Wisconsin Weekly: Recovering wolves fuel endangered species debate

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Wolf encounters; endangered small farms; school shootings; delayed transparency; contaminated wells; farm labor deception


Of note: This week we highlight a story by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Rich Kremer, in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch. He examined growing tensions over gray wolf management in Wisconsin as rebounding populations fuel more deadly encounters with hunting dogs and livestock. Amid a debate over whether the Trump administration should delist wolves as an endangered species and allow hunting, one thing is certain: wolf encounters are running up the tab on Wisconsin taxpayers. The state has spent $2.5 million to compensate farmers and hunting dog owners for animals possibly lost to wolves. Those payments may continue even if wolves lose federal protections. 

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John and Karen Hollingsworth / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nearly 60 years after gray wolves were considered extinct in Wisconsin, the population has rebounded dramatically, to more than 900 in the state. But the conservation success story has turned into a nuisance for hunters, farmers and others whose animals are increasingly encountering wolves — with deadly consequences.

As wolves recover, calls in Wisconsin to end endangered species listing grow

Wisconsin Watch — November 30, 2019

Nearly 60 years after gray wolves were considered extinct in Wisconsin, the population has rebounded dramatically, to more than 900 in the state. That is thanks to decades of protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to hunt or harm listed species. But the conservation success story has turned into a nuisance for hunters, farmers and others whose animals are increasingly encountering wolves — with deadly consequences. That is why some are calling for the federal government to delist wolves and resume legal hunting. 
Earlier: A 2014 Wisconsin Watch investigation found that Wisconsin had paid tens of thousands of dollars in wolf damage compensation to people who had violated state hunting and firearms laws.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

The Reeves family farm in Wisconsin.

‘They’re trying to wipe us off the map.’ Small American farmers are nearing extinction

TIME — November 27, 2019

In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades.

What is going on? Fears of school shootings hit eight Wisconsin high schools in three days.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 3, 2019

Two Wisconsin teenagers — 91 miles apart — shot by police officers inside their high schools within 24 hours. In Waukesha, the student had two pellet guns. In Oshkosh, it was a blade. That’s more than enough, but it isn’t all. Teenagers in at least eight high schools across Wisconsin were stung with terror within three days this week, in some cases leaving parents and school officials helpless and police in a position of using deadly force on children.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

Gov. Tony Evers is seen at the State Capitol on Jan. 22, 2019.

Tony Evers reverses course and releases a day of emails requested under the open records law

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 4, 2019

Gov. Tony Evers is reversing course and letting the public see his emails — releasing a day’s worth of them after initially saying state law barred him from doing so. Evers has released three emails to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in response to a request for emails the governor sent and received on a single day: Nov. 12. The new governor’s attitude toward public scrutiny is itself under a microscope a year into his first term after Republicans who control the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker shook public confidence in 2015 by attempting to remove key portions of the public records law, keeping many more records — including emails — from public view.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

The well in the yard of Doug and Dawn Reeves in Stoughton, Wis. In 2014, Doug and Dawn Reeves discovered the well supplying water to their home in rural Stoughton was contaminated with atrazine, despite the fact that they live in an area where its use has been banned for 20 years.

More testing confirms southwestern Wisconsin wells contaminated with fecal matter

Wisconsin State Journal — December 4, 2019

Additional testing is further identifying the sources of fecal contamination in southwestern Wisconsin well water. But while funding for the study of Grant, Iowa and Lafayette county water quality is coming from local, state and federal sources, county officials insisted on disseminating the results to local media within the study area first, saying other media could not be trusted to fairly report the problem.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Cows are seen in a barn in Pepin County, Wis.

American farms recruit Mexican veterinarians for jobs as animal scientists — but the real work is milking cows and cleaning pens for low pay

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 4, 2019

As U.S. dairy farms struggle to find low-cost workers, some are using a special visa program to lure Mexican veterinarians and engineers with offers of high-skilled jobs, but then assign them to clean barns or other menial tasks — circumventing the visa rules for work requiring a college degree. The work can be brutal and dangerous, the shifts long, the wages low. Sometimes there are no breaks — even in a 12-hour shift — and few days off.

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