One talking point that Greater Minnesota Republicans in the House have used to scare rural residents about an urban DFL environmentalist chairing the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Agriculture Policy committee is the possibility of an end to the wolf hunt.
This fear has been less prominent than gripes about agriculture, but there's a common thread because farm groups have tended to favor the wolf hunt because of concerns over predation of livestock. However, there's no universal consensus among rural folk about the hunt; Ojibwe culture revers the animal; many animal lovers find hunting and trapping the creatures cruel and unusual, while some groups concerned with eroding the wolves' recovery.
But the concern has been raised.In Farm debate marks first day of Minnesota Legislature, Forum Communications political reporter Don Davis wrote:
Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, did not speak on the floor, because of the many visitors on hand for opening-day festivities, but was as upset as Hamilton.
Fabian, who trapped a wolf last month, said he feared that environmentalists who could control the committee will eliminate laws such as the new one allowing wolf trapping and hunting.
“I have a lot of support from people up north,” he said. “There is a lot of apprehension about this.”
Whatever the merits of keeping or ending the hunt, House Republicans will lose their ability to tie it politically to "urban environmental extremists" in the DFL as of today. According to the Morning Take:
WOLVES: via news release, VERBATIM: “Today, legislation will be introduced into the Minnesota State Senate to reinstate a five-year moratorium on recreational wolf hunting and trapping. Chief author, Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL - Brooklyn Center), will introduce SF#666, co-authored by Minority Leader Sen. David Hann (R - Eden Prairie), Sen. David Senjem (R- Rochester), Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL - Minnetonka), and Sen. Sandra Pappas (DFL - St. Paul). The bill calls for a five-year wait before another wolf hunting season can be proposed, and only for population management purposes after other options are explored.”
Bluestem didn't get the release, but we'll hazard a guess and assume it's from Howling For Wolves. On February 18, the Wisconsin Gazette blog posted Minnesota activists pursue bill against wolf hunts:
Activists with Howling for Wolves, a nonprofit in Minnesota organizing against the hunting of wolves, expects a bill to be introduced in the state senate to impose a five-year ban on recreational wolf hunting, trapping and snaring.
With Senate Minority Leader David Hann and former Senate Majority Leader David Senjem on board, House Republicans like Fabian can't honestly spin this as a "Republicans love rural, DFLers side with urban environmental extremists." Whatever urban/suburban vs rural split may or may not exist on this issue (Bluestem suspects that opinion also is divided along lines other than mere geography), the move in the Senate is not just bipartisan, but boldly bipartisan.
There's also the question of gubernatorial calculus in David Hann's support for the bill. Hann is being consistent with the Senate amendment to the Fish and Game bill that he offered in 2012 to delay the hunt five years. Senjem supported the Hann Amendment, as did the DFL sponsors. It was defeated on a 26-40 vote, but at over one-third of the senators who voted no were defeated in the November elections or retired from the Senate.
Perhaps it's time to reconsider the wisdom of exploiting perceived urban/rural divisions for political gain, particularly partisan electoral strategy. More on this as the session continues.
Photo: A timberwolf with spunk.
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