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Minnesota deer hunting group drops support for Governor Tim Walz’s 2023 opener over guns and wolves

State officials are looking for a replacement partner for the 2023 Governor’s Deer Opener now that the state’s largest deer hunting organization has dumped Governor Tim Walz over his gun control policy. fire and his efforts on Capitol Hill to ban wolf hunting.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) board of directors voted unanimously not to support this year’s governor’s opening. With more than 14,000 core members, the group has been an organizing partner of the celebratory event since its inception in 2002. It is by far the largest deer hunting group in a state in which more than 400,000 people hunt the deer.

In a public announcement, the Grand Rapids-based MDHA said Walz’s “continued attempts to ban wolf hunting” and his support of “anti-gun legislation” are in direct opposition to his mission. . “Until our governor represents the interests of wild deer and deer hunters statewide, we cannot, in good conscience, support the 2023 event,” the statement read.

Dave Olfelt, director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fish and Wildlife Division, said the agency still plans to hold the event. “We have a partner on board and are talking to a few others,” Olfelt said. “We haven’t selected a location yet.”

The DNR issued a separate statement last week noting how essential the annual event is in highlighting the importance of hunting, fishing and conservation. The statement also praised Walz for this year’s legislative breakthrough in the fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD), a life-threatening neurological disease in deer that some say could threaten the tradition of deer hunting.

MNR wildlife biologists have linked several outbreaks of CWD in Minnesota’s wild deer population to infected deer farms. Additionally, a report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor describes a warm relationship between the captive deer industry and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Walz backed a bill passed this month to transfer oversight of deer farms from the Animal Health Board to the DNR. In addition, the bill will impose a moratorium against the establishment of new deer farms.

MDHA executive director Jared Mazurek said he has received no feedback from the governor’s office on the executive board’s decision to cut ties with the hunt opening this season. Planning for the event usually begins shortly after the Governor’s Peach Open, held earlier this month in Mankato while the Governor attended his daughter’s college graduation in the Montana.

Mazurek said the decision was prompted by members of the organization who complained as gun control legislation progressed on Capitol Hill and lawmakers considered a DFL-backed amendment to ban gun hunting. wolf even if federal animal protections were lifted.

“The overwhelming majority of our members support this decision,” Mazurek said.

The politics of wolf hunting, which often separates rural and urban areas and also attracts moose defenders, is heavily involved. In April, Mazurek issued an “urgent call to action” for members to campaign against an amendment to a House natural resources bill that would have banned all wolf season. Mazurek and MDHA lobbyist Erik Simonson formed a coalition of hunting, trapping, conservation and agricultural organizations to oppose the ban on wolf hunting, and the measure was was killed in the conference committee this month.

Gray wolves are an endangered species under federal protection, although various presidential administrations have changed this, or tried to do so, for periods. Minnesota held three wolf seasons before a judge reinstated federal population protections in 2014. Some believe wolves are suppressing the moose population, and farmers and ranchers say wolves threaten livestock.

In 2019, when a similar ban on wolf hunting in Minnesota was being debated on Capitol Hill, Walz said he supported the legislation. This year, according to a statement from the DNR, the governor agrees with the agency’s new wolf management plan which requires a full range of management tools and does not rely on a hunting ban. “Minnesota DNR and Governor Walz do not support legislation that includes warrants or restricts the methods by which Minnesota DNR manages wolves,” the statement read.

On gun control, Walz has fully supported successful legislation this year that expands background checks and passes a red flag law that provides court orders for law enforcement to confiscate guns from people considered a danger to themselves or others. Polls have shown broad support for universal background checks and red flag laws among Minnesota voters.

Simonson, the deer hunter lobbyist, said in a legislative summary message to MDHA members that the organization has made it a priority to lobby against “legislation that violates Second Amendment rights. We have made your voice heard”.

Walz’s publicist, Claire Lancaster, commented on the MDHA’s withdrawal from the opening of the 2023 Governor’s Deer Hunt:

“Governor is a lifelong hunter and gun owner who deeply appreciates the economic, conservation and recreational benefits of deer hunting in Minnesota. He is disappointed to see the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association withdrawing its support. , although it is unusual for them to choose to move away from this tradition on gun legislation that would have no impact on the ability of safe and legal gun owners to participate in sport. looking forward to deer hunting this fall.

DNR’s Olfelt declined to identify possible new partners for the opening event, which normally coincides with the start of the gun deer season, this year scheduled for Nov. 4. Last year’s opening events were held in the Three Rivers Park District in the Twin Cities. .

The Bluffland Whitetails Association in southeast Minnesota is the second largest deer hunting organization in the state. John Zanmiller, the group’s director of community and government affairs, declined to comment on the partnership possibilities, but said: ‘We have had initial conversations with the Department of Natural Resources.

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