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Outdoors Roundup: Debate reigns over the next wolf hunt

WAUSAU - How big should Wisconsin's next wolf hunt be? That question will be addressed today, when the state's Wolf Advisory Committee meets near Wausau.

The 26-member panel is expected to recommend a quota for the state's second wolf hunt that's due to begin in October. Last year, the quota was 201 wolves, or about a quarter of the state's total population - but the final figure was reduced to 117, because Chippewa Indians refused to let hunters kill the animals to which the tribes were entitled. Recently, the DNR said the wolf population grew only slightly over the past year to between 809-834. The DNR's David McFarland says planning for the next wolf hunt will continue despite a legal challenge from animal rights' groups who seek to put wolves back under federal protections. McFarland said if there's judicial action quote, "We'll change course at that time." Also, he said the advisory panel will not touch the question of eliminating wolf hunting at night - a provision that's in the proposed state budget. McFarland says that issue is in the hands of legislators now. Today's recommendations will go to a DNR policy team and agency officials, and then to the Natural Resources Board.


The vice-chairman of the State Building Commission backed off yesterday on a threat to withhold a quarter-million-dollars in grant money for the Lac du Flambeau Indian tribe. Assembly Republican Dean Kaufert of Neenah said a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull back funding that the commission approved in 2011 for a new tribal cultural center. That was because six Chippewa tribes said they would jack up their federally-approved spearfishing quotas, leaving less fish for sport anglers in northern Wisconsin. Kaufert pulled back on his threat yesterday. He said the cold spring hampered spear-fishing, and DNR promised him that more fish would be made available for others. The Building Commission was originally scheduled to consider the funding withdrawal last month, but the panel wanted to give Governor Scott Walker more time to seek a compromise. Walker announced just a few hours before yesterday's meeting that he'll pursue a major walleye stocking increase that will benefit both sport anglers and tribal fishers. He said the DNR proposed the program - but agency secretary Cathy Stepp told the AP that the stocking plan had nothing to do with the tribal dispute. She said fish experts have been wanting for years to increase walleye stocks. Walker's plan includes eight-million dollars in bonding authority and two-million in grants. The Joint Finance Committee is expected to consider the funding request in the coming days.


Two endangered whooping cranes have produced a new baby in central Wisconsin. The chick was hatched in the wild this week in Marathon County. It's the offspring of a male and female that took part in a migration effort to increase the crane population in eastern North America. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership says 25 chicks have hatched in the wild since 2006 - but all but five died from a variety of causes. Those five have fledged into the wild. For the partnership, the hatching is much-needed good news after black flies hurt nesting efforts at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. All but one of 20 nests were lost earlier this month - and officials say the lone surviving nest has at least one chick.


Officials in Manitowoc say they've been given a "great opportunity," after the federal EPA awarded the city a million-dollars to help clean up polluted business and industrial sites. Manitowoc is the only Wisconsin city to receive a federal Brownfield grant. Only 13 places throughout the country were given similar awards. Manitowoc plans to create a revolving loan fund, from which business sites can borrow money for their cleanups. When it's paid back, the city will loan it out to other projects - and in the meantime, the cash in the revolving fund will keep generating interest. Manitowoc City Planner David Less says several properties have been identified for clean-ups. They include a vacant mall, an old junkyard, and a manufacturing site that used to make coatings for metal. That industrial site is being taken over by the city.


An environmental group is praising state lawmakers, for restoring almost a million dollars in state funds for county conservation workers. Governor Scott Walker wanted to cut over $998,000 in funds which pay for all-or-part of the salaries of three conservationists in each county. The Joint Finance Committee has voted to re-instate the funding. Anne Sayers of the League of Conservation Voters said lawmakers noted, quote, "Our lakes, rivers, and streams can't protect themselves ... Every day, county conservationists are on the front lines working to prevent run-off that leads to polluted water and stinky lakes." Sayers said the funding still faces hurdles when the budget gets to the full Legislature. That's when members in both houses make deals and come up with their own compromise spending packages - and then agree to a final package which goes to Walker, who can pick-and-choose the items he wants to approve and veto.