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DNR board makes no changes in Florence, Marinette deer quotas

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources board voted Thursday to revise antlerless deer quotas in Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Sawyer counties.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Department of Natural Resources board voted Thursday to revise antlerless deer quotas in some northern Wisconsin counties, hoping to defuse complaints that it violated open meeting laws and ignored local recommendations when it tightened kill limits last month.

The seven-member board adopted 2020 deer season quotas during a meeting June 24. The plan reduced antlerless quotas in 11 northern counties — Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Florence, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, Sawyer and Vilas — in an effort to allow the herd to grow.

On Thursday, the board voted 6 to 1 to revert to quota recommendations that were put forth by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Sawyer counties. The board’s previous decision on the remaining seven counties will stand.

Three former board members, Dave Clausen, John Welter and Fred Clark, accused four current members of developing the quota reduction plan in a walking quorum ahead of the meeting and failing to give the other three members or the public adequate notice of the plan before it was presented. Clausen drafted a complaint naming chairman Fred Prehn, Greg Kazmierski, Terry Hilgenberg and Bill Bruins in the quorum.

Citizen advisory committees in the affected counties, meanwhile, blasted the board for disregarding their recommendations.

Faced with the mounting criticism, board Chairman Fred Prehn called a special video conference Thursday morning to reconsider the board’s actions. The board voted 6-1 to restore the committees’ quota recommendations for Bayfield, Douglas, Sawyer and Burnett counties.

No board members directly addressed the open meetings allegations during the two-hour conference, although Prehn said it has been difficult to share information with the public and board members during the coronavirus pandemic. The board spent most of the meeting listening to members of citizen advisory committees complain that their recommendations were ignored.

Al Horvath, chairman of the Douglas County advisory committee, said the board cut its quota recommendations in half. He said the majority of hunters who responded to a committee survey want higher limits. Ralph Fritsch, a member of the Oconto County committee, railed that the board reduced the committee’s 150-antlerless limit for the county’s northern forest area to zero.

“We need some help from you to realize we’re doing our job and not cut our feet out from underneath us,” Fritsch said.

Board member Bill Smith proposed restoring committee recommendations in the four counties, saying they made good arguments that the board must respect. Prehn called the proposal a compromise.

Kazmierski, who spearheaded the plan to cut the quotas, cast the lone vote against restoring committee limits. He argued that population data shows the northern herd is dwindling and the committees are merely advisory bodies.

“That means the buck stops with the board,” he said. “The board is responsible for the devastation of the deer herd in the north.”

Following the meeting, the DNR announced that bonus antlerless harvest authorizations will be available for purchase beginning Aug. 17.

Florence County will have 150 forest zone permits for public lands and 600 for private lands.

Marinette County’s farmland zone will have 600 permits for public lands and 2,900 for private lands. No forest zone permits will be available for Marinette County.

More information is available at https://dnr.wi.gov/permits/bonusavailability.html.

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