Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wolf advocates kick off second petition drive, seek referendum on Michigan wolf hunt law

By Michele Bourdieu

Photo of wolf courtesy wolfwatcher.org. Reprinted with permission.

HOUGHTON -- Keep Michigan Wolves Protected -- the organization that sponsored a successful petition drive (collecting more than 255,000 signatures) for a referendum on Michigan PA 520 of December 2012 -- a law that allowed the legislature to designate wolves as a game species and authorized the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to establish a wolf hunting season -- has now launched a second petition drive to put on the November 2014 ballot a referendum on PA 21, passed in May 2013 to circumvent the first petition.

PA 21 extends to the NRC the authority to designate any species (except mourning doves) as game. The NRC, with their new found authority, quickly designated the wolf as game and authorized a public hunt for Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, 2013, with a quota of 43 wolves to be killed in three designated Wolf Management Units (WMUs), or areas -- labeled A, B and C -- of the Upper Peninsula.

Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, says this law is not just about the wolf.

"They (NRC) can designate anything (except mourning doves) as game -- the lynx, sand hill cranes etc," Warren says. "Their decisions cannot be challenged through the referendum, but PA 21 can since it is a new law. Therefore the second petition drive. If successful -- and based on the outpouring of support I am confident we will get the signatures -- two measures will be on the ballot: the repeal of PA 520 and the repeal of PA 21." (Inset: Photo of Nancy Warren by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

On July 24, 2013, Warren and representatives from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected came to Houghton to rally concerned citizens wishing to help collect these signatures.

Warren, who had just flown in from Arizona, where she was doing work to help the Mexican gray wolf, kicked off that meeting with a presentation on how recent legislation has overruled Michigan's Wolf Management Plan and how the NRC, a politically appointed, unelected body -- only one of whom has a natural resources background -- has the authority to designate a game species and establish a hunt that is not based on science. Here is an excerpt from the first part of her presentation:


During  a July 24, 2013 kick-off meeting in Houghton, Mich., for the second petition drive calling for a Michigan referendum against recent wolf hunt legislation, Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, speaks about Michigan legislation involving wolf management and the current PA 21, a law allowing the Michigan Natural Resources Commission decision to designate a wolf hunt in the fall of 2013. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

In the same presentation, Warren introduced some new information on wolf depredation she recently received from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -- information she has been requesting under the Freedom of Information Act to determine the actual number of depredations in each Upper Peninsula unit designated for a wolf hunt. Here is a video clip in which Warren speaks about that information and what it reveals about the disconnect between depredations and the authorized wolf hunt:


At the July 24 meeting for the petition drive on PA 21, Nancy Warren continues her presentation on Michigan's wolf legislation, noting some recent DNR information on wolf depredations in the Upper Peninsula. She points out that federal funding is now available for farmers who lose livestock, and she explains how wolf management without a hunt has allowed both non-lethal and lethal means of dealing with problem wolves.

During the public comment period of the July 15, 2013, meeting of the Western Upper Peninsula Citizens Advisory Council in Ewen, Warren spoke to DNR officials about how her FOIA requests had been refused.

During the July 15, 2013, meeting of the DNR Western Upper Peninsula Citizens Advisory Council in Ewen, Nancy Warren (standing, center) speaks about her difficulties in obtaining information about wolf depredations through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the fees she was asked to pay for what she believed should be public information. Later, through an appeal, she received the information requested, as indicated in the interview above. Present at the meeting also is 110th District State Rep. Scott Dianda, second from left, who voted for the bill that became PA 21. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)*

At that July 15 meeting, Terry Minzey, DNR Wildlife Division, brought Citizens Advisory Council members up to date on the wolf legislation, the petitions for referenda and the authorized hunt for fall 2013. He noted that trapping will not be allowed except on a case-by-case basis under certain circumstances. He also attempted to answer some of Warren's questions on why her FOIA requests were refused.

At the July 15, 2013, (Michigan) Dept. of Natural Resources Western Upper Peninsula Citizens Advisory Council meeting in Ewen, Mich., Terry Minzey, DNR Wildlife Division, summarizes the legislation and the actions of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that resulted in the approval of a public wolf hunt for certain areas of Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- scheduled for the fall of 2013. J. R. Richardson, NRC chair, of Ontonagon, is present at this meeting (Minzey refers to him as "J.R.") A council member asks a question on trapping. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Here Minzey attempts to answer Nancy Warren's questions:

During the July 15, 2013, meeting of the DNR Citizens Advisory Council in Ewen, Terry Minzey of the DNR Wildlife Division attempts to answer questions posed by Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, concerning FOIA requests she made for statistics on wolf depredation events in areas of the Upper Peninsula now designated for a public wolf hunt. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Following the July 15 DNR Citizens Advisory Council meeting, Warren sent the DNR her appeal on the FOIA refusals. In the appeal, dated July 16, 2013, she writes as follows:

"The Wildlife Conservation Order does not provide a breakout of the depredations for each of the years, only the totals.

"I requested a breakout for the number of livestock depredations (calves/adult cows) for each of the years 2010-2013 for each of the units; the amount of payments made in each of the years; the most paid to any one producer for each of the years. Since the DNR tabulated the final figures for the Order (example 80 for WMU B) and stated the problems continue, the figures for each individual year should be readily available. The breakout for the years is critical, since (in) 2010 and 2011, lethal control was not allowed, but in 2012 and 2013, lethal control was allowed."

At the July 24 meeting on the second petition, Keweenaw Now's Allan Baker interviewed Nancy Warren about the new information she recently received from the DNR on wolf depredations in the U.P. Warren explained how her FOIA requests were at first refused, but finally answered when she appealed the DNR decision not to release information.

In an interview during the July 24 a kick-off meeting in Houghton for the petition drive for a referendum on PA 21, Nancy Warren speaks about her efforts to FOIA information about wolf depredation from the Michigan DNR. She also gives more details on how, since wolves in Michigan were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2012, lethal control has been used to manage problem wolves. 

Warren has since been analyzing the information she received on wolf depredations in the three units designated for a wolf hunt. She is especially concerned that 73 percent of ALL livestock depredations in Unit B for the period 2010-2013 occurred at one farm with a history of poor animal husbandry practices.**

"This producer was provided non-lethal tools, yet failed to utilized them. Wildlife Services have killed wolves at this property and this producer was given permits to kill wolves," Warren says. "For the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 the Koski farm had 18 of the 22 verified depredations in Ontonagon County. The 2009 data shows he had the only 4 depredations in the county and in 2008 the only other depredations were some rabbits and another farm with ducks/geese."

A February 2013 DNR report on the Koski farm, whose owner had failed to dispose properly of dead animals, which can attract wolves and other predators, indicated to Warren that the justification for a wolf hunt used by the DNR and NRC (to reduce conflicts) is misleading.**

"It resonates well with the public if they are led to believe a wolf hunt will make wolves more wary and that will reduce conflicts. The true intent of the hunt has nothing to do with livestock conflicts and is purely to satisfy a vocal minority who just want a trophy hunt," Warren says. "It is interesting to note that since delisting (January 2012), lethal control of wolves responsible for depredation was implemented; and, so far, there have not been any depredations within any of the Units where the wolf hunt is planned. So the combination of lethal and non-lethal measures do work."

At a June 7, 2013, town hall meeting in Calumet, State Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), who sponsored the bills that eventually became PA 520 and PA 21, told an audience made up mostly of his supporters that PA 21 passed the legislature thanks to votes from House Democrats who added their support to the wolf hunt legislation and the Republican majority -- including 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) and 109th District Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette).***

State Senator Tom Casperson, sponsor of both bills that led to legislation for a wolf hunt in Michigan, speaks about that legislation during a town hall meeting on June 7, 2013, at Calumet High School. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

"I was in a position that if I got it done a lot of my people would appreciate that. They would respect that," Casperson said. "I think we did a pretty good job of working together and not playing the party line, bickering or anything like that."

Volunteers collect signatures statewide for second petition

Also speaking at the July 24 meeting on the petition was Jill Fritz, Michigan director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who summarized the legislature's approval of both PA 520, passed in December 2012, and PA 21, passed in May 2013. She described the successful petition effort that put PA 520 on hold, only to be followed by the NRC's decision, under authority given to them by PA 21, to hold a wolf hunt in the fall of 2013 -- thus the need for this second petition drive.

At the July 24 meeting for volunteer petition signature gatherers, Jill Fritz, Michigan director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), describes how 255,000 signatures succeeded in putting a referendum on the Dec. 2012 wolf hunt legislation on the November 2014 ballot in Michigan. She also explains why a second referendum is needed. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Local resident Diane Miller attended the July 24 meeting and is now collecting signatures for a referendum on PA 21. Miller says she believes she has to work to end the wolf hunting season since none of the reasons given for it is sound.

"Rather," Miller notes, "the hunting season seems to be based on hate and misinformation, as well as a desire to shoot for sport. That is, farmers already have the right to shoot problem wolves and access to alternate methods of protecting livestock and dogs from wolves, whose territory is constantly shrinking. I hope that by gathering signatures I can participate in a process that reminds people that while there are many documented cases of domestic dogs biting humans every year, the number of Michigan wolves harming humans EVER is zero. As a citizen, it's important for me to participate in the act of creating a meaningful referendum question -- a democratic process that Public Act 21 blatantly seeks to block."

Miller adds she has found that some citizens who care least about wolves are livid about that democratic process being constrained in such an underhanded way.

 "Over the past several weeks as I have been gathering signatures at public places across the state, I've been heartened by the support our residents are showing for this effort," Miller says. "Even people who are not necessarily fond of wolves or are frank about NOT liking them see that the hunt is not a good idea, and they are especially angry about Public Act 21."

Miller said local residents who wish to sign the petition can call her at 906-370-1069 and she will arrange to get their signatures.

"It occurs to me that people might be especially interested in knowing that, in a way, they represent their county in an additional way when they sign the petition," Miller added. "KMWP (Keep Michigan Wolves Protected) is keeping track of the top signature gatherers in the state, and I am number four. I'm rather proud of this, since the top three are in Kalamazoo, where there is a much higher population." 

Ellie Hayes, campaign manager for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, spoke at the July24 meeting and explained the procedures for collecting signatures on the petition.

Ellie Hayes, campaign manager for Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, explains to volunteers at the July 24 petition meeting the correct procedures for collecting signatures. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

More recently, Hayes reports, "We just concluded our 15-stop kick-off tour through Michigan. We traveled to Detroit, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Flint, Harbor Springs, Grand Rapids, Marquette, Traverse City, and many more cities to meet volunteers eager to keep Michigan's wolves protected and put a stop to the legislature's egregious power grab from the voters."

Michigan resident Kristi Lloyd, who collected signatures for the first petition, is enthusiastic about collecting them again to support this effort for a referendum on PA 21. In fact, she finds people are even more willing to sign this petition because of the way the legislature went about disregarding, nullifying, and silencing the 255,000 Michigan voters who signed the first petition.

"I'm collecting signatures for the petition because the wolf hunt in Michigan, as in other wolf-hunting states, has nothing to do with the wolves," Lloyd says. "The 'hunts' are all about politics from federal and state levels. In Michigan we are fortunate to have the right to referendum our state government to change laws with which we disagree. The non-hunting, non-consumptive users of our wildlife in MI have the same right to contribute to the preservation of our wildlife and do have a say in how it is 'managed,' but we have no way to financially support the preservation of our wildlife -- unlike hunters or trappers or anglers who pay to take our wildlife via licenses, tags, taxes on guns and ammunition. Gov. Rick Snyder and MI's GOP-led legislature took only the well-financed, high-powered organizations into consideration in proposing and signing SB 288 into law (PA 21)."

Lloyd, who also has experience with wolf issues in Yellowstone National Park and other areas of the West, says she has found that hunting wolves does not necessarily reduce their numbers in a certain area.

"Wolves need room to roam and where there is space, they (or other animals) will move in," Lloyd notes. "Shooting or killing wolves teaches them nothing. And wolves ARE still afraid of humans -- otherwise we would have many, many reported attacks on people and that just is not happening. Even hunters and trappers that go IN to the woods where wolves live have never been attacked. And neither have researchers, biologists, hikers, fishermen/women. "

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member Charlotte Loonsfoot, who also collected signatures for the first petition, plans to collect them again in Baraga for this petition against PA 21.

"Wolves are not for hunting and stripping them of their hides," Loonsfoot says. "If you Don't Eat it, Don't Kill it! Our little rodents and small game will overflow in the forests if this hunt happens, and we will definitely be infested when those rodents come into our towns."

Loonsfoot sees both the wolf hunt and excess logging of the forest as facilitating access for mining companies now doing drill testing in many areas of the Upper Peninsula.

"They (the mining companies) will have easier road access for extracting the minerals from the ground," Loonsfoot notes. "The map of mining companies buying up mineral rights in the western UP is outrageous, and I bet they are cutting (forests) close to these mineral right properties or right on top them."

In Houghton, Chris Alquist, Community Program director at Portage Lake District Library, is also volunteering to collect signatures for this petition. Stop in at the library or call the library at 482-4570 and ask for Chris. She'll provide a petition form for you to sign. Petitions must be signed in person.

Petition signing events are posted on the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Web site under Events. Click here to find an event near you.

Tomorrow, Aug. 26, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will host a petition signing event beginning at 11 a.m. and at 1 p.m. in the Academic Mall at Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Ave. in Marquette.

If you would like to help collect signatures for this petition drive click here for the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected online form to volunteer as a signature gatherer.

You can also email info@keepwolvesprotected.com if you have any questions about how you can help volunteer or just questions about the campaign in general.

Nancy Warren is traveling at present, but you can email her at nancy@wolfwatcher.org if you need more information about upcoming petition signing events.

Notes:
* See our May 8, 2013, article, "Michigan legislators offer views on hunting bills, signed into law today; NRC may establish wolf hunting season despite public opposition."

** See the June 27, 2013, article by Nancy Warren, "Opinion: Nearly half of wolf depredations attributed to one farm with poor animal husbandry practices."

*** State Sen. Tom Casperson participated in a "Media Meet" broadcast, "Wolf Hunt in the U.P," on Public Radio 90, WNMU-FM, Aug. 11 and 12, 2013. The panel also included wildlife advocate Adam Robarge and Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Brian Roelle. Click here for the podcast.

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