Sunday, March 10, 2013

Petition signing to protect wolves continues in Marquette

By Greg Peterson*

Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Adam Robarge gives instructions as Northern Michigan University students and others line up on Feb. 27, 2013, to help protect Michigan wolves by forcing a referendum in the fall of 2014 that could at least temporarily halt a proposed Michigan wolf hunt. (Photos © and courtesy Greg Peterson)

MARQUETTE -- Northern Michigan University students and others crossed campus in wind-driven heavy snow showers on Feb. 27, 2013, to sign the petition to save Michigan gray wolves from being hunted -- and a second NMU petition drive is planned for March 20.

Organizers said about 50 signatures were gathered from registered voters during this event, sponsored by the NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team and the Native American Students Association (NASA). 

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected organizers have until March 27 to get 161,305 signatures from registered voters to force a Nov. 2014 ballot referendum to decide the fate of the wolf hunting bill.**

A larger event involving many student organizations is being planned for March 20, 2013, at NMU; and organizers hope to have on hand representatives from the office of the Michigan Secretary of State to register people to vote.

Before the petition signing, Native American students and members of the EarthKeepers II Student Team spoke to the audience about wolf preservation efforts in Michigan and presented a video.

While many opponents describe a wolf hunt as trophy hunting, it's really a hatred of wolves, said Adam Robarge, Upper Peninsula coordinator for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

Robarge says to him trophy hunting involves polar bears, rhinos, elephants and other large species.

"This is hatred," Robarge said. Wolf hunters would be "proud they killed something that they hate."

Robarge noted the state of Michigan has "management practices" to handle livestock depredation but a wolf hunt will not stop the relatively few cases of annual livestock deaths.

"I see zero reasons that are out there to hunt the wolf -- you can't come up with one that is scientifically backed," Robarge said. "When it comes to the deer population, those two species were allowed to evolve with each other for thousands and thousands of years -- we don't need to place our hand into that."

Wolves "just got off the endangered species list so to hunt them seems premature," said NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team member Adam Magnuson of Marquette.

"It is interesting that people want to hunt an animal that they rarely see," said Magnuson, who has only seen a Michigan wolf in the wild a few times. "It seems abstract to me given there are less than 700 wolves in the U.P."

Northern Michigan University EarthKeepers II Student team member Adam Magnuson narrates a presentation on wolves just prior to a Feb. 27 petition signing that aims to block this fall's Michigan wolf hunt by putting a referendum on the issue before voters.*

"When you don't see an animal, my immediate thought is not to go out and try to kill it and eliminate the population," said Magnuson, an environmental studies and sustainability major.

"A lot of the people seem to think that the wolf is some big bad animal, but there has never been a recorded attack on a human in Michigan history," Magnuson added. "People need to do their research and find out that wolves aren't so scary."

NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team member Katelin Bingner, a biology major from Spring Arbor, Mich., said it is important to consider the ecological and biological effects of a large-scale wolf hunt, since wolves are an apex predator of the food web and vital to the U.P. ecosystem. Bingner said she thinks it's important to give the public a chance to vote on this issue.

Cueing up a short video during an NMU petition drive to save wolves and wearing a big smile is NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team member Katelin Bingner, a sophomore biology major from Spring Arbor, Mich.

Wolves were previously "in the U.P. for a very long time and they are really only just getting re-established firmly now," Bingner said. "Frankly I think there is still a lot broken in the world in our understanding on how things connect, but I think people's eyes are opening to the reality of the connectedness of humans to the wider world and everything in the world that we live with."

Among the reasons the NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team is involved in the wolf hunting debate is that they "are standing by the Native American tribes because it is so important to them," said Magnuson, who acted as emcee.

Because the NMU EarthKeepers II team is a faith-based group, Magnuson said, "we need to defend what they (Native Americans) believe in."

Tom Merkel, a peer minister at NMU Catholic Campus Ministry in St. Michael Parish, mentioned St. Francis of Assisi, a great saint who befriended a wolf, and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who, Merkel noted, is "very pro-environment," in saying the Church needs to protect God's Creation.

"He (Pope Benedict XVI) has made the Vatican very green which is pretty cool," Merkel said. "We are standing with the native tribes up here -- and the wolf is one of their religious symbols and we have to protect that."

Native American tradition: Wolf is our brother 

Bingner said the wolf "isn't our enemy -- the wolf is closer to being something like our brother."

Hannah Vallier, co-president of the NMU NASA and citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, agreed.

"I am ma'iingan-doodem so I am wolf clan -- and we believe that we are related (to wolves) and we are kin," Vallier said. "If I killed a wolf it would be almost like me killing my own brother."

Vallier noted wolves and humans have similarities, including a sense of family.

"Our mothers as humans are just as protective of our children as the wolves are to their pups," Vallier said.

Amanda Weinert, co-president of the NMU NASA and citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said wolves "are important to tribal people" and are significant in Anishinaabe heritage and culture.

In a presentation preceding the Feb. 27 petition signing in Jamrich Hall at Northern Michigan University, Amanda Weinert, co-president of NMU's Native American Students Association (NASA) and citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, explains the importance of wolves in the culture of the Anishinaabe and other Native peoples.

Weinert explained a traditional story from elders that recounted how "the first Anishinaabe man was lonely and asked for a companion."

"Gitchi Manitou -- the Great Spirit -- gave him a wolf or ma'iingan," Weinert said. "They went on a journey to name all the plants and animals."

"When the journey was done they were told they could no longer be companions but they would still stay connected and would live parallel lives," said Weinert, a Garden, Mich., native. "You can see the connections between native people and wolves -- we've both been relocated, we've both been slaughtered, we've both been misunderstood."

Weinert said the thought of a wolf hunt in Michigan makes her sad and distressed. She feels a wolf hunt would encourage people to "go overboard" in shooting wolves "whenever."

Fear alone is not a reason to hunt wolves, several NMU students said.

NMU ecology major Alex Graeff of Grand Rapids said he would like to see minimal human impacts on wolf populations.

"I see humans as a kind of species that likes to destroy things and feel we have a dominance over everything else," Graeff said. "We've already destroyed wolf populations in the past and now they are making a rebound," he added. "I don't think we should all of a sudden go back to trying to control them when really their populations are pretty low."

Northern Michigan University students sign petitions to fight wolf hunting during the Feb. 27, 2013, event sponsored by NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team and the Native American Students Association (NASA).

NMU senior Max Wojciechowski said it's important to keep wolves a "protected species because traditionally it's a very sacred animal and it's not supposed to be hunted."

Wojciechowski, a NASA member and a native of McHenry, Ill., in the Chicago suburbs, added, "It coincides with my traditional values to try and protect the wolves."

Other students from Illinois also expressed a desire to protect wolves in the U.P.

NMU sophomore Monica Murzanski noted, "I am from Illinois so we don't get many cool rare animals like moose and wolves."

Murzanski, a native of Homer Glen, Ill., who is now a registered Michigan voter, said she believes wolves are a special animal.

"I don't think hunting them is very fair at all," she added.

Hunting Michigan wolves would be "more of a sport hunting thing," said NMU senior Rachael Raspatello, a native of Lombard, Ill. "If you are going to eat everything then its fine -- but I don't think if you are just going to hunt for fun that it is okay."

Wolf protections removed since 2011

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed western Great Lakes wolves from Endangered Species Act.

In a lame-duck session, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed Public Act 520 in late 2012 turning the wolf into a game animal and giving the Michigan Natural Resources Commission the power to decide the creation of a wolf hunting season.

Anti-wolf-hunting groups are actively trying to defray fears about wolves and are attempting to educate the public -- especially those unfamiliar with the U.P. wolf packs -- about reasons the predators should be protected.

The NMU petition signing to protect wolves included watching the short video "The Timber Wolf of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan."

If the proposed wolf hunt occurs during the fall of 2013 in the U.P., Michigan would be the seventh state with a wolf hunting/trapping season, according to wolf hunt opponents who say wolves once roamed most of North America until being over-hunted and destroyed by humans.

Wolves have had little effect on Michigan deer population, anti-wolf-hunting groups have said, adding Michigan needs to increase compensation to farmers suffering related livestock losses instead of slaughtering wolves for trophies.

Restoring federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region is the goal of a recent federal lawsuit that charges the removal of wolves from the endangered list in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is threatening wolf recovery throughout most of their historic range.

The Feb. 2013 lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar by the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Animals and Their Environment, Help Our Wolves Live, and Born Free USA.

Minnesota had an estimated 3,000 wolves before they came off the endangered species list, while Michigan and Wisconsin had 687 and 782, respectively.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Committee Chair Charlotte Loonsfoot, who is part of the EarthKeepers II project, has been collecting anti-wolf-hunt petition signatures in the Baraga and L'Anse area. Anyone in that area wishing to sign the petition may contact her at 906-235-4220.***

At the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, individuals wishing to collect wolf referendum petition signatures at one of Kewadin Casinos’ five Eastern Upper Peninsula casinos may call Jennifer Tadgerson at 906-635-6050 to make arrangements.

Editor's Notes:
* Greg Peterson, author of this article, is a journalist and EarthKeepers II volunteer media advisor. Click here to visit the EarthKeepers II Web site. Click here for Greg Peterson's video clip from this Feb. 27 event.

** Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is seeking to collect more than 225,000 signatures of Michigan voters to place a referendum on the 2014 Michigan statewide ballot that would allow voters to choose whether or not to enact the legislature's wolf hunting law. Click here to learn more on their Web site.

*** Click here to see Greg Peterson's video on EarthKeepers II, featuring Charlotte Loonsfoot and her work with native plants and the KBIC greenhouse.

The Campaign to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will be gathering from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Mar. 13, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette. This is an all ages, child friendly event. Anyone wishing to support the campaign is welcome to attend. Music starts at 5 p.m. with the nationally recognized children's folk artist Papa Crow. Click here for details on their Facebook page.

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