Photo of wolf courtesy wolfwatcher.org. Reprinted with permission.
By Michele Bourdieu
With information from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected
[Editor's Note: This article has been slightly updated since the first posting earlier today.]
LANSING -- The Michigan Senate once again thumbed its nose at Michigan voters by approving the so-called Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, rather than allowing it to appear on the November statewide ballot. It’s the latest in a series of political shenanigans to undermine the right of Michigan citizens to vote on the issue of wolf hunting. The Michigan House of Representatives is expected to take up the issue this Wednesday, Aug. 27.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has invited citizens concerned about their right to vote on this issue to join a Rally at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 100 N. Capitol, Lansing.*
The purpose of the Rally is to urge the House of Representatives to end this abuse of power, stand up for citizens and vote NO on this initiative so Michigan voters can decide important wildlife issues on the November ballot.
In March 2013, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted more than 255,000 signatures to overturn a wolf-hunting law (Public Act 520 of 2012) that was approved during the 2012 lame duck session and was based on fabricated stories about wolf incidents in the Upper Peninsula. Public Act 520 will be on the November 2014 ballot. The Legislature, ignoring the people, then passed a second law (Public Act 21 of 2013) to give the political appointees on the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the power to designate game species, thus allowing the wolf hunt to continue. In March 2014, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted more than 225,000 signatures to place Public Act 21 on the November 2014 ballot.**
According to 110th District Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), a group of wolf hunt supporters have planned a counter Rally for Aug. 27. This weekend Dianda told Keweenaw Now the vote in the House will probably occur at noon or 1 p.m. He also said he has received many calls from Upper Peninsula voters who support the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and who feel they would lose on the November ballot initiatives since the majority of people opposed to a wolf hunt are from Michigan's lower peninsula and outnumber them in population.
The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act gives the unelected, politically appointed Natural Resources Commission the power to designate game species and includes two separate issues -- an appropriation of $1 million establishing an emergency fund to fight Asian carp, which is designed to make the measure referendum-proof (since laws with appropriations are not subject to referendum), and a provision for free hunting and fishing licenses for active military members. Those licenses for members of our armed forces are currently $1.
Dianda, who voted for the present law allowing a wolf hunt, appears to favor any funding that would protect Lake Superior from invasive Asian carp. The protection is needed now, he said, since the efforts planned for stopping them in Chicago would take several years and could be too late for Lake Superior.
"Right now we could protect Lake Superior by putting electric grids in the Soo Locks," he said.
Dianda also said he spoke with Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich recently about wolf sightings in his county.
Matonich replied to an email from Keweenaw Now today, saying he spoke with Dianda at a civic function in Ironwood Township.
"I advised him that a few folks have commented to me that they have been seeing wolves in Erwin Township, just south of the City of Ironwood. In response to your specific questions…….a single incident? Just comments I have heard…….Was anyone harmed? No………Did I have to kill any wolves? No." (Ellipses are the Sheriff's.)
Matonich added the area where people reported these sightings is "rural residential," an area where "there are homes, but spaced out with some small acreage."
Jill Fritz, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected director, is quoted in their Aug. 13, 2014, press release with comments on reported wolf sightings in the past.
"Politicians relied on exaggerated and even fabricated stories about wolf incidents, and nearly two-thirds of all wolf incidents in the U.P. occurred on a single farm, where the farmer baited wolves with cattle and deer carcasses," Fritz said. "They can’t be trusted on this issue, but the voters can be trusted and should be allowed to hear the arguments from both sides and make an informed judgment this November. We call on House members to end this abuse of power, and restore respect for the democratic process by letting the people vote."
Earlier this year, Michigan Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), the leading champion of the wolf hunt, made false claims about incidents involving wolves, and was later forced to apologize for those false statements and misrepresentations.
On their 2013-14 Environmental Scorecard, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Michigan LCV) gave Casperson a score of 0 percent, noting his opposition to biodiversity in his proposed SB 78.*** Michigan LCV gave Dianda a score of 64 percent for 2013-14.
The MLive Media Group, the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Lansing State Journal have urged lawmakers to reject the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and allow voters to settle the debate on wolf hunting.**** According to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, there has been no editorial support for this latest initiative, which seeks to shut the people out of the process.
Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, says the people should be allowed to decide on the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act as well as the other two ballot proposals. This third initiative could be added to the ballot if the House does not pass it. If it is passed, she adds, it is still critical that voters vote on the two ballot proposals.
"The wolf management plan says a recreational wolf hunt could be considered 'if biologically defensible, legally feasible, and supported by the public.' What better way to assess support by the public than with a vote by the people?" Warren notes.*****
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is supported by humane organizations, more than 100 Michigan veterinarians and veterinary hospitals, Native American tribes, conservation groups, faith-based organizations, the Detroit Zoological Society, leading wolf biologists including Michigan Tech professors Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, rank-and-file hunters and many other concerned Michiganders.******
To contact Rep. Scott Dianda with your views, call him Toll-Free at (888) 663-4031 or call (517) 373-0850 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Click here for directions to the Rally.
** Last year, the NRC ignored testimony from wildlife experts and deleted thousands of emails from the public before designating the wolf as a game species and establishing Michigan’s first wolf hunt in more than four decades. In their rationale for the wolf hunt, NRC members used wolf-cattle depredation figures to justify their decision -- even though two-thirds of the incidents occurred on one poorly managed Upper Peninsula farm. The farm owner pocketed more than $33,000 in reimbursements for livestock losses, failed to use fencing provided by the state to protect his animals, and recently pleaded no contest to animal cruelty charges for the death of two guard donkeys provided to him at taxpayers’ expense to prevent wolf predation.
*** Casperson's SB 78 would remove biological diversity from the list of state forest management goals. Click here to learn about this bill.
**** See our Aug. 12, 2014, article, "Michigan newspapers urge lawmakers to allow voters to settle debate on wolf hunt."
***** See Nancy Warren's Aug. 14, 2013, guest article, "Will voters be allowed to decide the fate of Michigan wolves?"
****** See the April 16, 2013, article, "Letter from John Vucetich, wildlife ecologist: Reasons to oppose SB288." John Vucetich is Michigan Tech associate professor of wildlife ecology and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study.