Thursday, August 14, 2014

Will voters be allowed to decide the fate of Michigan wolves?

[Editor's Note: Yesterday, Aug. 13, 2014, the Michigan Senate voted in favor of the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act," which, if approved by the Michigan House, which reconvenes on Aug. 27, will nullify the November ballot proposals that are to allow voters to decide whether Michigan needs another wolf hunt. An earlier version of the following article appeared on in June 2014. The following is an updated version, reprinted here with permission.]

By Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional Director

The Michigan Constitution affords individuals the opportunity to challenge new laws by gathering signatures through the veto referendum process.  It is also possible for citizens to initiate legislation through a petition process.

Public Act 520 designates wolf as game animal

In December 2012, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law Public Act 520, which designated the wolf as a game animal. A coalition of organizations, including the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, supported the effort to challenge this law.

Volunteers collected more than 253,000 signatures from across the state in less than 70 days. The signatures were certified -- suspending the implementation of PA 520 until voters could decide in the November 2014 election.

Public Act 21 and Natural Resources Commission

However, legislators, with the support of hunting organizations, circumvented the initiative by passing a new law, Public Act 21, signed on May 8, 2013. Public Act 21 rendered the referendum for Public Act 520 meaningless and granted the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the authority to designate any species (except mourning doves) as a game animal. Previously, only legislators could designate species as game.  The NRC, a politically appointed body, with no scientific background, acted quickly. They designated the wolf a game animal and established the 2013 hunting season.

An investigation by revealed that false or incomplete data was used to justify the need for a wolf hunt.*

Petitions gathered for second referendum

The National Wolfwatcher Coalition joined forces with many other organizations to challenge Public Act 21. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted nearly 230,000 signatures.

We were not able to stop the 2013 wolf hunt. In October 2013, while signatures were still being gathered on the 2nd referendum, Michigan’s first wolf hunt in almost 50 years began. 22 wolves were killed in this first hunt.

But of the nearly 230,000 signatures, a sufficient number of signatures were certified to also place a second referendum on the November 2014 ballot. This referendum would restore voters' ability to weigh in on not just wolves, but almost any protected animal the NRC may wish to add to the list of game species to be hunted and trapped for sport.


"Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act" challenges citizen right to vote on wildlife issues

BUT, a ballot committee funded by hunting organizations with deep pockets collected signatures advocating for a citizen-initiated law called the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act." The law is not science-based and it has nothing to do with conservation.

Rather, it is a mirror image of Public Act 21 except it also includes an unnecessary appropriation of $1 million dollars related to Asian Carp control. Because the Act includes an appropriation, it cannot be challenged through a petition initiative. The purpose of the appropriation is to prevent a challenge through the veto referendum process.

This initiative recycles language from the second law (Public Act 21) allowing the NRC to designate game species, thus allowing the wolf hunt to continue. This group is handing the initiative to the legislature for quick passage rather than letting it go to the ballot for a citizen vote.

It also allows for free licenses for active military personnel (they currently pay $1).

The signatures for this law were certified in July 2014, sending the act directly to legislators for passage. The Governor's signature is not required for this act to become law.

Senate approves "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act"

Now that the Michigan Senate has voted "yes" for this law, it goes to the Michigan House of Representatives for a vote. The House will reconvene on Aug. 27.

This is another a blatant attempt to silence the voice of voters.

If the House does not approve the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act," it will go to the voters to decide, along with the first two November ballot proposals.

Michigan residents should contact their State Representative. Tell him or her that the nation is watching. Let the people decide on the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act."

It is important that citizens be afforded the right to vote on wildlife issues.

Click here to find your Michigan State Representative, or, if you know your District, find your Representative by clicking on the District number here.

* See "Michigan's wolf hunt: How half truths, falsehoods and one farmer distorted reasons for historic hunt," by John Barnes.

Photo inset: Nancy Warren of National Wolfwatcher Coalition. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Editor's Notes:
If you are in the 110th District contact Rep. Scott Dianda at or call toll-free (888) 663-4031.

If you are in the 109th District contact Rep. John Kivela at or call toll-free (888) 429-1377.

If you are in the 108th District contact Rep. Ed McBroom at or call toll-free (855) 347-8108 [855 DIST108]

Out of state residents should contact: Speaker of the House Jase Bolger,, and Minority Leader Tim Greimel,   

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