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“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” — unknown

Attending every Conservation Congress election/vote for 15 years offers a unique perspective. This was the first year since the assaults on mourning doves and feral cats that we had a diversity of citizens attending to resuscitate this 78-year-old “public” election of delegates to advise the Department of Natural Resources. It was refreshing.

Outside the entrance at Dane County’s Conservation Congress site, Gillian Nevers was handing out fliers with poetry protesting a crane hunt (click here to get to the WisconsinEye video of the meeting.) After all the killing expansion rammed through the Legislature, this was the annual opportunity to speak out on 91 more hunter power grabs.

A friendly fellow handed me a religious flier. It was Tom Gunderson, who had called me after seeing one of the Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic posters. He leaned over and said, “My dogs and I live near the marsh in the midst of cranes. We love them. I am praying for them.”

As I entered the auditorium, I saw Tracy Doyle standing at the microphone, nominating herself for the two-year delegate position. She had called me just that afternoon: “My boyfriend and I talk about these issues all the time, and until I read your column, I did not realize there is a place to participate. Could I run as a candidate?” And there she was taking leadership even though it was her first time attending.

The delegate positions were retained by the hunters with surprisingly low statewide turnout of 4,611. The vote was 74 hunters/trappers to 55 non-hunters in Dane County. Biologist Barb Eisenberg lost by seven votes in Milwaukee County.

Question No. 1 concerned keeping the longer season on bobcats, trapping and running dogs on them. The season provides a “sustainable yield” from (maybe) 2,000 bobcats in the entire state — killing 400 young cats every year. Christina Ciano, a first-timer, headed to the microphone to say, “Why can’t we have an option saying ‘None of the above’ to vote that we do not want to kill them at all? It isn’t fair to those of us who want other options.”

This video shows a rare rescue of a snared bobcat:

Architect Edward Kuharski brought in a four-foot origami crane decorated with children’s writings celebrating cranes, and a shopping bag of smaller paper cranes made by children who love the cranes. He identified himself as part of the “International Paper Crane Foundation.” Cal DeWitt, professor at the Nelson Institute, spoke of the many cultures around the world that hold these ancient pterodactyls sacred — China and Japan included. He reminded the hunters that Wisconsin, home of the International Crane Foundation, is the center of that sacred trust.

Several newcomers said a sandhill crane hunt would just be a kill, not a hunt. Cranes are slow and graceful.

Wildlife Ethic sponsored four citizen initiatives:

• Open the election to the non-hunting public by announcing candidates and debating issues before the election.

• Legislate this election to be under Wisconsin election law for transparency.

• Legislate $160 million in wildlife watching tax revenues to replace killing license bias and empower the DNR to a more democratic, unbiased agenda.

• Reverse the wolf kill statute.

Christina Ciano sponsored a resolution to reverse the expansion of trapping into all public lands authorized in SB 226.

Humane or inclusive resolutions never pass the hunter/trapper delegate checkpoint.

Voting results were posted April 12. The attendance was so negligible that it should be considered a straw poll: 2,559 for killing cranes and 1,271 against. The Wisconsin Public Radio straw poll was the opposite: 85 percent against killing cranes and 15 percent for. Those 2,559 hunters in favor are 0.0004 percent of the Wisconsin population. The media will say “Wisconsin outdoor lovers want to kill cranes.” Such is the farce of media spin.

The hunters voted to:

• Open 13 new lakes to waterfowl hunting.

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• Allow the use of crossbows on our bears and turkeys.

• Increase shooting ranges on public lands.

• Delay the crow season to coincide with their nesting season.

• Continue the use of lead shot and sinkers. (Lead from the hunter war on wildlife poisons an additional million songbirds and waterbirds in Wisconsin annually.)

Hunters voted the exact opposite of the humane vote, taking more power, destroying more wildlife.

The hunters now want a season to kill tundra swans.

Linda Deppe, who attended for the first time in Waukesha County, said, “I came away with the sense that the hunters and trappers are all angry that their numbers are dwindling, and they are desperately grabbing as much as they can. Their extreme bills and unethical behavior are further alienating an awakening public.”

Support the awakening at

Sign a petition to stop the bear hunt.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife.

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