Wisconsin’s Natural Resources expired board chair to preside over controversial wolf hunt quota discussion

Study Says Hunting, Poaching Reduce Wisconsin Wolf Numbers
Gary Kramer

FILE - This April 18, 2008, file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf. As many as one-third of Wisconsin's gray wolves likely died at the hands of humans in the months after the federal government announced removal of legal protections, according to a study released Monday, July 5, 2021.

On Wednesday, the state’s Natural Resources Board is set to debate what quota to place on this fall’s wolf hunt, with expired board chair Dr. Fred Prehn presiding.

The board sets policy for the Department of Natural Resources, with the wolf hunt coming into sharp and controversial focus after the Trump Administration removed wolves from the federal endangered species list. The change resulted in a lawsuit forcing the DNR to authorize a wolf hunt in February, when hunters killed almost double the 119-wolf quota the DNR had set and forced the hunt to close three days early.

It’s been more than three months since Prehn’s six-year term expired and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers appointed Ashland High School agriculture teacher Sandra Naas to replace him. But the Senate hasn’t taken up her confirmation, and Prehn is taking advantage of a little-used state law to dig in his heels.

“NO change on my part,” Prehn told News 3 Now on Tuesday in response to an inquiry of whether anything had changed in his refusal to step down. “Still waiting on confirmation hearing.”

He added that he would wait until he had heard testimony before deciding whether he would support DNR’s proposal of a 130-wolf quota.

Policies governing Wisconsin’s wolf hunt was one of the reasons he cited when discussing his decision to stay on the NRB with News 3 Now earlier this year. Now, with the Republican-controlled senate stalling on a confirmation and the Associated Press reporting in late July that appointments had been sent to the Senate Committee on Organization, a committee outside the norm for past appointments.

The DNR is asking the board to set a quota of 130 wolves for the November hunt citing uncertainty about population sizes, a lack of data following two hunts in a year, and an ongoing effort to develop an updated Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan to maintain conservation of the species.

With Prehn refusing to step down and confirmations still pending in the senate, the board continues its majority of Republican Gov. Scott Walker-era appointees.

In July, the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Wisconsin’s Department of Justice, asking attorney general Josh Kaul to remove Prehn from the board under the legal argument that state law caps terms at six years. The DOJ told News 3 on Tuesday that they were still reviewing the matter.