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article imageInside the caucus for wolf activists in Wisconsin Special

By Justin King     Dec 12, 2013 in Politics
Madison - This weekend, activists hoping to protect Wisconsin’s wolves are gathering for a caucus to formulate a strategy to better defend the wolf population in the state.
The Facebook page for the group describes the event as an opportunity for all wolf advocates and citizens to join together. The caucus was prompted in part because of the lobbying dollars pouring in from hunting associations that work to promote the hunting of wolves as a form of wildlife management.
Since the wolf hunting season opened on October 15, almost 200 wolves have been killed. Wisconsin is the only state to allow dogs to be used by hunters to track wolves down. Last year, that controversial practice, referred to by many activists as “state sanctioned dog fighting,” was stopped by an injunction that has since been lifted.
Two caucus attendees, Karen Rivelli and Adam Kassulke, took the time to answer questions about the caucus and the cause.
Q and A with Kassulke
There is a lot of questionable science going on in this debate. How endangered are wolves in the U.S. in your opinion?
Wolves clearly fit the definition of an endangered species. They are only partly recovered in the current wolf holding states. They are not anywhere near what their natural carrying capacity numbers are. Wisconsin for example, has a natural carrying capacity closer to 1800. It is also concerning that a year after federal delisting we have full scale wolf hunting in all the states where they are currently found.
Ok, tell us a little about the caucus?
The caucus is on 12/14 at 1pm in Madison, WI. at 2707 East Washington Ave.. It has several key note speakers and breakout sessions scheduled.
What are the goals of the caucus?
Why a Caucus?
This question is being asked a lot. Six months ago Gary, Victoria, and I had a sit down to discuss solutions to the wolf hunt and the politicalization of wildlife decisions in Wisconsin. The problem is inherently a political based issue. Yes, ethics is a part as well. We looked around the state and found very dedicated wolf supporters, but no unified strategy or message as a movement. So a Caucus idea was created as a solution to the "voices of wolf backers" that are scattered. The anti-wolf lobby managed to not only get their way with wildlife policy in this state, but to completely dominate it. They are a minority in Wisconsin, yet they control all aspects of wildlife policy development and implementation at every level. How do you counter that and turn the tables towards wildlife policy management that is based on science and values of the majority then became the question. The answers became clear. A three pronged strategy: One: the formation of a wolf conservation political action committee with a lobbyist, the groundwork has been laid for this and the "seed" money raised. This will allow wolf supporters to be equal players in the development of legislation at the state level. The fact is, if you want to change the current wolf hunt law, you must change it legislatively. Part of the goal here as well, is to work towards the depoliticalization of the DNR [Department of Natural Resources]. For starters, the Governor should not be allowed to have control over the DNR Secretary or the Natural Resources Board. These positions need to be elected by the people at large and the DNR needs to be a watch dog over the state’s wildlife and natural resources. It cannot do so, if it is comprised of political appointees. Two: a comprehensive statewide K-12 education platform with a committee. In youth lies the future and we have seen firsthand in over 23 schools so far that the youth are very concerned and support wolf conservation. They are the future voters and taxpayers of this state. Three: the targeting of key anti-wolf legislators in the 2014 elections, the planning and fundraising is already underway for campaigns against Senators Kedzie and Tiffany and can be expanded to others. Obviously there are other points to work on as well. But these efforts along with a greater sense of community amongst all wolf supporters will turn the tide and create a Wisconsin where wolves are valued and wildlife management policies are created that follow the wishes of all Wisconsin citizens.
What are the threats that wolves are facing in your area?
Wolves are being systematically exterminated via direct hunts, trapping and the use of hounds against them. Wisconsin is the only state allowing the running of hounds against wolves, which is nothing but state sanctioned dog fighting.
Who are the political threats to the wolves there?
The main groups that pushed through the bill allowing wolf hunting are the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association.
Kassulke went on to discuss a survey of 6500 residents conducted by Wisconsin Wolf Front. In that survey, 94% of respondents came out against the practice of using hunting dogs to track wolves.
Q and A with Rivelli
First, could you tell the readers a little about yourself and your experience in the animal rights movement?
Well my first experience of being absolutely in love with animals was at a very young age. Although I didn't practice at activism I did appreciate them as I would a family member. In 2010, I became extremely ill and had a lot of time on my hands, and I then got involved with a lot of groups on Facebook and it further lead me to attending rallies and writing letters to State and Federal Representatives and becoming quite interested in saving those with No Voices. It became clear to me that maybe just maybe my life was saved to save the life of others, so my journey began and not without learning what to do and what not to do. I felt it as a duty I had to fulfill and if I knew about it and did nothing I was merely allowing it to continue, that wasn't going to be my purpose. I did a lot of research on a lot of animals and the one I felt needed the most help was the wolf. Since the delisting of this magnificent animal, I have been held prisoner to watching as they are being exterminated like a horrific genocide. They needed help so I reached out to others that I felt could help and where educated about them.
How did you first get involved in the fight to protect wolves?
Well for me mostly though Facebook, I started as an administrator on one of the Wolf pages and got more involved to the point where I was spending so much time at it to me was like having another job. I have spent endless hours trying to educate myself why their existence is so vital to the ecosystem that I knew I had to find places where I could assist in some way. However, through my travels I did attend the rally in Elkhorn Wisconsin to protect the use of dogs on wolves with Adam Kassulke from the Wisconsin Wolf Front, who was clearly trying to get the Bill SB93 passed which was to prohibit the use of dogs in Wisconsin to aid in killing wolves. Wisconsin is the first in the United States to make it legal for the use of dogs, and quite frankly the Author of the Bill SB93 Senator Risser is having extreme problems getting this bill passed, mostly due to large outfitters and of course the Republican Senator Kedzie who is not allowing passage through the senate and stalling it to the point it will be dead soon and have to be reintroduced into their senate. This form of killing is nothing short of legalized "Dog Fighting" and should fall under the Animal Abuse laws they have in place. While attending the rally I also interviewed Elizabeth Huntley from the Wisconsin Wolf Defenders whose compassion for the Wolf is endless and found her knowledge and willingness to step up to the plate was enlightening. I guess you could say I only have assisted them however it's there long term goals of changing the laws and putting legislation in place so other states could as well follow is what made my interest peak. This could put Wisconsin on the map for the first of its kind to enact on these issues.
So why are you attending the caucus?
To be a vital participant in the process of getting this legislation put into place. It will take some truly dedicated people to get this forum started and as I stated I will at this junction do whatever it takes to make this happen.
More about Wolf, Wolves, Wisconsin, wisconsin wolf front, Caucus
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