December 22, 2014

Federal judge orders Great Lakes gray wolf population back on endangered species list

Wisconsin gray wolf. (PHOTO: Wisconsin DNR/Gary Kramer)

Wisconsin gray wolf. (PHOTO: Wisconsin DNR/Gary Kramer)

A federal judge has ordered gray wolves in Wisconsin and two other Great Lakes states back on the federal endangered species list.

The ruling Friday by US District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington D.C. overturns the Obama administration’s 2012 decision to de-list the gray wolf in the Great Lakes region. In the decision, Howell found federal officials violated the federal Endangered Species Act in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner.

The decision will affect wolf populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, halting further hunting and trapping seasons in those states.

The lawsuit was brought by the Humane Society of the United States. In a statement, attorney Jonathan Lovvorn noted that more than 1,500 wolves have been killed since the animal was de-listed. He praised the court for recognizing that the basis for the delisting decision was “flawed and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks.”

The ruling will have a dramatic impact on how Wisconsin manages its wolf population.

State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bill Cosh says people that already hold permits to shoot wolves that are in conflict with domesticated animals cannot use them now.  “What people who have the removal permits need to know is that the permits which allow lethal removal of wolves issued to landowners experiencing wolf conflicts are no longer valid. In fact, the Department of Natural Resources is in the process this evening of contacting the permit holders to alert them of that.”

This means Wisconsin’s law allowing landowners or occupants of the land to shoot wolves that are in the act of depredating domestic animals on private property is no longer in force. Landowners may not kill wolves in the act of attacking domestic animals. Under Federal Law, you also cannot use dogs to track and train on wolves. The judge’s ruling also prohibits Wisconsin from implementing a wolf harvest season.

Cosh added that legal staff from the DNR and Department of Justice are reviewing the decision and will have further information available at a later date.

Wisconsin’s third wolf season ended earlier this month, after hunters and trappers harvested 154 animals.

Affiliate WSAU contributed to this report

UPDATE: This story was update to reflect a statement from the Wisconsin DNR.

Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to hear John Doe challenges

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

The state Supreme Court has agreed to take up several cases coming out of a stalled John Doe investigation.

Justice have agreed to hear three cases connected with the probe, which was looking into allegations that conservative groups coordinated efforts with Governor Scott Walker’s campaign when he was the target of a recall election. One of the cases deals with a judge’s decision to quash subpoenas in the case, while the other two deal with a number of legal challenges filed by unamed parties targeted by the investigation.

The high court consolidated all three cases, while putting a fourth challenge on hold for now. That case deals with Citizens for Responsible Government’s challenge to state laws that prevent them from coordinating issue and policy advocacy campaigns with candidates during an election season.

The court could hear arguments in the case early next year.

Marshfield man guilty of breaking baby’s arm

(Learfield photo)

(Learfield photo)

A couple brought their child in to St. Joseph’s Hospital back in September, according to court records. The child had two fractures to his left arm. A doctor told authorities that the baby wasn’t walking, crawling or pulling himself up yet to cause an injury like that.

When authorities questioned the parents, the father, Mark Kuehn, 28, admitted that he was watching his son and trying to change his diaper, but the child was fussing and rolling around in his crib. Kuehn said he grabbed his son’s left arm and pulled him back into place when he heard a pop and the boy started to cry.

Kuehn was charged with child abuse and felony bail jumping. The bail jumping charge came about when authorities learned that Kuehn broke one of the conditions of his bond which was to have no contact with his son.

In the end, the bail jumping charged was dropped. As a result of a no contest plea Kuehn was found guilty in Wood County Court on Monday of child abuse. A sentencing date has not be set yet, but if convicted of the maximum amount, he could spend 9.5 years in prison.



Wisconsin Supreme Court won’t take up raw milk case

Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger’s 2013 conviction for selling raw milk will be allowed to stand. Without explaining why, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to consider whether Hershberger was properly convicted, after he violated an order from state inspectors.

The holding order at the center of Hershberger’s appeal came from state agriculture inspectors in 2010, who raided his Sauk County farm and ordered him to stop selling his product. Prosecutors argued that he continued to violate the order though, which resulted in additional charges. While he was convicted of violating the holding order and fined $1,000, Hershbergrer was found not guilty on charges that he was selling food, producing milk, and operating a dairy plant without the proper state licenses.

Hershberger appealed the conviction, arguing that he was not allowed to present evidence at trial that would have helped his case and that an unedited copy of the holding order was kept out of evidence. The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with the circuit court’s decision to keep Hershberger from making what amounted to a “collateral attack” on the factual basis for the holding order, keeping his conviction in place.

Hershberger also argued that he was not subject to state rules against selling unpasteurized milk because his hundreds of buyers were in a private club that did not sell the product to the general public. The appeals court rejected that argument.

Rep. Jim Steinke concerned by federal pot decision


Rep. Jim Steineke

Federal authorities announced on Thursday that they will not prosecute Native American tribes that grow marijuana on their lands. The move is raising some concerns from at least one state lawmaker, who worries it could lead to problems with catching operators of large-scale growing operations

Incoming Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Vandenbroek) worries the move could open the door for drug suppliers, during a time when the state is already battling a substance abuse problem with heroin. “I see this possibly opening up a safe harbor for people who want to grow and distribute marijuana. That’s obviously concerning.”

Steineke also notes that it’s currently unclear what impact the decision could have on state efforts to investigate growing operations on tribal lands that are being run by non-Native Americans. A spokesperson for the state Department of Justice indicated it may not have much of an effect, saying officers will enforce all state drug laws within its jurisdiction and continue to work with tribal police in their efforts to combat drugs and gangs on tribal lands.

The Vandenbroek Republican, whose district includes the Oneida Indian Reservation, says he’s hopeful Wisconsin tribes will not see the federal decision as an opportunity to grow pot. He says he’s not aware of any who plan to do that.