Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest article: The case against Props 1 and 2

On Nov. 4, 2014, voters in Michigan will have the opportunity to vote NO on Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 to end the needless wolf hunt and restore Michiganders' right to have a say on wildlife policy. (Photo of wolf courtesy Keep Michigan Wolves Protected) 

By Jill Fritz, Director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected*
Published in the Lansing State Journal on Oct. 18, 2014
Reprinted here with author's permission.

This November, Michigan voters will find two referendum proposals that, if passed, would strip voting rights and declare a trophy hunting season on wolves. But, we’re confident that when Michiganders review the facts carefully, they’ll say "no" to the trophy hunting of wolves and "no" to this power grab to take away their voting rights.

Proposal 1 would designate gray wolves as a game species and allow a hunting and trapping season on them. There are fewer than 650 wolves in Michigan, and they’ve just come off the endangered species list. After being shot, trapped and poisoned nearly to the brink of extinction, the wolf has been protected in Michigan for almost 50 years. But they’re still recovering. Since their protected status was removed in 2012, more than 1,000 wolves have already been killed in aggressive hunting and trapping seasons in the Great Lakes states.

Responsible hunters eat what they kill, and nobody eats wolves. The use of painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves all may be in store for Michigan’s wolves if Proposal 1 is approved. Let’s not let that happen.

Politicians and state officials exaggerated and even fabricated stories about wolf encounters with people in Michigan to justify opening a wolf hunting and trapping season. 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. And genuine threats to human safety by wolves are extremely rare -- stories of wolves stalking U.P. residents have independently been exposed as false -- and no physical attack has ever occurred in Michigan.

Wolves already are effectively managed in Michigan. It’s already legal to kill wolves when they threaten livestock, pets, or human safety. Non-lethal measures, including guard donkeys, dogs and fencing, have also been effective. All told, even before Michigan’s first wolf hunt began last fall, wolf/livestock conflicts in the U.P. had reduced by more than 80 percent. Simply put, there is no scientific justification to hunt wolves to address conflicts. A hunt would be driven by a desire for a trophy, or out of fear or hatred. There is nothing scientific about that.

Proposal 2 would grant the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the power to designate wolves and other animals as game species to be hunted, without legislative approval. The members of the Natural Resources Commission are not scientists or experts -- they are political appointees, unaccountable to the public. In a contemptuous move to circumvent a public vote, the Legislature passed this law, giving the unelected NRC unprecedented power to open new hunting and trapping seasons on wolves and almost any other protected species. If Proposal 2 is approved, the NRC can make decisions without any input from citizens. There is no referendum process when it comes to the NRC’s decisions.

A group calling itself "Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management" -- backed by trophy hunting, hounding and trapping lobby groups and businesses -- submitted an initiative that was rubber-stampeded by the Legislature to circumvent the public’s right to vote. This law is unconstitutional and we plan to pursue legal action to strike it down, ensuring that wolves remain protected and that voters keep their constitutional rights. Michigan lawmakers have voted for wolf hunting three times in the last two years, and Michigan residents have twice stopped these laws by placing the referendums on the ballot. Now, voters can demonstrate the importance of maintaining checks and balances on wildlife management matters by voting "no" on Proposals 1 and 2.

Wolves are safe from a hunt this year, but it is imperative that Michigan residents reject the two referenda with "no" votes. Between now and Nov. 4, there will be a lot of rhetoric and fear tactics designed to confuse voters. We trust that the people of Michigan will sift through it all and reject Proposals 1 and 2.

The voters of Michigan should have their voices heard on whether our state’s fragile wolf population of 650 is needlessly hunted. The wildlife of our state belong to all of us. Facts -- not fear, anger and hatred -- should dictate proper wolf management. Our task is to win the ballot measures for November, to save the lives of wolves in Michigan and restore rights of voters to weigh in on wildlife decisions.

Vote "no" on Proposals 1 and 2.

*Editor's Note: Guest author Jill Fritz is also Michigan Senior State Director, The Humane Society of the United States.

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