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MN Senate: Wolf Data Bill hearing, State & Local Government, 3/17/2014

posted Mar 22, 2014, 12:02 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 22, 2014, 9:19 AM ]
Executive summary (so you don't have to read the whole thing): there's a disagreement over the meaning of the term "tribal lands." The MN DNR interprets it as "tribally-owned lands," but the authors interpret it as "all lands [and waters] within the boundaries of the reservation." This is a huge government-relations issue that is not likely to be resolved in this bill. So now you don't have to read the whole thing.

Disclaimer: if I got some of the legal phraseology wrong, that's just me; not to be ascribed to anyone else. This is all so complicated.

MN Senate Committee on State and Local Government.
3/17/2014 meeting, 3:00 pm.

Hearing of the "Wolf Data Bill" (MN 2014 SF 2256) calling for the fulfillment of the MN Wolf Management Plan.
  • Senate authors: Senators Foung Hawj, Chris Eaton, John Marty.
  • House authors: Representatives Jason Isaacson, Susan Allen, Paul Rosenthal, Yvonne Selcer, Raymond Dehn, and Linda Slocum.
Source of this recording: MN Senate Media Services.
  • Committee page: http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/committees/committee_media_list.php?ls=&cmte_id=3061
  • Original video on the committee page: http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/media/media_video_popup.php?flv=cmte_stgov_031714.flv
Commentary by Scott Slocum (http://www.ss-slocum.info).
  • Note on terminology: in this commentary, the phrase "all lands within the reservation" is used in lieu of the actual phrase on the author's amendment (unavailable to the commenter).
In this meeting, the Minnesota Senate Committee on State and Local Government, chaired by Sen. Sandra Pappas, hears the 2014 MN Senate bill SF 2256 (the "Wolf Data Bill").

The bill, in accordance with the MN Wolf Management Plan, calls for research to provide more data on wolf population biology, the effects of depredation-control programs and recreational hunting & trapping seasons, the non-lethal control of livestock depredation, education and social attitudes. It also calls for an advisory council to review annual progress toward the goals of the MN Wolf Management Plan.

As Sen. Hawj and Dr. Hackett explain, the principal goals of the MN Wolf Management Plan are to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts. To meet these goals, the plan calls for "an integrated wildlife damage management program that combines animal husbandry considerations, cost-effective nonlethal deterrents, lethal wolf removal, and compensation payments to owners of livestock and dogs."

Following a summary of the bill by Sen. Hawj (pronounced "Hurr") and Dr. Maureen Hackett, the discussion focuses on the author's amendment, which is in two parts: 1) adding members to the advisory council, and 2) amending the boundaries of tribal wolf sanctuary from "tribal lands" to "all lands within the reservation." The first part is accepted, but the second is not--because it is outside the purview of the committee.

Details of the amendment to add members to the advisory council:
  • The number of members in each category is specified.
  • Two categories (and three members) are added: 1) two tribal representatives, and 2) one animal-protection representative.
Details of the amendment from the phrase "tribal lands" to the phrase "all lands within the reservation."
  • The change was made according to input from the Tribal Nations.
  • The change is not within the purview of this committee.
  • The change might be proposed to the Finance Committee in the bill's next hearing (Division of Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture).
Part of the controversy over the change from "tribal lands" to "all lands within the reservation" is that, for example on the White Earth Reservation, only about 4% of the land is in tribal ownership. The rest is owned by the State of MN, the County, and private landowners. The question remains to be answered, whether the White Earth Band has (or should be given) the legal authority to designate the entire White Earth Reservation as a wolf sanctuary. The question might not be resolved in this bill. The debate will likely continue in other forums, and should be expected to change as the White Earth Reservation's capitol campaign to repurchase reservation lands proceeds, and as cooperative wildlife-management agreements are made between the State of MN and the Tribal Nations. A current example of the latter is the state's proposed acquisition of land for wildlife habitat in the Fond du Lac Reservation, to be managed by the Fond du Lac Band. The proposal comes from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, and is included in the 2014 MN appropriations bills HF 1926 and SF 2098.


Bookmarks (if you view the video on YouTube, these bookmarks become hyperlinks--cool!)

00:00 Introduction by Committee Chair, Sen. Pappas.

00:10 Sen. Hawj summarizes the bill, ending with the following statement: "... I ask for your support of this bill, because if we're going to turn this intelligent animal, this great-grandfather of man's best friend, into a small-game animal for sport, let's first collect data to justify our actions."

01:56 Sen. Pappas introduces the committee's A-2 amendment: to standardize the format of the "advisory council" language.

02:27 Dr. Hackett summarizes and explains the reasoning behind the author's amendment: to add members to the advisory council and to clarify the definition of "tribal lands."

04:29 Sen. Pappas invites testimony.

04:31 Mr. Bob Meier, MN DNR Policy & Government Relations Director, warns that the changes to the advisory council will increase the "fiscal note" of the bill (i.e. the expenses of the unpaid council members and the salaries of government employees on the council). He describes the change in the definition of "tribal lands" as a "large deviation" from what was discussed in the policy committee. He explains the issue over whether the White Earth Band has, or should have, the legal authority to designate the entire White Earth Reservation as a wolf sanctuary, including lands within the reservation boundaries that are owned by the state, the county, or private landowners.

06:13 Sen. Pappas asks Sen. Hawj and Dr. Hackett to explain the changed definition.

06:21 Dr. Hackett explains that the change was made according to input from the Tribal Nations.

07:27 Sen. Petersen says the change doesn't seem to be within the purview of the committee. He suggests that it seems to be an attempt to "sneak it by the committee," but then (in passive-agressive style) says "I won't impugn the motives of the author or anyone else, but it seems that way" and finally returns to the point of committee purview.

09:08 Sen. Wiklund suggests that the change would be appropriate for the Finance Committee (for the bill's next hearing). Sen. Pappas agrees.

09:29 Sen. Eaton asks about the difference between "tribal lands" and "all lands within the reservation." A distinction that is not clear to many readers of the bill.

09:58 Mr. Meier replies that his understanding of the meaning of the phrase "tribal lands" as discussed in the Environment & Natural Resources Policy Committee was that it was  equivalent to the phrase "tribally-owned lands" that's currently used in the MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations. He says "In effect, we just thought this was conforming language with what we're doing in law right now."

10:48 Sen. Eaton replies that she had a different understanding of the meaning of the phrase "tribal lands." Her understanding was that it was the equivalent of the phrase "all lands [and waters] within the boundaries of the reservation."

11:01 Dr. Hackett explains that the clarification in terminology was requested by several tribal members, so that it would be clearly understood as "all lands within the reservation."

12:03 Sen. Petersen (again backing away from his earlier accusation) suggests that this part of the author's amendment be offered in the Finance Committee, where it would be within the purview of the committee.

12:47 Sen. Pappas agrees. Sen. Johnson agrees. This part of the author's amendment is removed by the committee's amendment.

14:29 Sen. Eaton moves that the bill be passed as amended, and referred to the Finance Committee. The motion passes on a voice vote (with a majority of "yes" votes and a couple of "no" votes).

14:55 The end.


MN Senator Foung Hawj
Dr. Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves










MN Senator Foung Hawj................Dr. Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves.