Republican legislators rescind vote on hunt, fish stamp funds
Written by Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune   
Sunday, 19 June 2005 16:32
No, hell hasn't frozen over.? But the climate in Madison has taken a change for the better. Earlier this month, just as the first rays of a June dawn should have been settling on the Capitol Dome, Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee saw the light and rescinded a move they made more than a month earlier.

On a 15-1 vote, the committee restored segregated stamp revenues paid by waterfowl and turkey hunters as well as Great Lakes salmon and trout anglers to thier designated purposes.

The lone holdout was Republican Sen. Robert Cowles of Green Bay.

In April, the committee voted 12-4 along strict party lines to take more than $1.3 million in revenue from the sale of those stamps and place it in the Department of Natural Resource's general fund as part of a new state budget package.

In the process, they would have rewritten laws creating the stamps in the first place. Funds from sale of the stamps are designated for managing and improving conditions for the species involved.
Hunters and anglers rightfully were incensed, and hundreds let GOP legislators know of their displeasure through letters, phone calls and e-mail messages.

The fact politicians now appear ready to do the right thing is slight cause for celebration.

What particularly is irritating is that the Republican majority on Joint Finance steadfastly refused to listen to representatives of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association and others, who explained from the beginning that placing the stamp monies into the general fund was tantamount to stealing from the hunters and anglers who willingly had paid the fees for their originally stated purpose.

Only after individual hunters and anglers began flooding the politician's desks with memos stating that obvious fact, did the committee members recant.

George Meyer, former DNR secretary and currently executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said the abundant response from the outdoor community was highly unusual but extremely effective.

"Every once in a while, politicians need a reminder that the people we represent do care and are listening," he said.

You wouldn't think that in Wisconsin, a state which takes pride in its outdoor heritage, politicians would need a reminder that hundreds of thousands of their constituents hunt and fish, are not averse to paying for that privilege and expect to be treated fairly.

And, oh yes, they vote.

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