Lawmaker warns of court challenge over wolf season
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota House members approved wolf hunting and trapping seasons on Tuesday despite warnings that the American Indian community may challenge it in court.
"When we make laws, we make laws for all the people of Minnesota," Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said before representatives approved a bill 82-49 that included the wolf seasons.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, said no tribal representatives testified against the wolf provisions, even though it was well publicized.
"Sometimes we need to reach out to other communities," Gauthier responded.
He said he thinks Ojibwe tribes are gearing up for a court fight.
The tribal exchange was among many issues representatives debated during a lengthy discussion about game and fish issues contained in Hackbarth's bill.
Among other issues was approval of "mom's amendment," allowing fishing a week earlier than normal next month.
Up to 400 Minnesota wolves could be taken by hunters under the bill.
The Department of Natural Resources reports 3,000 wolves live in Minnesota, the most of the lower 48 states. Wolf population dropped to fewer than 750 in the 1950s.
Federal officials removed it from the endangered species list last year, opening the opportunity for a wolf season.
The Hackbarth bill establishes the wolf season at the same time as the deer season. Conservationists fear that with the number of deer hunters out at that time of year too many wolves would be killed.
Wolf hunting or trapping licenses would cost $26, on top of a $4 fee required to enter a license lottery. Residents of other states would pay $250 for a license.
Similar wolf-hunting and trapping provisions are in a Senate bill that Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, expects to be debated this week.
Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, offered an amendment to Hackbarth's bill to allow fishing a week before the normal fishing opener this year.
Called the "mom's amendment" because the opener otherwise would fall on Mother's Day, the provision approved on a voice vote would apply this year only.
"This is a bonus week," Dill said.
Hackbarth's bill does not include provisions to raise hunting and fishing license fees, but he said a bill doing that could be heard by the House as early as Wednesday. Ingebrigtsen's bill includes the fee increases.
Representatives backed 87-44 a provision requiring most publically owned shooting ranges to be open four times a year for youths completing gun training classes to take tests.
"These are facilities the public paid for and we are saying, 'Let the kids use them,'" Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said.
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, wondered if the same logic applied to other public facilities, such as opening public works garages for the public to repair vehicles.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, broke from other Republicans and voted against the provision because a training facility in his community would need to be closed if it were opened to the public.
"We would have to send our law enforcement people elsewhere," said Lanning, who was Moorhead mayor 22 years.
The bill also would:
-- Require hunting and fishing licenses to continue to be sold even if the rest of government shuts down due to a budget impasse.
-- Increase three-year snowmobile registration fees from $45 to $75.
-- Establish a $10.50 license fee for canoes, kayaks, sailboards, paddle boards, paddle boats and rowing shells longer than 10 feet.
-- Require the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a hunter satisfaction survey on its Web site.
-- Limit the use of body-gripping traps.
-- Establish a winter season for brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout and splake on Boundary Waters Canoe Area lakes from Jan. 15 to March 31 and elsewhere Jan. 1 to March 31.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.