Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation that could allow wolf hunting again in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula if the animal is taken off the federal government’s endangered species list.
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, has been fighting a years-long battle to allow limited hunting of gray wolves in the U.P. that has been derailed by voter referendums and court rulings.
A federal court in late 2014 put the gray wolves in western Great Lakes states back on the endangered species list.
The bill Snyder signed into law Wednesday would allow the state’s Natural Resources Commission to designate wolves as a game animal subject to regulated hunting.
Casperson has sought the law because of fears of wolves attacking humans and livestock in the U.P., where scientists estimate there are 618 living wolves roaming the state’s northern forests.
The new law is the fourth of its kind in four years.
The Michigan Court of Appeals struck down a third wolf hunting law last month, ruling the petition-initiated measure violated the state constitution’s “title-object clause” by also requiring free hunting licenses for military veterans.
The new wolf hunting law, like the one struck down last month, includes an appropriation making it immune from the kind of voter-initiated referendum the Humane Society waged in 2014.
“In 2014, the citizens of Michigan went to the polls and soundly rejected by a landslide vote almost the identical language of this bill,” Jill Fritz of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and the U.S. Humane Society said after the Senate passed the legislation in early December.
But to guard against another referendum, lawmakers tucked a $1 million appropriation into the law to help pay for a mobile barrier to block the invasive Asian Carp fish from entering the Great Lakes.
Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature sent Snyder its latest wolf hunting bill on Dec. 14 during the lame duck session.
Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed to this report.