prevented other wildlife groups from applying for it.

"And the real tragedy in that is that Wisconsin has dozens, if not more, organizations, hunting organizations that are ready right now to hit the ground running to implement the requirements of that grant," said Sayers.

But DNR officials say United Sportsmen will be required to prove they are using the money the way its intended.

"We'll make sure that's very clear," said Gunderson.  "And we'll also ask for an annual review of what they've done."

"I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if it was actually written into law that they would review it every two years," said Sayers.

Right now... There is no such requirement... Meaning united sportsmen could receive this grant every two years without re-applying for it.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp gave final approval to the grant late Thursday afternoon.  Stepp says she plans to insert specific language into the grant contract to ensure United Sportsmen meets the DNR's expectations.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's Sporting Heritage Committee gave its approval to award a $500,000 grant to the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Thursday morning, despite unanimous dissent from members of the public who testified at its meeting.

The grant authorizes the state to give the money to United Sportsmen so the group can promote and provide training for hunting and fishing in Wisconsin.

Controversy over the grant award arose after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported last weekend that United Sportsmen has close ties to several Republican state lawmakers and was the only group to apply for the grant.  Groups such as the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters say the grant application was set up so that only United Sportsmen could win it.

The Journal-Sentinel reports United Sportsmen has been active in both elections and lobbying over the past two years on behalf of conservative causes, but has no history of doing the kind of training called for in the grant.

The Sporting Heritage Committee voted 4-1 to approve the grant.  That committee consists of two Republican lawmakers, a DNR official and two hunters selected by the DNR.

 

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