Dear Editor: The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Nowhere in this wording does it say that equal protection should be denied when it comes to wildlife “management” and how the Natural Resources Board and DNR “advisory committees” are filled.
Unfortunately in Wisconsin non-hunting and non-agriculture groups and individuals are relegated under the law to being a minority on the Natural Resources Board — in the unlikely event that they are appointed at all. This, despite hunters and agricultural interests being a minority in a state of 5.6 million people.
The DNR “advisory” boards are no different. They are stacked with hunting and agriculture groups while pro-wildlife groups and individuals are excluded and not viewed as “stakeholders.”
Equal protection under the law should mean that statutorily relegating a group of people to minority status on a board that is supposed to “represent” every citizen is unconstitutional. Equal protection should also mean that every citizen of this state is a “stakeholder” regarding the public trust that is wildlife and our environment.
It is rather disturbing that the majority of citizens are given no voice on these boards or are drowned out by the special interests that maintain the majority of seats under power of law. A hunter should not have any more representation than someone who watches living wildlife. The same goes for agricultural interests. Democracy should have a place in all levels of government and the “management” of wildlife is no different. We are all “stakeholders” in this state and it would be wise for the DNR and legislators to remember this.
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