Ballot language approved for wolf hunting referendums

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — – A pro-hunting representative conceded Thursday there will likely be no wolf hunt in Michigan this year as the State Board of Canvassers approved the language for two Nov. 4 ballot referendums seeking to overturn laws allowing such hunting.

Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots and public relations manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, said the pro-hunting coalition doesn’t plan to spend money campaigning against the two wolf referendums. He said the coalition is satisfied with a new citizen-initiated law that will take effect in 2015 and let wolf hunting resume.

“We got (the new law) passed, and it will take effect in March,” YoungeDyke said Thursday. “The November ballot issue will have no effect on future wolf hunts in Michigan.”

Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, disagreed. The group plans to challenge in court a third law, passed late last month, that allows continued wolf hunting no matter how the votes go on the referendums. Her group contends the petition language violated a single-issue constitutional requirement for citizen initiatives.

Fritz also pledged a campaign asking voters to strike down the current hunting laws. Her group collected petition signatures in 2013 and last spring to put the two laws to a vote of citizens.

“We’re glad that the people will be informed about wolf hunting,” she said. “(And) we hope when they go to the polls, they will vote no. Absolutely, there will be a campaign leading up to the election.”

The Nov. 4 referendums will ask voters to endorse or overturn Legislature-passed 2012 and 2013 laws permitting wolf hunting. A “yes” vote will be a vote in favor of wolf hunting. A “no” vote will be a vote against wolf hunting.

Both laws are frozen until voters get a crack at them, meaning a wolf hunt can’t be scheduled at least until after Nov. 4.

If voters overturn the 2012 and 2013 laws, another wolf hunt can’t be set until last month’s third pro-wolf hunting law takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the year — late March or early April 2015.

The newest pro-wolf hunting law, called the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, was approved by the Republican-led Legislature in response to petitions collected by pro-wolf-hunt groups. The vote avoided having it go before voters along with the two anti-hunting referendums.

The new law allows the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, made up of gubernatorial appointees, to decide which animals can be hunted as game. It also requires $1 million a year in state funds to battle Great Lakes invasive species such as Asian Carp as well as free hunting and fishing licenses for members of the military.

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