State lawmakers are considering a bill that would set a higher standard for when Department of Natural Resources wardens can set foot on private property.
Under current law, wardens can enter private land for any reason – something state Senator Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) contends may be unconstitutional. “This carte blanche search authority by government officials is unprecedented,” Craig testified, during a hearing at the Capitol Wednesday.
Craig and Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) are co-sponsoring a bill that would require wardens to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, before they can go on private property. “Reasonable suspicion is not too much to ask when law enforcement officers want to barge on private property without our permission,” Jarchow said during the hearing.
The bill received a long line of speakers who oppose the change, many of which argued that it would make it difficult for conservation wardens to enforce state laws on hunting, fishing, and trapping, while effectively privatizing wildlife management.
Ralph Fritsch with the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation said it would severely handicap the ability of wardens to stop illegal activity, such as poaching, from happening on the 80 percent of the land in the state that’s privately held. “Fish and wildlife are owned by the public, and there is a strong need to protect that fish and game from being poached even on private lands,” he said. “Every person that is hunting, trapping, or fishing on private lands without a license is taking money away from the state…and the management that supports fish and wildlife.”
The bill is being considered by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.