Thursday, April 12, 2012

Note to state media: It wasn't "outdoor lovers" who voted in favor of a sandhill crane hunt. It was hunters.

Note to Media: It Wasn't "Outdoor Lovers" Who Voted to Hunt Sandhills. It Was Hunters.
Why anyone could bear to shoot one of these magnificent creatures is beyond me. And for Wisconsin, the home of the International Crane Federation, to even consider hunting sandhill cranes seems almost obscene.

Whooping CraneWhooping cranes like the one on the right, one of the species the ICF is helping bring back from near extinction, are just starting to reappear in Wisconsin and have been seen hanging out with sandhills. Hunting their cousins just about guarantees some of the rare and endangered whooping cranes will be killed as well.

Rep. Kleefisch's crane hunt proposal died in committee when the Assembly was in session. That didn't keep the Wisconsin Conservation Congress from bringing it back as an advisory question at their spring meetings Monday night. A lot of state media reported Wednesday that "nature lovers" voted in favor of a sandhill hunt. Not exactly. At the Dane County meeting we went to, the best attended in the whole state, nature lovers voted 4-1 against a crane hunt, 243-62 The hunt carried statewide, winning in 67 of 72 counties, 2,559-1,271. But that's because, in most counties, the meetings are chiefly attended by hunters and trappers and non-hunters often don't feel comfortable participating. Voters, especially outside the Madison area, regularly approve of extending hunting to additional species. A few years ago, for example, they voted in favor of killing feral cats.

Lazy and/or biased reporting in state media gives the impression that "outdoor lovers" in general favor a crane hunt, perhaps assuming that, because it has "Conservation" in its name, the group speaks for all nature lovers, and that's far from the truth. (At the Dane County meeting there were even some hunters who spoke out against a crane hunt.) Many outdoor lovers abhor the idea of hunting cranes.

The DNR can recommend a crane hunt, and things now seem to be pointing in that direction, but the state legislature would need to vote it into law and it would have to be signed by the governor before it actually can happen (and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would have to approve). Strictly speaking, it's not a partisan issue --plenty of Democrats also frequently vote with hunters. But the cranes would have no chance with the GOP governor and legislature that just legalized wolf hunting. With a Democratic governor and a Democratic state Senate, the birds might at least stand a fighting chance. One more reason to recall Walker and the GOP senators.

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