Below is the interview I conducted with Scott Walker and Tom Barrett for the upcoming WBH magazine.
Because this is election year and Jim Doyle is not seeking re-election, we are guaranteed to have a new Governor in November. The new Governor will be selecting the next head of the DNR and will also be appointing 3 members of the Natural Resources Board next spring so I thought it would be interesting to ask the Republican and Democrat front runners a few questions for the WBH legislative update.
My intent was to ask the candidates for Governor, questions they won't normally get on the campaign trail. Questions about hunting and outdoor recreation are not normally on the list of questions they will receive. Some of the questions I asked maybe outside the scope of the duties of the Governor but I hoped to get their opinions on a few topics of intrest to sportsmen.
I contacted the campaign offices of Scott Walker (Rep.) and Tom Barrett (Dem.) seeking an interview. I explained the emphasis was to be on sporting/hunting related issues. Both campaigns agreed to my request. I sat down with Scott Walker to go over my list of questions in early June. Tom Barrett was not available for an interview so a staffer suggested I email the questions. I later received written responses to my questions. Scott Walker’s responses are a result of an in person discussion which allowed for follow up questions and additional detail while Tom Barrett’s responses were received in written form. Here are the results.
1. Are you a hunter and if so what species of game have you hunted?
(Scott Walker) explained that he has been hunting for many years but did not grow up in a traditional hunting family. Growing up in Delavan, WI, he got his early education in the outdoor via the Boy Scouts. He later followed that with hunting pheasants then gun-deer hunting with friends and later in life was introduced to Bowhunting, also by a friend. He hunts deer with both a firearm and a Mathews bow. Like most hunters, his 2009 deer season was enjoyable but frustrating with no deer taken.
(Tom Barrett) While I don’t hunt myself, my wife and I love to fish, and our family enjoys many outdoors activities, such as hiking, biking and camping. I certainly value Wisconsin’s sporting and outdoors traditions, and support hunting as a valuable management tool and economic impact to our economy.
2. If elected, can you provide thoughts about the state's involvement in wolf delisting under your administration?
(Scott Walker) explained that the state needs to take an aggressive approach on the wolf issue and pointed out that Minnesota has taken a good first step and WI needs to do the same and perhaps an independent wolf population study is in order to better understand the wolf population while working on the issue of delisting wolves so that the state can regain control of the population and the management plan. This is a state issue and the state of WI should be in charge of managing wolves rather than the Federal Government.
(Tom Barrett) I understand many sportsmen would like the state to become more involved in the effort to delist wolves in Wisconsin. I believe a balance can be achieved between wildlife preservation and the legitimate concerns of Wisconsin’s sporting community, and I will bring all stakeholders the table to find a solution to this issue.
3. If elected, you will be appointing the next Secretary to the DNR; can you provide insight into what sort of person you're looking for to head the Dept?
(Scott Walker) said would be looking for a well rounded person with experience in wildlife issues with an appreciation for conservation, hunting heritage, the economy related to the outdoor as well as looking for a person with practical experience in outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing or trapping and he would gravitate towards a person with good management skills and a desire for responsible regulations while making sure the DNR always uses the best possible science available to make sound management decisions and is accountable for the decisions made. He understands the DNR faces credibility issues and hopes to be able to appoint a DNR secretary that responds to the concerns of the hunters fishers and trappers that number in excess of 1 million men women and youth in Wisconsin.
(Tom Barrett) We don’t need to inject politics into our natural resource policy, and I have always believed in a DNR Secretary chosen by the DNR board. I’ve seen the success citizen boards can have. It’s a good government system that works well.
4. If elected, you will also be recommending at least 3 members for a term on the State's Natural Resources board. With regards to sportsmen, what sort of persons will you be looking for to fill those positions?
(Scott Walker) Scott Walker stated that he would seek our people the same way he would go about selecting the DNR secretary. He stated that he wants to ensure that the hunting public is properly represented on the Natural Resources Board and that we was in favor of legislation introduced in the last session that sought to mandate certain qualifications for NRB candidates which stipulated that a portion of board members would have to have held a hunting, fishing or trapping license for 7 of the 10 years prior to appointment to the NRB. He stated that NRB members make many important decisions effecting Wisconsin Sportsmen so real experience in such matters is a proper requirement NRB member.
(Tom Barrett) As governor, I will refuse to play politics with our state’s natural treasures. Members of the State Natural Resources board should come from a variety of backgrounds and be focused on preserving Wisconsin’s resources for future generations. This includes members with a sporting and hunting background.
5. What are your thoughts on the DNR's handling of CWD?
(Scott Walker) stated that it's time to re-examine the science of CWD and the management plan and to look outward to see what's working elsewhere. This problem is not unique to WI. A great deal of money has been spent over the years and we are in the same position we were in when the disease was discovered. Continuing on the same path is not the answer.
(Tom Barrett) More research on the disease and the effectiveness of the DNR’s management policy is needed. As governor, I will facilitate cooperation between all parties involved – whether they live inside or outside the CWD Management Zone – to ensure we blunt the impact of CWD where it currently exists, and prevent its spread to other areas.
6. As Governor, would you be in favor of the creation of a citizen based oversight committee to serve as a watchdog group of the DNR?
(Scott Walker) stated that he liked the idea of such a volunteer body and that it would have to act as an independent entity rather than a government agency. Sportsman should expect information and answers as well as input in management ideas since they have a big stake in the outcome so it’s reasonable to expect citizen oversight.
(Tom Barrett) Wisconsin currently has a citizens NRB as well as an elected Conservation Congress to advise the NRB. As governor, assuring accountability to the public by both the NRB and the Conservation Congress will be a priority.
7. Deer hunting represents about one billion dollars to the state's economy. The deer population in many parts of the state is below goal and far lower than it has been in decades. Many hunters think this situation is due to DNR mismanagement. What do you think the Governor's role is in this matter?
(Scott Walker) explained that this is a good reason to pick the right person for the position of DNR Secretary and that it's time for new and increased accountability and that this may require a new DNR staff that works to promote hunting in WI and that there is a need for less confusing regulation. Managing the deer herd with increased emphasis on hunter satisfaction would help with recruitment and retention. Accountability is the key to this issue.
(Tom Barrett) The DNR has a responsibility to manage wildlife populations to established population goals. As governor, I will ensure the DNR is as aggressive at raising populations to goal as they are at reducing populations that are over-goal.
8. With the increase in large predators like wolves, bear and now cougars and the fact that most Bowhunters walk the woods during the predawn darkness and after dusk, more Bowhunters have taken to carrying a handgun for protection. It is not always practical to holster a pistol on your outermost garments during cold weather; do you support concealed carry of handguns?
(Scott Walker) states that he supports concealed carry and the right to keep and bear arms. As a hunter (with a rifle, a shotgun and a bow) he believes that this is a key part of our heritage in Wisconsin. Beyond the hunting applications you mention, he also believes that the right to keep and bear arms is a key part of protecting ourselves, our families and our property. If elected Governor, he stated that he would sign “shall issue” legislation like the bill authored by Rep. Scott Gunderson that was vetoed by Governor Doyle.
(Tom Barrett) I would like to learn more from Wisconsin’s Bowhunters about their unique circumstances and this issue. This and other important issues are why as governor I will always keep an open line of communication with Wisconsin’s sporting and hunting community.
9. Why should WBH members as well as anglers and trappers vote for you for Governor?
(Scott Walker) stated that his record as Milwaukee’s County Executive has shown that he is able to inherit an out of control budget and reign in spending by making government accountable for the decisions made. This is true for sporting issues and every other facet of life. He stated that sportsmen could count on him to mange all the state’s resources with fiscal responsibility and proper management from hunting and fishing issues to state budget matters.
(Tom Barrett) Wisconsin has tremendous natural resources. As governor, I will support responsible management policies that will keep Wisconsin a great place for all types of sporting and recreation. I respect Wisconsin’s rich outdoors tradition, and will fight to protect it.
I’d like to thank Scott Walker and Tom Barrett for participating in this WBH Legislative update. The next Governor will have a direct impact on hunting laws and resource management. Hopefully, WBH members can use this information to help them form an opinion when it comes time to vote on Nov. 2.