Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Governor Nelson State Park
At a packed public hearing on the law that opens state parks to trapping and expanded hunting, Wisconsin state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) made what he noted was a rare admission for a lawmaker: "We may have made a mistake and we may need to fix it."
But Rep. Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz), author of the proposal, stood his ground. "Hunting, fishing and trapping are constitutional rights for the people of Wisconsin," he said. "Regardless of what you hear, peace and quiet are not constitutional rights."
Under the law, all state parks are open to trapping and hunting unless the Natural Resources Board determines that restrictions are "necessary to protect public safety or to protect a unique animal or plant community."
But after holding five listening sessions on the law and receiving more than 2,000 written comments that were overwhelmingly critical of it, the Natural Resources Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to restrict hunting and trapping to one month in the fall and another in April.
The first season would run from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, although archery hunting would be allowed until the end of the season in January. Parks would also be open to hunting and trapping from April 1 until the end of the third turkey hunting period, which ends in late April or early May.
According to a Department of Natural Resources news release, the board's vote opens more than 62,000 acres, about two-thirds of state park properties, to some form of hunting or trapping.
But smaller parks located in urban areas -- including Governor Nelson State Park just north of Madison on County Highway M -- will be closed entirely to hunting and trapping. Only archery hunting will be allowed in some other parks that are used heavily year-round, including Peninsula State Park in Door County and High Cliff State Park on Lake Winnebago.
The board also voted to require that trappers use what the Wisconsin Trappers Association testified on Tuesday were dog-safe traps.
The board directed the DNR to prepare an emergency rule for its January meeting that would prohibit shooting across state trails and from trails within park boundaries.
Bob Welch, a lobbyist for the Hunters Rights Coalition and a former Republican state lawmaker, told Wisconsin Public Radio that the board had overstepped its authority.
"Clearly the board ignored the will of the Legislature and it's actionable, I guess you'd say," Welch said.
Welch and Mursau did not respond to Isthmus' requests for comment.
Deanna Devaul was one of more than 60 people who testified before the board. Reached Wednesday at her Madison home, Devaul, who opposes hunting and trapping in state parks, says the board's compromise helps, but not much.
"We have enough area [to hunt] on federal lands and on private property," she says. "Why are we expanding it to our state parks, where it puts people and children and companion animals at risk?"