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Wisconsin DNR board takes no action on hiring outside attorneys in wolf hunt lawsuits

Gray wolves

A federal court hearing Friday focused on whether gray wolves were properly classified under the Endangered Species Act prior to losing their protected status last year.

The state Department of Natural Resources policy board took no action Monday after meeting in a closed session for more than an hour to discuss hiring its own attorneys in a lawsuit seeking to block the fall wolf hunt.

Board Chairman Fred Prehn, who supports the wolf hunt, said on Friday that he wasn't sure if Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul's Department of Justice will represent board members' pro-wolf management position in court because its attorneys aren't talking to board members.

At least one DOJ attorney participated in Monday's meeting conducted over Zoom. The board's discussions were in closed session because they related to pending lawsuits.

In brief comments after the closed session of the meeting, Prehn said that the board had voted to take no action on whether to hire outside attorneys. That vote occurred in closed session.

The board in August set the quota for the fall season at 300 wolves, angering conservationists and American Indian tribes who are concerned that a late-winter hunt has left the wolf population too weak to sustain two seasons in one year.

A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups filed a lawsuit to block the fall hunt in Dane County Circuit Court in August. Six tribes filed a federal lawsuit last month seeking the same thing.

The board was initially named as a defendant in the state lawsuit, but was dropped in an amended complaint filed over a month later on Oct. 8. The board remains a defendant in the federal lawsuit.

The DOJ is representing the board and the DNR in both lawsuits. A hearing in the state lawsuit is set for Thursday and a hearing in the federal lawsuit is set for Oct. 29. The wolf season is scheduled to begin Nov. 6.

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