Should Michigan's wolves be protected from hunters? (John Vucetich / AP)
The wolf is neither a saint nor villain. It is simply an animal that inhabits Michiganís Upper Peninsula and fills a valuable niche in the ecosystem. Should wolves be a hunted game species? Should Michigan residents have a voice in wildlife decisions?
Based on last winterís population survey, there are an estimated 658 wolves spread across the U.P. There has not been one credible human threat by wolves in Michigan. In 2013, only 13 individual livestock animals were verified to have been killed by wolves, and each of these producers was reimbursed the fair market value of their losses.
Since federal delisting of wolves in January 2012, livestock and pet owners in Michigan are permitted to kill any wolf in the act of attacking their animals. Further, when there is a confirmed wolf attack, the Department of Natural Resources issues a permit to landowners allowing them to kill any wolf on their property.
In December 2012, Public Act 520 was signed into law adding the wolf to Michiganís list of game species.
The Michigan Constitution affords citizens the right to challenge newly-enacted laws through the veto referendum process, so a coalition of Michigan wolf advocates exercised their right to do just that and gathered more than 250,000 signatures of registered voters calling for a referendum on the issue in the November 2014 general election.
But in an appalling response to this strong citizen opposition to designating the wolf a game species, the Legislature quickly passed, and Gov. Rick Snyder signed, Public Act 21 of 2013, authorizing the stateís Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to designate almost any species as game. The NRC, which is a politically-appointed body with strong ties to those who support the hunting of wolves for recreation, quickly designated the wolf as game and authorized a wolf hunting season for November 2013. Decisions of the NRC cannot be challenged by the public. P.A. 21 is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Michigan residents and it takes away the rights of citizens to challenge game designation decisions.
So citizens responded by conducting a second referendum petition challenging P.A. 21, which is currently under way.
The purpose of these two referendums is clear: one challenges whether wolves should be a game species, and the other challenges the authority of the NRC to designate new species as game and restores the right of citizens to challenge wildlife laws enacted through legislation.
Neither referendum affects any species, designated as game, other than the wolf.
Let me be clear: These two referendums do not impact anyoneís right to hunt deer, bear, waterfowl or any other species currently hunted or trapped, and they have no impact on any hunting, trapping or fishing regulations currently in place. They are referendums to overturn those two newly-enacted laws. Period.
Nancy Warren, executive director and
Great Lakes regional director,
National Wolfwatcher Coalition