May 22, 2013 by Rebecca Kemble
During today’s meeting of the Wisconsin Building Commission, Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) agreed to not pursue reconsideration of a $250,000 grant from the Commission to the Lac du Flambeau tribe for construction of a community and cultural center.
On March 26, 2013, Rep. Kaufert accused the Lac du Flambeau tribe of breaking partnership agreements with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources by declaring they would be harvesting the maximum number of walleye allowable under their treaty rights to co-manage natural resources with the State of Wisconsin during the 2013 spear fishing season. In response, Kaufert moved to reconsider the grant.
Kaufert’s threat sparked a flame war with Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), who slammed him for having “an 1800s mentality” toward the tribes. Saying it was, “an attitude that I had hoped was buried in our state’s past,” Cullen urged Kaufert to apologize for his comments and rescind the threat to pull funding. Kaufert claimed he respected the tribes, but added that their spearfishing declaration was a way of punishing state sportsmen and women in retaliation for the Legislature passing a massive mining deregulation bill earlier in the year.
But today Kaufert struck a more conciliatory tone, saying he was pleased with the way the tribes were cooperating with the DNR. “Native Americans have been very receptive to becoming more of a partner with the initiatives of Governor and the DNR with regards to fish hatcheries.”
Governor Scott Walker, who chairs the Building Commission, unveiled his “Wisconsin Walleye Initiative” designed to increase the population of large walleye fingerlings five-fold by 2016. Among the provisions are:
· $8.2 million in existing unencumbered bonding authority to expand hatchery capacities.
· $1.8 million for operating costs over the biennium.
· $2 million over the biennium for a competitive grant program for private organizations to expand walleye production and to cover operational costs.
· $160,000 in one-time funds for the UW Extension to continue their work with private aquaculture through the end of Fiscal Year 2014.
· $500,000 annually beginning in Fiscal Year 2015 to contract with organizations to acquire additional walleye fingerlings.
· $250,000 annually to expand the summer Tribal Youth Program. The program is a state-tribal partnership giving high school-aged tribal youth the opportunity to work on natural resource-related projects.
Said Walker of negotiations with eleven Wisconsin tribes: “They were very interested in both respecting their treaty rights and working with the state as a whole.”