Six Ojibwe Tribes in Wisconsin have sent a letter to U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin voicing strong disappointment and opposition to legislation the Senators introduced to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming. The Tribes noted that neither Senator reached out to ask how the proposed legislation would impact the tribes or their treaty-protected rights and resources.
“Gray wolves deserve continued protection under the Endangered Species Act and a reprieve from the political infighting that continues to put them in jeopardy,” said Gussie Lord, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships Program. “Wisconsin has already demonstrated its inability to properly manage the state’s wolf population, and this legislation would ensure another brutal hunt for this keystone species.”
In their letter, the Tribes note that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has been unable to effectively manage the gray wolf under the state’s statutory and regulatory framework, as evidenced by a disastrous February 2021 wolf hunt. That hunt killed an excessive number of wolves and consumed the Tribes’ entire treaty-protected share through the actions of state-licensed hunters in just three days. Under the Endangered Species Act, a species must not be imperiled by “the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms,” and the February 2021 hunt shows that the WDNR is not up to the task.
Following the February 2021 hunt, a Wisconsin state court prohibited the WDNR from implementing a planned November 2021 hunt due to a lack of procedural safeguards and because the state’s regulatory scheme violated the Wisconsin constitution. The six Ojibwe Tribes in Wisconsin also sued the WDNR last year in federal court for its failures in wolf management and violation of off-reservation treaty rights, but the hunt was halted before preliminary injunction relief.
Senators Johnson and Baldwin introduced their bill in March, alongside Wyoming’s Senators Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso. The legislation follows a federal court decision that restored protections under the Endangered Species Act for gray wolves in 44 states, including Wisconsin. Wolves remain unprotected in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and portions of several adjacent states due to a series of administrative and legislative maneuvers over the past decade.
The letter to Senators Johnson and Baldwin was signed by the tribal nations Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.
Read the letter from the Tribes to Senators Baldwin and Johnson.