The wolf is neither saint nor villain. It is simply an animal that inhabits Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and fills a valuable niche in the ecosystem. Should wolves be a hunted game species? Should Michigan residents have a voice in wildlife decisions? Will Michigan voters be allowed to decide?
Since federal delisting of wolves in January 2012, livestock and pet owners in Michigan are permitted to kill any wolf in the act of attacking their animals. Further, when there is a confirmed wolf attack, the Department of Natural Resources issues a permit to landowners allowing them to kill any wolf on their property. In 2013, 11 wolves were killed in control actions by government officials and private citizens.
In December 2012, Public Act 520 was signed into law adding the wolf to Michigan’s list of game species. The Michigan Constitution affords citizens the right to challenge newly-enacted laws through the veto referendum process, so a coalition of Michigan wolf advocates exercised their right to do just that and gathered more than 250,000 signatures of registered voters calling for a referendum on the issue in the November 2014 general election.
Upper Peninsula wolf. (Photo courtesy Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition)
But in an appalling response to this strong citizen opposition to designating the wolf a game species, the Legislature quickly passed, and Gov. Rick Snyder signed, Public Act 21 of 2013, authorizing the state’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to designate almost any species as game. The NRC, which is a politically-appointed body with strong ties to those who support the hunting of wolves for recreation, quickly designated the wolf as game and authorized a wolf hunting season for November 2013. Decisions of the NRC cannot be challenged by the public. P.A. 21 is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Michigan residents and it takes away the rights of citizens to challenge game designation decisions.
But citizens responded by conducting a second referendum petition challenging P.A. 21, which is currently underway.*
The purpose of these two referendums is clear: one challenges whether wolves should be a game species, and the other challenges the authority of the NRC to designate new species as game and restores the right of citizens to challenge wildlife laws enacted through legislation.
Neither referendum affects any species, designated as game, other than the wolf. And let me be clear: These two referendums do not impact anyone’s right to hunt deer, bear, waterfowl or any other species currently hunted or trapped, and they have no impact on any hunting, trapping or fishing regulations currently in place. They are referendums to overturn those two newly-enacted laws. Period.
The referendums also have no bearing on the state’s existing ability to manage problem wolves. Absent a wolf hunting season, producers will still be reimbursed for any livestock losses verified to have been killed by wolves. Producers and dog owners will still be able to kill, without a permit, any wolf that is in the act of attacking their livestock or pet. And livestock producers and dog owners will still be issued permits to kill any wolf on their property following a confirmed loss by wolves.
There is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering being propagated by groups trying to counteract these two referendums. Get the facts about wolves and the truth about the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign at www.keepwolvesprotected.com.
Inset photo: Nancy Warren. (File photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
* Editor's Note: See our Aug. 25, 2013, article, "Wolf advocates kick off second petition drive, seek referendum on Michigan wolf hunt law," with video clips of Nancy Warren's testimonies concerning the facts about the wolf issue in Michigan.