MADISON - The state Natural Resources Board has approved new rules on how the public can use nature lands bought with state funds. And it's renewed a controversy that pits hunters against nature lovers.
The rules determine where hunting and trapping can be restricted on lands purchased under the state Stewardship Program. Sporting groups said the language is too vague - and they fear too many limits on hunting activities. They wanted the full DNR Board to set the limits, instead of letting staff members do it.
But the Nature Conservancy and similar groups said property managers will need to work with the staff members, to make sure they have the flexibility to protect rare plant and animal species. The DNR says 92-percent of the 515,000 acres currently in the Stewardship Program are open to hunting. But hunters say they're upset with how DNR staffers have interpreted the nature protection rules in the past. The Legislature required the new rules when they renewed the Stewardship Program for the next decade. And lawmakers have the power to change what the board adopted yesterday.