Thursday, November 14, 2013

National Wolfwatcher Coalition: State officials ignore, destroy comments opposing Michigan wolf hunt

Photo of wolves courtesy Wolfwatcher.org. Reprinted with permission.

EWEN, MICH. -- The National Wolfwatcher Coalition was shocked to learn that the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) disregarded public input prior to deciding the rules and regulations for this year’s wolf hunt, which begins tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 15. This is in sharp contrast to other recent wildlife decisions which have been swayed by public opinion.

DNR officials admit to having never categorized the thousands of comments received.  Many were never even opened. Through a Freedom of Information request (FOIA), the National Wolfwatcher Coalition obtained the comments. They gathered a pool of volunteers and after deleting all duplicates sorted through 4,904 comments.

"Every way we looked at it, there was strong opposition to the wolf hunt," says Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes regional director. Over 3,600 comments opposing the hunt came from other states and even foreign countries, "so, we honed in just on Michigan residents," Warren adds.

Photo insert: Nancy Warren. (File photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

1,206 Michigan residents expressed opposition to the wolf hunt or aspects of it (99 percent) and only 13 Michigan residents wrote comments expressing support for the wolf hunt.

"Many individuals who we knew had submitted comments asking for a delay in the hunt were not shown in the database, so we dug further," Warren explained.

Buried among the messages was one in which J.R. Richardson, NRC Chairman, admitted to destroying thousands of comments prior to their becoming part of public record. There was also an email from Adam Bump, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) bear and furbearer specialist, who instructed a DNR employee to place the comments in a "shred" folder -- which is a type of delete file that cannot be recovered.

"We will never know how many individuals submitted personal comments," Warren notes, "but we know that in their rush to push through the wolf hunt, the basic principles of democracy were ignored."*

The National Wolfwatcher Coalition is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting positive attitudes about wolves through education. This nationwide organization represents not only Michigan residents but others who recreate in the state and purchase Michigan products.

*Editor's Notes:
See "Guest column: Is Michigan's wolf hunt necessary?" by Nancy Warren, published this morning, Nov. 14, 2013, on MLive. In this article, Warren gives details on wolf depredations in Michigan and how they have been handled through wolf management without a wolf hunt.

On Nov. 11, 2013, the Center for Biological Diversity, a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 20,000 Michigan members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places, sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and DNR Director Keith Creagh concerning these same incidents in which comments from their supporters opposing the wolf hunt were destroyed. They refer to the facts reported by MLive's John Barnes in his article, "Crying wolf: Michigan's first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money," Michigan Live (Nov. 6, 2011).

In the letter to state officials, Collette L. Adkins Giese, Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney, writes, "Wolves are a public natural resource and the public deserves a voice in how Michigan wolves are managed. We are very disappointed that comments from our members and supporters appear to have been disregarded by Michigan state officials. We would appreciate a response from you."

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