Hunter Nation v. DNR (2021)

Case Name: Hunter Nation v. DNR

Type of Case: Rule of law

Court: Jefferson County Circuit Court

Case Number: 

Filed On: February 2, 2021

Current Status: Judge Brantmeier issued a writ of mandamus on February 11, compelling the DNR to hold a wolf hunt before March 2021. In November 2021, Judge Brantmeier issued a summary judgment decision that said the DNR decision to not immediately establish a hunting and trapping season for wolves in 2021 violated state statute and the state constitutional right to hunt.

JUDGE RULES DNR VIOLATED STATE LAW WHEN IT FAILED TO SCHEDULE WOLF HUNT

November 18, 2021 | Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett J. Brantmeier issued a summary judgment decision in Hunter Nation v. DNR, a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) in February 2021, that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decision to not immediately establish a hunting and trapping season for wolves in 2021 violated state statute and the state constitutional right to hunt.

JUDGE ORDERS WISCONSIN DNR TO HOLD FEBRUARY 2021 GRAY WOLF HUNT

February 11, 2021 | Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett J. Brantmeier issued a writ of mandamus requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a gray wolf hunt in February 2021. Judge Brantmeier found that the Wisconsin DNR violated state law by refusing to schedule a winter 2021 gray wolf hunt when the gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021.

WILL SUES WISCONSIN DNR FOR IGNORING STATE LAW REQUIREMENT TO SCHEDULE WOLF HUNT

February 2, 2021 | The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of Luke Hilgemann and Hunter Nation, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for ignoring a state law requirement to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of Luke Hilgemann and Hunter Nation, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for ignoring a state law requirement to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter. The gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021, triggering a 2011 state law that requires Wisconsin’s DNR to schedule a gray wolf hunting season between November and February.

Background

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act in March 2019. On November 3, 2020, US Fish and Wildlife promulgated a final rule to delist the gray wolf effective January 4, 2021.

Wisconsin state law is clear that if the gray wolf is not protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Wisconsin DNR “shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves.” The law further states that DNR must “establish a single annual open season for both hunting and trapping wolves that begins on the first Saturday in November of each year and ends on the last day of February of the following year.”

But the Wisconsin DNR, despite years of advance warning and months to prepare for a January 2021 delisting of the gray wolf, refused to permit the hunting and trapping of wolves in January and February of 2021.

WILL represents Hunter Nation President and CEO, Luke Hilgemann, and Hunter Nation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting America’s hunting heritage and the right to hunt.

WILL’s lawsuit alleges DNR’s decision to forgo a gray wolf hunt until November 2021 violates state law and the Wisconsin state constitution’s guarantee of a right to hunt. Once the gray wolf was delisted on January 4, Wisconsin DNR had an obligation to comply with state law that permits the trapping and hunting of gray wolves for a season between November and February.

Result

Judge Brantmeier issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Wisconsin DNR to hold a gray wolf hunt in February 2021 in accordance with state law.

On November 18, 2021, Judge Brantmeierissued a summary judgment decision that says, “The DNR’s refusal to immediately establish an open season for the hunting and trapping of wolves through the end of February 2021, when the wolf was delisted between November 2020 and February 2021, violated” state law. The court also issued a permanent injunction “requiring the DNR, when the wolf is listed on the federal and/or state endangered lists on the first Saturday in November of a given year but is no longer on those lists as of a subsequent date occurring prior to the last day of February of the following year (delisted mid-season), to begin the single annual open season required by” state law.

Rick Esenberg

Rick Esenberg

President and General Counsel

rick@will-law.org

Anthony Lococo

Anthony Lococo

Deputy Counsel

alococo@will-law.org

Luke Berg

Luke Berg

Deputy Counsel

luke@will-law.org