The Conservation Congress feral cat resolution is getting miles of publicity and is unfairly billed by the media as a hunter versus animal rights controversy. C’mon. Do you actually believe there is a hunter out there who is planning a domestic cat hunt? Do you really think there are any animal rights advocates who are ignorant of the damage and depredations caused by careless, ignorant people who unleash domestic cats to reproduce and prey on threatened nesting native birds? If someone needs a conflict here to promote their career or agenda, it’s between wildlife biologists and cat fanciers.
During this Conservation Congress spring hearing, at which the cat resolution received top billing, there were a couple of other resolutions of far greater importance. Resolutions 53 and 54, proposed by the Environmental Practices Committee, are truly important to all hunters and fishers, as well as to all other environmentalists who do not also happen to hunt or fish. These resolutions seek to protect Wisconsin lakes, rivers, creeks and streams. Resolutions 53 and 54 have been given no public attention by the media, the DNR, or the Conservation Congress Executive Committee.
Recently, the DNR bowed to powerful corporate and developer pressure and removed four categories of high quality waters from permit requirements. Resolution 53 advises the DNR that the public would like them to restore full permit review for activities on those high quality waters that support self-sustaining populations of muskies and walleyes, waters that are used by lake sturgeon in their life cycle, and perennial tributaries to trout streams.
There are hundreds of Wisconsin rivers, creeks, and streams that have been requested for designation as Outstanding or Exceptional Resource Waters, but have not been reviewed by the DNR for classification due to priorities and funding. Currently, all unclassified streams are administratively labeled, by default, in the least protected “warm water sport fishery” category. Political pressure and lack of funds will likely postpone indefinitely the designation of additional Outstanding or Exceptional Resource Waters, and meanwhile they can be degraded due to the lack of protection provided by the default category. Resolution 54 advises the DNR that the Conservation Congress urges placing these high quality streams in the more protected Exceptional Resource Water category. A developer wishing to challenge that designation would pay for the needed study.
The feral cat question was one of two resolutions recommended by the Legislative Committee for inclusion on the printed statewide ballot this year. The other resolution addressed an important mistake in property tax policy that punishes and discourages conservation practices instituted voluntarily on farms. That other one disappeared from the printed ballot for no good reason when the Executive Committee passed over it.
It seems that the powers-that-be, and some irresponsible media commentators, prefer to spotlight a wedge issue that divides us and poses no problem to special interest corporations and developers, and draws our attention away from much more significant issues on which we could and should find common cause. When will we ever learn?