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Minnesota Supreme Court clears way for wolf hunt

Gray wolf

The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected an effort to block the state's wolf hunting season from opening a week from today.

Without comment, the high court denied an emergency motion by the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves to stop the upcoming wolf hunting and trapping seasons, which will be Minnesota's first since the region's wolves came off the endangered list last January. The order

was signed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.

"We're very disappointed," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based biologist and attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "It saddens us that these wolves are going to be shot, and suffer and die in leg-hold traps and snares."

The Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier had refused to issue an injunction, and any trial for the groups' lawsuit probably will take place after the upcoming season is over.

While the request for an injunction was denied, Adkins Giese noted that the groups' lawsuit will continue, injunction or not. Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biological Diversity claim that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources failed to provide a formal opportunity for public comments before issuing its regulations for the upcoming season.

Instead of offering a formal public comment period, the DNR offered an online survey before adopting the details of how wolves would be shot and trapped. More than 75 percent of the comments opposed killing wolves.

"This is an important case about government accessibility and government accountability," Adkins Giese said.

"It's a very sad day that the Supreme Court didn't think about" the need for public input, said Howling for Wolves founder and president Maureen Hackett.

The DNR, for its part, has argued that it followed all necessary steps to establish the season. In court filings, the agency contended that it received extensive public comments that resulted in substantive changes to the final rules for the wolf hunt and that it acted within its legal authority for conducting expedited rulemaking.

In a news release Friday, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the denial of an injunction "resolves any uncertainty that hunters and trappers might have had about the upcoming season."

Minnesota's wolf hunting season will start Nov. 3, with a late hunting and trapping season starting Nov. 24. The DNR has set a target harvest of 200 wolves for each of the two seasons for a total of 400 animals. Minnesota has an estimated 3,000 wolves.

A total of 6,000 licenses were made available to hunters.

Despite the legal setback, Hackett said Howling for Wolves will continue its efforts to stop the wolf hunt with a rally today from 2-4 p.m. outside the Governor's Residence in St. Paul. The group also will deliver letters opposing the hunt to DNR headquarters in St. Paul next Friday.

"We have to keep (the issue) in the public view," she said.

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa announced Friday that tribal lands on the reservations at Nett Lake, Lake Vermilion and Grand Portage will be closed to wolf hunting during the upcoming state season.

"The Tribal Councils determined that hunting wolves for sport is inconsistent with a tradition of subsistence hunting and that for some members hunting wolves presented conflicts with cultural practices," tribal officials said in a news release.

As reported in the News Tribune last weekend, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the 1854 Treaty Authority, which manages off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights in the ceded territory for the Grand Portage and Bois Forte bands, already announced they would not authorize wolf hunting for band members this fall.

The Fond du Lac Band asked the Minnesota DNR not to allow state wolf hunters to use public lands within the exterior boundary of the reservation. The DNR did not agree to that request, tribal officials said.