Board of directors plans to hire outside lawyers in wolf lawsuits

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The state’s Department of Natural Resources board plans to vote next week on whether to hire its own lawyers in a pair of lawsuits aimed at blocking wolf hunting at fall, underscoring the growing rift between Republican council members. and Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

The department said on Friday that the council will meet remotely on Monday to proceed with the vote. Council chairman Fred Prehn said he was not sure Kaul’s Justice Department would represent the pro-wolf leadership position of council members in court as his lawyers do not speak to members. advice.

“We didn’t meet with them, they didn’t talk to any board member or strategy,” Prehn said. “The board has the impression that it is not being consulted.

Justice Department spokeswoman Gillian Drummond did not immediately respond to a message on Friday. Earlier this month, she said in an email to The Associated Press that the agency’s attorneys were communicating with Natural Resources Department attorneys about the cases and that if board members needed updates, they could get them at regular board meetings.

Prehn has been at odds with Evers since his term on the board expired in May. The governor has appointed Sandra Naas to replace him, a move that would give those named by Evers majority control of the panel.

Prehn, who was appointed by former Republican governor Scott Walker, refused to step down. He maintains that he does not have to leave until the Senate confirms Naas. Republicans control the Senate and have made no move in favor of a confirmation vote, ensuring that the board remains under GOP control.

Playing alongside the political battle is an uphill battle for the fall wolf hunt. In August, the board of directors set the quota for the fall season at 300 animals, angering environmentalists and Native American tribes who fear that a late winter hunt has left the population of wolves too weak to endure two seasons in one year.

A coalition of wildlife groups lodged a lawsuit to block fall hunting in Dane County Circuit Court in August. Six tribes have filed a federal complaint last month looking for the same.

The DOJ represents the board of directors and the DNR in both lawsuits. A hearing in the state trial is scheduled for Thursday and a hearing in the federal trial is scheduled for October 29. Wolf season is scheduled to begin on November 6.

MNR Secretary Preston Cole is appointed by Evers. Earlier this month, the ministry took the unprecedented step of unilaterally reducing the wolf quota to 130 wolves, in open disregard of the board.

On top of all this, Kaul filed a lawsuit to force Prehn out of the board. A Dane County judge dismissed the lawsuit last month, but Kaul asked a state appeals court to overturn that decision. A decision is pending.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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