MADISON, Wisconsin—Late yesterday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed suit against Natural Resources Board chair Frederick Prehn to oust him from his Natural Resources Board seat, which he has refused to vacate months after his six-year term expired on May 1, 2021. The lawsuit was spurred by a complaint sent by the Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity to Attorney General Kaul’s office last month.
“We applaud Attorney General Kaul for stepping up to do what is right for Wisconsin’s citizens, wildlife and natural resources. As demonstrated by last week’s disastrous decision to force through an excessive wolf hunting quota with total disregard for the recommendation of the state’s own expert biologists, the role of the Natural Resources Board is simply too important for Prehn to be playing politics,” said Nicholas Arrivo, an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States. “Prehn’s refusal to vacate his seat not only violates the law, but also violates the trust of Wisconsinites in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan Natural Resources Board that serves the people.”
The Natural Resources Board is responsible for setting wildlife, environmental and public lands policy in Wisconsin, including setting hunting quotas for the state’s diminishing wolf population. Wisconsin has already seen one catastrophic wolf hunt this year. Just last week, the board approved a fall wolf hunt quota of 300 wolves, overriding the recommendation of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and ignoring the warnings of independent experts that killing even half that many wolves would likely result in irreversible damage to the population. Prehn has stated that he has refused to step down from his seat in part to retain his influence over the fall hunting season and other wolf management policies.
“It’s outrageous that by squatting in his expired position for months, Prehn was able to vote for the arbitrary slaughter of 300 more wolves this fall,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We commend Attorney General Kaul for taking action. New leadership is long overdue on the Natural Resources Board, and we hope that Prehn’s removal marks the beginning of a better future for Wisconsin’s wildlife.”
Wisconsin law sets the composition of the Natural Resources Board and the term limits for its members. According to the documents filed in court yesterday, state law allows officials in certain positions to remain in their seats after their terms expire—but explicitly does not allow Natural Resources Board members to do so.
A successor has already been appointed by Gov. Tony Evers but has been unable to serve the public because of Prehn’s refusal to vacate his seat.