Friday, May 10, 2013

Natural Resources Commission authorizes limited public wolf harvest

By Michele Bourdieu
With information from Michigan Department of Natural Resources Press Release dated May 9, 2013
Comments from concerned wolf advocates added with their permission

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

ROSCOMMON, MICH. -- At their meeting on Thursday, May 9, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) approved a limited public wolf harvest in three distinct regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The decision followed a process of dedicated conversation with the public and experts, along with a thorough review of the pertinent science.

"The recovery of Michigan's wolf population has been a remarkable success story," said Natural Resources Commission Chairman J.R. Richardson. "Today's decision by the NRC supports ongoing scientific management of this game species, just as voters intended when by an overwhelming margin they approved Proposal G in 1996. The public harvest proposal approved by the commission ensures the long-term presence of wolves while providing a valuable tool for managing conflicts between wolves and human populations. This is a thoughtful, science-based decision."

The commission adopted the regulations during its regular monthly meeting, held in Roscommon May 8 and 9, 2013.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, "The regulations establish a limited harvest of 43 wolves in three areas of the Upper Peninsula where wolf-human conflicts -- including depredation of livestock and pets and human safety concerns -- have been persistent despite employing a number of control measures."

Opinions vary on "human safety" concerns

A two-part article on Michigan Radio this week by Steve Carmody, who interviewed residents in some of these problem areas, points out differences of opinion on the extent of this depredation and suggests the proponents of the wolf hunt have exaggerated the degree of "human safety" concerns, since wolf attacks on humans in Michigan are non-existent.

"There have been no wolf attacks on people in Michigan," Carmody writes in Part 2 of his radio report.

He also questions the statement by State Sen. Tom Casperson, who introduced the wolf hunt legislation (SB 288) that became law -- PA 21 -- on May 8, 2013, that people in Ironwood, Mich., are "living in fear." As Carmody points out through his interviews, it depends which residents you talk to.*

Michigan's wolf population has grown significantly since 2000, with a current minimum population estimate of 658. The target harvest is not expected to impact the overall wolf population trajectory, based on published scientific research.

"This decision was the culmination of a long and thorough process by the NRC," said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh. "The DNR will continue to work closely with the commission to be certain that Michigan's wolf population is managed according to the principles of sound science."

Concerned wolf advocate groups question DNR "sound science" claims

However, citizens concerned about wolves, their role in Nature and their importance to the ecosystem, have challenged the "sound science" claims by the DNR.

"It is disappointing that the Natural Resource Commission chose to ignore sound science and instead listened to and was influenced by outside hunting interests, including the NRA, Safari Club International and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation," says Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes regional director. "There are currently non-lethal and lethal measures in place to resolve conflicts. The wolf hunting regulations which include trapping on public lands will target some packs not involved in depredation and may cause conflicts to increase due to pack disruption."

Warren, an Upper Peninsula resident who has spoken at previous NRC meetings concerning this issue, calls this NRC decision, which follows immediately the May 8 signing of Public Act 21, "a direct assault on our democracy and the right of citizens to challenge wildlife laws."

The NRC vote in favor of the wolf harvest was reportedly 6 to 1.

"We applaud Commissioner Steinman for having the courage to vote no on the hunting of Michigan wolves," Warren added.

Commissioner Annoesjka Steinman is the only NRC member with any credentials related to the environment. In addition to holding holds a master's degree from Grand Valley State University in natural resources management and a bachelor's degree in natural science from the University of South Florida, she is executive director and CEO of the Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, a nonprofit organization which offers 143 acres of walking trails, an interpretive center and animal hospital, a small farm. The Center also features community and school programs.**

Kristi Lloyd of Wolves of the Rockies, who has been involved with wolf hunting issues near Yellowstone National Park and in the state of Montana, has been following the Michigan legislation leading to this NRC wolf harvest decision. She questions the need for the wolf harvest and also challenges the Michigan DNR's claims of "sound science" in their management plan.

"Sen. Casperson used fear-mongering and MISinformation to garner support for killing wolves via a hunt," Lloyd says. "If this situation is so dire then why not deal directly and promptly with the 'offending' wolves? Why wait until November if the situation is so urgent?"

Lloyd notes the laws in Michigan, before PA 21, allow stock growers and pet owners to shoot wolves that attack their animals -- or to have the DNR/Wildlife Services take
appropriate measures.

The Michigan Legislature passed two laws in 2008 to allow livestock or dog owners, or their designated agents, to remove, capture, or, if deemed necessary, use lethal means to destroy a wolf that is "in the act of preying upon" (attempting to kill or injure) the owner's livestock or dog(s). These state laws went into effect upon federal delisting on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. 

"If wolves are killing at the rate that Sen. Casperson claims, why are not more homeowners/stock growers killing these offending wolves?" Lloyd asks. "The hypocrisy is over-the-top -- the proponents of the wolf hunt say that they will use 'sound science' to guide them in creating the regulations of a hunt. Define 'sound'? It seems, though, that over time, 'sound' was used less and it just became science. Well, Michigan has two of the top wolf researchers in the country yet the NRC had experts from other wolf-hunting states testify or give presentations about hunting wolves. John Vucetich wrote a very compelling presentation as to what could happen when wolves are killed. Garrick Dutcher, from Living With Wolves, did as well in a letter to Gov. Snyder." *** 

Wolf regulations designate Nov. 15 - Dec. 31 season in 3 areas

The regulations create three Wolf Management Units (WMU):
WMU A in Gogebic County in the far western Upper Peninsula -- target harvest of 16 wolves; WMU B in portions of Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties -- target harvest of 19 wolves; and WMU C in portions of Luce and Mackinac counties -- target harvest of eight wolves.

The 2013 wolf season will open Nov. 15 and will run until Dec. 31 or until the target harvest for each WMU is reached. The bag limit is one wolf per person per year. Firearm, crossbow and bow-and-arrow hunting and trapping (foothold traps only, with an outside jaw spread of 5.25 inches to 8 inches) will be allowed on public and private lands.

Hunters will be required to report successful harvest over the phone on the day of harvest. Once the target harvest is met for a management unit, the entire unit will be closed for the season. Licensed hunters will be required to check daily by phone or online to determine whether any management units have been closed.

A total of 1,200 licenses will be available for over-the-counter purchase, on a first-come, first-served basis, starting Aug. 3, 2013. Licenses will be valid for all three WMUs until each unit is closed. As established by the Legislature, the cost of a wolf hunting license is $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents. In order to purchase a license, a hunter is required to have either purchased a previous hunting license or taken a state-approved hunter safety education course.

The NRC’s Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries presented a recommendation to the full commission that included a review of the experience of other states currently engaged in public wolf harvest and testimony from experts in the field with respect to wolf hunting issues, wolf biology and wolf population matters.

"We anticipate that this limited public harvest could both change wolf behavior over time -- making them more wary of people, residential areas and farms -- and reduce the abundance of wolves in these management areas that have experienced chronic problems," said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. "We're aiming to decrease the number of conflicts and complaints while maintaining the long-term viability of the wolf population."

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, the organization that collected more than 250,000 signatures to request a referendum on PA 520, the law passed in December 2012 designating the wolf as a game species, has expressed disappointment that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed PA 21 into law (on the same day the NRC met to discuss the wolf harvest).

"The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) coalition expressed its deep disappointment in Gov. Rick Snyder, who (on May 8) signed legislation (SB 288) that circumvents voter rights by allowing the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season before Michigan voters can decide the issue in the November 2014 election," KMWP states on their Web site.

Update: Posted May 13, 2013, on Native News Network:
"Michigan Indian Tribal Leaders Respond to Wolf Hunt Approval."

Notes:

* Click here to listen to or to read Carmody's radio broadcast Part 1. Click here for Part 2.

** The other NRC members have backgrounds in tourism, chemical engineering and the paper industry, surveying, corporate law, and the building trades. Click here to read about them.

*** See our Apr. 29, 2013, article,"Scientists, wildlife advocates ask legislators to consider science in wolf management."  See also "Letter from John Vucetich, wildlife ecologist: Reasons to oppose SB288."

Click here for "Letter to Gov. Snyder from Living With Wolves," by Garrick Dutcher.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Michigan legislators offer views on hunting bills, signed into law today; NRC may establish wolf hunting season despite public opposition

By Michele Bourdieu

The Anderson House Office Building in Lansing, seen from the park in front of the Capitol. Keweenaw Now interviewed our 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda in his office on the 14th floor (near the flag at the top of the building) on May 1, 2013. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

LANSING -- [Editor's Note: A week ago, on Tuesday, Apr. 30, 2013, the Michigan House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee heard more than four hours of testimonies on SB 288 -- the bill that gives the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the responsibility to establish managed open season hunts for wild game (including wolves) and authority to regulate the taking of fish. It exempts the taking of mourning doves, pets and livestock. The Legislature maintains its ability to both add and remove species on the list. Although Keweenaw Now was unable to attend that meeting, we did have an opportunity the following day (May 1) to interview two representatives who are members of the committee -- 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) and 50th District Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton), vice-chair of the committee -- both of whom took time from their busy schedules to answer our questions on this controversial legislation. We tried to contact Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R-Columbus Township), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, for an appointment; but she did not answer messages.]

110th District Rep. Scott Dianda's aides Elise Matz, left, and Danielle Stein, walk in front of the State Capitol in Lansing on a sunny May 1, 2013. Matz and Stein helped Keweenaw Now secure interviews with Rep. Dianda and Rep. Charles Smiley during our brief visit to Lansing.

During the House Natural Resources Committee meeting on Apr. 30, 2013, a majority of public testimonials opposed SB 288, the bill introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) that would give the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) authority to establish a hunting season for game, including wolves. Nevertheless, that committee voted 8 to 0 in favor of the bill.

Since the interviews reported here, SB 288 was approved by both the Michigan Senate and the House and, just today, May 8, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder. The Governor also signed SB 289, also introduced by Casperson, which guarantees the legal right to hunt and fish.

SB 288 and SB 289 are now Public Acts 21 and 22 of 2013.

"It has been an emotional issue for everybody," 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda, a member of the committee, told Keweenaw Now during an interview in his Lansing office on May 1, 2013.

In his office in Lansing, Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) speaks with Keweenaw Now on May 1, 2013, about his vote for SB 288 and 289 in the Natural Resources Committee meeting on Apr. 30.

Dianda said the committee listened to public testimonials, most of them opposed to SB 288, for at least four hours. The meeting began at noon in the Anderson House Office Building, but the representatives had to suspend the meeting after about an hour and a half to report to their regular House floor session in the Capitol across the street. Afterwards they returned for several more hours of testimonials, followed by their vote, in the packed committee room.

"We got a chance to listen to everyone who came to the committee," Dianda said. "It was an all-day affair."

However, the room reportedly did not hold everyone who wanted to speak. Those who were not admitted (including Keweenaw Now guest photographer Marshall Anderson) were invited to watch a televised broadcast of the meeting in the "overflow" room.

In the "overflow" room, a monitor shows Michigan House Natural Resources Committee members readying for a vote on SB 288 on Apr. 30, 2013. (Photo by Marshall Anderson for Keweenaw Now)

Asked why he voted for the bill since most people there were against it, Dianda said no one from his district was present to speak against the bill and most of those who opposed it were from areas outside the Upper Peninsula. He said he felt they didn't understand the situation of U.P. residents who claim to have a wolf problem in their backyard. Hunting groups from the U.P. did come to testify in favor of the bill.

On the other hand, the committee received 63 pages of emails -- most dated April 29 or the morning of April 30 -- all asking the committee to vote against SB 288.*

Public comments oppose SB 288

Here are just a few excerpts from the emails, three of them sent by Upper Peninsula residents:

Adam Robarge of Marquette, who helped collect signatures for a petition for referendum on the 2012 PA 520 wolf hunt law, and who recently made two trips to Lansing and spoke to legislators about SB 288, writes on Apr. 29, 2013, "There is much we still do not understand in regard to the gray wolf and its role in Michigan, economically and biologically. I supported the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign because it gave us time. I oppose SB 288 as it is written because the bill gives us neither time nor science."

Jacqueline and James Winkowski of Gwinn write, "Though the waters have been muddied by our legislators, as you know, Senate Bill 288 is about rendering ineffective the signatures of about 250,000 registered voters who signed petitions to place the question of the gray wolf as a game animal on the ballot .... SB 288 will allow only the legislature and the politically appointed NRC to decide which species (including, of course, the wolf) are hunted, with no chance for voters to appeal. This is a major grab of power away from the people of Michigan. To introduce this Bill was punitive and wrong."

Catherine Parker of Marquette offers these comments: "What's really troubling me is that our elected representatives are saying that voters are not equipped to make a decision on the wolf hunt, or on wildlife management issues in general, when in fact there are many highly specialized scientists and countless citizens who have devoted much time to studying these issues."

An example of a knowledgeable scientist who sent a letter to the committee is Barbara J. Barton of Lansing, an endangered species biologist, who objects to the NRC being given the authority to designate game species in Michigan, to the title of the bill -- "Scientific Wildlife Management" -- and to the exclusion of the Tribes in the decision making process.

Barton notes that only one NRC member has "any experience even remotely related to wildlife management (the director of a nature center)." She also refers to the Inland Consent Decree of 2007, which provides for consultation between the State of Michigan and the five Tribes under the 1836 Treaty.

Barton quotes from this Decree, Part 23.4: "The State and the Tribes shall notify each other at least annually of proposed regulatory changes before they take effect and seek to resolve any concerns arising from such changes before implementing them."**

It is not clear at this time whether the Natural Resources Committee members had a chance to read these email messages before their vote on Apr. 30. Moreover, the fact that many of the citizens who sent them did not include their place of residence makes it difficult to know how many of the emails were from Upper Peninsula residents.

Concerning his own vote in favor of SB 288, Dianda said, "I just felt it was important for our people in our area -- that they felt safe."

Dianda admitted that the discussion on SB 288 was added to the meeting agenda at the last minute, making it difficult for people to travel from the U.P. in time to testify.

"That was disappointing to me, too," he said.

110th District Rep. Scott Dianda takes time for a photo in his office with his aides, from left, Danielle Stein, Elise Matz and Curtis Audette.             .

Dianda noted he was opposed to the earlier version of the bill that included appropriations of $1 million, which would have made it impossible to petition for a referendum after the bill becomes a law. His objection appeared to be based on the fact that Democrats are trying to secure more funding for education and other needs at this time.

He said he also voted in favor of SB 289, the bill giving Michigan residents the right to hunt, trap and fish. Dianda explained he himself is a sportsman who has hunted for small game such as rabbits and deer but has never trapped.

"I like the idea that we've got legislation that gives the people the right to hunt and fish," he said. "It's very important to me."

Dianda opposes anti-biodiversity bill, SB 78

Dianda noted he is opposed to SB 78, the anti-biodiversity bill, also proposed by State Sen. Tom Casperson.

Dianda said he believes that the NRC should work with state biologists and that legislators should have input with the DNR on wolf management.

"I want to make sure that we're watching the DNR -- to make sure that in our district they do it right and humanely and to make sure that they (hunters) take only the (wolves) in the towns," Dianda added.

He said he is suggesting a reporting system so that if a wolf attacks a pet the County Sheriff should be notified immediately. After the recent incident of a wolf attack on a dog in the Red Ridge area of Atlantic Mine, Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean was not notified until three days later, Dianda noted.

"I just feel for public safety that should be reported right away so people can be warned to bring their pets inside," he said. "I really feel that the DNR has to have direction from the elected representatives. It's important not only for this issue but also the impact on policy for other issues in the U.P."

DNR official, Isle Royale wolf experts say public safety not an issue 

However, DNR Conservation Officer Dennis Gast, who responded immediately to the call about the wolf attack on that dog, said it is not a public safety issue.

"It's a good idea to let the Sheriff know, but there's not a danger to the public," Gast told Keweenaw Now in an interview today. "Wolves are a minimal if non-existent danger to people. They will sometimes attack dogs and livestock."

Wolves are competitive with dogs, he explained, just as they are with other wolves who trespass on their territory. Gast said he speculated these wolves (at least four were involved in the attack) came very close to the dog owner's house, possible about 100 yards, and were probably more aggressive because they had pups in this season.

"In North America wolf attacks on people are extremely rare," Gast noted. "Wolves don't attack dogs very often. It's relatively rare. There are more dogs in Houghton County than there are wolves in the U.P."

Gast said he was called at the DNR office the day the attack happened and he went there very shortly after the call.

"It had happened earlier that morning," he noted. "I verified it was by a wolf and later a wildlife technician (Brad Johnson from the Baraga DNR office) went out there and also corroborated on that."

While wolves are not a danger to people, an attack on a dog that was that close to the house is unacceptable, Gast added, noting the dog owner was not at fault. His dog apparently sensed the wolves and went to investigate, but Gast guessed the wolves' den area was close to the house.

In an Apr. 2, 2013, memo from the DNR to the NRC, the public safety issue is mentioned as one purpose for hunting wolves. However, two internationally known wolf experts have questioned whether public safety is a real threat.

In a May 1, 2013, statement submitted as written testimony against a public wolf harvest -- for the NRC hearings related to wolf hunting in Michigan -- Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study Co-Directors Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, referring to the DNR memo, say this about the public safety issue:

"One problem is that many people's perception of a threat is at gross odds with the reality of a threat. The memo fails to recognize the best-available science, which is abundantly clear: genuine threats to human safety by wolves are exceedingly rare. Recognizing and dealing with public perceptions about human safety is critically important. However, treating perception as reality, when the best-available science indicates otherwise, is poor wildlife management and counter productive to solving the problem."

Peterson and Vucetich also note why a wolf hunting season does not guarantee solving the problem: "Protecting human safety cannot wait until the upcoming hunting season, with the subsequent hope that some hunter has the good fortune to kill the offending wolf," they note.***

Rep. Charles Smiley passes on Committee vote, citing lack of time

Following the interview with Dianda, Keweenaw Now was able to meet briefly with 50th District Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton), vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee, who passed on the Apr. 30 committee vote (the only member of the committee who did not vote yes on SB 288 and SB 289 in committee, though he later voted for them in the May 2 session on the House floor).

Michigan 50th District Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton), vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee, took time before the House session in the Capitol on May 1, 2013, to speak with Keweenaw Now on why he passed on the Apr. 30 committee vote on SB 288 and SB 289.

"They scheduled to have the committee meeting on the bills (SB 288 and 289) and then vote on them the same day, and I felt it wasn't giving us enough time to listen to all the testimony and, basically, get all the facts and talk about the bills -- what they really are," Smiley told Keweenaw Now. "I don't feel that it's good practice for us to have testimony and then report it out the same day."

Smiley added he took a pass on both SB 288 and SB 289 because of the lack of time to read and understand the bills. Like Dianda, he confirmed most of the testimonies were in opposition to SB 288.

"And I'm really torn on this," he said. "I'm an avid hunter. I understand how important it is that we have a balance -- in any animal."

Smiley said he would have liked to introduce a compromise but he wasn't sure "how many wolves are too many" or what hunting methods would be used.

"When I hunt I don't trap," he noted.

Smiley said when he was mayor of the city of Burton, near Flint, he was used to the fact that after passing city ordinances they could go back and tweak them. He believed that could be done with these bills. As an example, he mentioned the limitations put on hunting licenses for elk and bear.

"I'm assuming they're going to do the same with this (wolf hunt)," he said. "It's going to be very selective and very restrictive."

Smiley said he had never worked with the NRC but he believes the legislature should have input in their decisions.

To a question on whether PA 520 and the petition for a referendum on it would be thrown out if SB 288 becomes law, Smiley indicated it would.

"That's tragic," he said. "We fought hard to get the appropriations out of it (SB 288)."

The appropriations would have disallowed any referendum on the law. Smiley said he realized people may not want to start over, but at least the voters have the right to petition for a referendum should they wish to do it again. He would not vote for it if appropriations had been left in -- or if they tried to put them back in, he explained.

"But I'm willing to sit down and work with everyone in trying to come up with some sort of compromise or to make things better as we work through this," Smiley added.

Asked about SB 78, the anti-biodiversity bill, Smiley said he would not support it.

"There's just certain things we have to protect, and I know that Republicans are not real good at protecting some of our environments," he said. "There's no way I'm going to support that bill in its present condition."

As of today, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters reports that SB 78 is now on hold.

Both Dianda and Smiley voted in favor of SB 288 and SB 289 in the May 2, 2013, House session vote.

Rep. Sarah Roberts: House ignored her proposed amendments

One representative who voted against both bills, 18th District Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), sent a letter to one of her constituents, including these statements:

"Thank you for kind words regarding my efforts to oppose Senate Bill 288. I regret that many of my colleagues did not agree with me and voted to prevent our citizens from exercising their constitutional right to petition their government with a referendum.

"As you know, on Thursday May 2nd, I voted no on SB 288. Unfortunately I was in the minority, as the bill passed the House by a vote of 72 to 38. The bill will now go the Governor for his signature.

I offered amendments that would have let the citizens decide these issues and let the vote on wolf hunting take place. However the majority party in the House would not even let the members of the House of Representatives vote on my amendments. In fact, my debate on these amendments was cut off by House republicans."

The NRC met today, May 8, in Roscommon, Mich., to receive information in preparation for a Thursday, May 9, vote of the full commission on a wolf harvest. Today, the committee was to hear presentations from the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources and to consider written testimony from outside experts.

Notes:

* Click here to read the emails to the House Natural Resources Committee. All are opposed to SB 288.

** Native Americans consider the wolf their brother and the Ojibwa are culturally opposed to hunting wolves. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, in their Wolf Management Plan approved January 10, 2013, states the following: "In the event that legislation is enacted for a wolf hunt, KBIC will designate the Home Territory, approximately 3.9 million acres within the 1842 Treaty area, as Wolf Sanctuary where sport hunting and/or trapping will not be allowed (See Appendix 2 for Home Territory Map). In addition, KBIC will not provide Tribal wolf hunting permits to community members. These measures will help to protect wolves and maintain a strong culturally based stance against the killing of wolves. KBIC Natural Resource Department will also participate in and maintain close communication with those involved in wolf monitoring and control of human-wolf conflicts. As funding allows, we intend to increase monitoring of wolves on and near the Reservation preferably with tracking of radio-collared wolves to keep tabs on any changing status of wolf packs."  Click here to read the KBIC Wolf Management Plan.

*** Click here to read the rest of this statement by wolf experts Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich. This statement is also posted in pdf format on The Wildlife News Web site. Thanks to Nancy Warren of Wolfwatchers.org and Kristi Lloyd of Wolves of the Rockies for sharing these links. See also this article on Wolfwatchers.org: "John Vucetich’s Presentation 'Hunting Wolves.'"

Green Film Series to present documentary on melting Arctic ice May 9

HOUGHTON -- The Green Film Series will present the documentary film, Chasing Ice, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, in the Atrium and G002 Hesterberg Hall, Noblet Forestry Building, on the Michigan Tech campus.

Coffee, dessert and facilitated discussion will follow the 76-minute film. Cost: Free, $3 suggested donation.

In this film, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog ventures to the Arctic to document the melting of ice mountains using state-of-the-art, time-lapse photography. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet. The discussion facilitator will be Prof. Sarah Green, chair, Michigan Tech Department of Chemistry.

The Green Film Series is co-sponsored by Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Keweenaw Land Trust.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Natural Resources Commission to meet May 8-9 in Roscommon; meeting to precede vote on wolf harvest

LANSING -- The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will hold its regular monthly meeting over two days -- Wednesday and Thursday, May 8-9, at the Ralph A. MacMullan (RAM) Conference Center, 104 Conservation Drive, in Roscommon.

Wednesday’s session begins at noon in the Au Sable Room with a meeting of the Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries. The meeting will be devoted entirely to a proposal for a public harvest of wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The committee will receive information in preparation for a Thursday vote of the full commission on a wolf harvest. The committee will hear presentations from the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources.

Following the presentations, the committee will consider written testimony from outside experts.

Thursday begins in the Manistee Room with a 9 a.m. meeting of the State Parks Advisory Committee. The committee will receive an overview of the committee’s task force retreat; review the draft land management plan; receive reports on Recreation Passport research, the new central reservation system vendor and the Globe Building project; and hear an update from Parks and Recreation Division.

At 10 a.m. in the Au Sable Room, the Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries will receive updates on Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries and Wildlife divisions’ activities, discuss furbearer and deer regulations, and receive reports on cormorants and moose.

At 2 p.m., the new Harry H. Whiteley Conservation Education Building on the RAM Center grounds will be dedicated.

The Committee of the Whole meets back in the Au Sable Room at 3 p.m., starting with DNR Director Keith Creagh’s report, followed by a legislative update.

Immediately following the Committee of the Whole, the NRC will hear comments from the public. Those wishing to make public comments before the NRC should contact Deb Whipple, executive assistant to the NRC, at 517-373-2352 or whippled1@michigan.gov to register.

Following public comments, the NRC is scheduled to approve regulations for Deer Management Assistance permits, the Hunting Access Program, fall turkey regulations and quotas, and wolf regulations and quotas.

There is one land transaction that is eligible for director’s action.

For more information about the Natural Resources Commission, including full agendas and meeting minutes, visit www.michigan.gov/nrc.

Letter to Gov. Snyder from Living With Wolves

Letter from Living With Wolves, P.O. Box 896, Sun Valley, Idaho 83353
Letter of April 25, 2013
Reprinted by request.

The Honorable Richard D. Snyder
Governor of the State of Michigan
Olds Plaza, Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Dear Governor Snyder:

For more than 100 years, the constitution of the state of Michigan has granted proud and informed Michiganders the right to referendum and a voice in the legislative process, keeping the people involved, when necessary, in many of the important decisions that govern their state. This is a history of government and democratic process everyone in Michigan can take pride in.

Currently the state of Michigan also requires the elected legislature to determine whether or not to designate an animal as a game species before handing game management responsibilities over to the appointed (rather than elected) Natural Resource Commission. This process ensures that the appointed commission will only establish hunting seasons on animals that legislators and, by extension, the people, feel should be hunted.

This process also maintains some accountability to Michigan voters, ensuring them a voice in the management of their wildlife. Thus, when Senator Tom Casperson’s bill passed late last year, designating the gray wolf as a game species eligible to be hunted, the people of Michigan rallied in opposition.

With the help and organizational efforts of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and other concerned groups, Michiganders turned to their right to a referendum via petition. Over the course of 67 days in mid-winter, 253,705 signatures were collected, more than 50 percent above the mark required to bring the issue of wolf hunting to a vote by the people. Once the state’s Board of Canvassers verifies the signatures, that vote would be scheduled for November 2014, unless the people’s will is successfully hijacked by politics.

Only two weeks after the people of Michigan submitted the signatures, invoking their right to a referendum, the same state senator, Casperson, countered with another bill, SB 288. This time, Casperson manufactured a loophole that would effectively disenfranchise Michigan voters, rendering the referendum and the voices and efforts of so many voters moot.

This is no longer just about wolves. Once the referendum process threatened to stop his original wolf bill in its tracks, Casperson broadened the scope of his attack with legislation that includes all potential game species. SB 288 would prevent the people from having any say in which animals should be designated as game, by granting that authority to the discretion of the appointed (not elected) Natural Resource Commission. His new bill would overturn the actions of the people of Michigan after they successfully exercised their right to have a voice in the management of their wildlife.

The desire has been clearly expressed. Michigan voters want the right to decide whether or not the state should engage in a public, recreational hunting season on wolves. They do not want or deserve legislation that will circumnavigate Michigan’s constitution, disenfranchise the people you represent, and forever silence each Michigander’s ability to have a voice on decisions about their wildlife.

Coming from the West, where the wolf is a politically contentious subject, I encourage you to see through the fog of political maneuvering. Allow the referendum process to run the course it has historically served to carry out the will and interests of Michiganders since 1908. Passing legislation that would deny the people this constitutional right should only be done out of dire necessity, not to serve fabricated political ends. In this case, no such necessity is defensible.

Two of the top wolf scientists in the nation live in Michigan and conduct their research there: Dr. Rolf Peterson and Dr. John Vucetich. Dr. Peterson has studied Michigan wolves for 43 years. They could provide invaluable counsel on the subject of wolves and how they function within the ecosystems of Michigan. It would be important to consult with them and have their opinions aired.*

Over the past two years, Michigan’s wolf population has dropped without the implementation of a public, recreational wolf-hunting season. Therefore, introducing a hunting season to keep the wolf population in check appears unsupportable, as the population already appears to be self-regulating.

The population of 658 wolves (a decline from 687 since the last count) that lives largely in the Upper Peninsula pales in comparison to the state’s populations of bear, bobcat and coyote. Michigan is home to roughly 18,000 black bears, 27 times the population of wolves, yet Senator Casperson is cultivating fear and generating misinformation by claiming that the UP is "inundated with wolves."

The impact this comparatively small population of wolves has on the deer population is negligible and likely benefits the health of the deer. Through the collaborative hunting strategy employed by wolves (one that statistically targets the weak), wolves serve as the best defense to the spread of brainworm, a disease the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is very familiar with.

Over the past three years, the livestock losses Michigan farmers attribute to wolves have remained roughly the same. Combined losses of cattle and sheep were 65 animals in 2010, 53 in 2011 and 54 in 2012. Over those same three years, between 38 percent and 57 percent of the statewide losses came from one farm alone. Clearly the situation of that particular farm warrants special attention to help that particular farmer.

Michigan farmers are allowed to shoot wolves that are attacking their livestock. And, should a farmer lose one of his animals to wolves, the farmer can apply for a permit to
lethally remove wolves on his/her property. These are appropriate measures in a landscape shared with wolves. But these measures are already in place.

A public, recreational hunt would likely do nothing to help the isolated locations where farmers are challenged by wolves. Recreation is the only purpose of such a hunt. People do not eat wolf. And hunting wolves may result in unforeseen problems. Hunting would unavoidably break up packs, the vast majority of which are not in conflict with farmers. Tearing apart the social fabric that holds a family of wolves together will result in the disintegration of packs, the social unit that defines the wolf and provides the collaboration they rely upon for survival.

The wolves documented, and subsequently eliminated, in Ironwood simply followed their prey into town, continuing to feed on deer, but also reportedly feeding on garbage. No animals, especially carnivores, should develop an association of food with humans. Large carnivores do not belong in towns and, as with marauding bears, government agents handled the situation in Ironwood. In the case where wolves or bears may sometimes be seen within town limits, those situations can be addressed as they have been. They do not require a public hunt.

As is the case for all wolves in the lower 48 states, there have been no hostile encounters between people and wolves in Michigan. Statistics from across North America (Canada and Alaska included) demonstrate that wolves are much less of a threat to people than bears or most large mammals, including those that are not predators. Most Michiganders do not live in mortal fear of black bears (or deer for that matter), but they do respect them and tend to act accordingly where their homes overlap with wildlife habitat.

This was not the first time Michigan voters chose to vote whether or not to hold a hunting season on a particular animal. In 2006, Michiganders used the referendum process to let voters decide if the state should allow a public, recreational hunt of mourning doves. The will of the people became clear with a resounding 69 percent of voters voting against the measure.

The people of Michigan have spoken again. They want to vote. Allow the people of Michigan to decide. Allow them to vote on this issue, as they have so clearly demonstrated the will to do so. You, their governor, are their voice. The political machine will undoubtedly drop this ball in your lap if you don’t intervene and convince the legislature to stop this assault on the people’s right to referendum.

Stand up for the people and the constitution of the great state of Michigan that defines and defends the rights of Michiganders, or step away from the people and side with legislation, spearheaded by a single individual. Please help stop this legislation and, if it reaches your desk, please veto this bill and uphold the voter’s right to referendum as guaranteed by the constitution of the state of Michigan.

Sincerely,

Garrick Dutcher
Program Director, Living with Wolves
,
a 501c3 NON-PROFIT CORPORATION,
email: livingwithwolves@cox.net. Web site: www.livingwithwolves.org

*Editor's Note: See: "Letter from John Vucetich, wildlife ecologist: Reasons to oppose SB288."
See also comments from Rolf Peterson in "Scientists, wildlife advocates ask legislators to consider science in wolf management." 

For more information visit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. Since this letter was written, SB 288 was passed by both the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House. Click here for the enrolled bill that awaits Gov. Snyder's signature.

Click here for phone numbers if you wish to contact Gov. Snyder's office.