Sunday, November 02, 2014

Video report: Wolf hunt based on politics, not science -- why vote "NO" on Proposals 1 and 2

By Michele Bourdieu
Videos and photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now

Title slide for the Oct. 21, 2014, presentation by Nancy Warren, Great Lakes regional director and executive director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Nancy Warren, Great Lakes regional director and executive director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition (NWC), presented "POLITICS OR SCIENCE? THE HUNTING OF WOLVES! at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock on Oct. 21, 2014. Her talk covered the efforts of citizens to challenge wolf hunt legislation in Michigan and reasons to vote "No" on Proposals 1 and 2 -- legislation allowing a wolf hunt in Michigan -- on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot.

Introduced by Diane Miller, Finlandia assistant professor of communication and English, who collected many signatures to the two petitions challenging the wolf hunt legislation, Warren, a resident of Ewen, Mich., who lives in an area that was one of three in the Upper Peninsula designated for the wolf hunt, began her talk with facts about wolf management in Michigan -- based on her own experience serving on a roundtable to establish a Wolf Management Plan.

Nancy Warren, Great Lakes Regional Director and Executive Director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition (NWC) presents "POLITICS OR SCIENCE? THE HUNTING OF WOLVES! at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, Mich., on Oct. 21, 2014. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Warren also showed a video of John Vucetich -- Michigan Tech associate professor, wildlife expert and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study -- in which he explains his own philosophical reasons for voting "No" on Proposals 1 and 2.*

Before wolf hunt legislation was proposed, Warren demonstrates, legal methods -- both lethal and non-lethal -- have been used successfully to control problem wolves and the state has reimbursed farmers for losses of livestock caused by wolf depredation:

Nancy Warren explains how non-lethal methods such as donkeys and electric fencing have been provided by the State of Michigan to help farmers protect livestock from wolves. In some cases, when lethal methods are necessary, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the authority to kill problem wolves. The law also allows livestock producers and dog owners to kill a wolf attacking their animals and farmers can enlist the aid of hunters in certain circumstances, Warren notes.

Warren also related how one Upper Peninsula farmer, who reported a large number of wolf depredations (used as statistics to justify the wolf hunt), was exposed as having mistreated his own animals and left dead animals, including donkeys supplied to him by the DNR, on his property. Fencing that was given to him disappeared as well. He received a total of $35,835 in aid from the State of Michigan -- 62 percent of all compensation paid in the U.P.**

In this slide, Warren shows how the Koski farm's reported depredations, a result of poor animal husbandry practices, inflated statistics and distorted reasons for the 2013 wolf hunt. Several articles in the media exposed the facts about this farm.**

Warren then produced information she had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that reveals how DNR staff and the State Senate removed scientific language from the proposed wolf hunt bill in 2012 and, with the support of certain groups, including the MUCC (Michigan United Conservation Clubs) pushed the legislature to pass PA 520 in December 2012:

Nancy Warren points out how Michigan DNR staff took science out of wolf hunt legislation and pushed the legislature to pass a wolf hunt law, PA 520, by December 2012.

With very little time allowed, Warren explains, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and other groups organized a statewide effort to collect signatures for a petition demanding a referendum on PA 520 in early 2013. They collected 256,916 signatures -- more than the minimum number of signatures -- in only 67 days:

Warren explains how, early in 2013, concerned citizens collected enough signatures for a referendum on Michigan PA 520, wolf hunt legislation that has become Proposal 1 on the Nov. 4, 2014, Michigan ballot. The National Wolfwatcher Coalition and other environmental groups, as well as the Humane Society, are asking voters to vote "NO" on Proposal 1 in order to repeal this law.

Shortly after that petition was accepted, the state legislature passed PA 21, which gave the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the authority to designate any species (except mourning doves) as game. The NRC, with their new found authority, quickly designated the wolf as game and authorized a public hunt for Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, 2013, with a quota of 43 wolves to be killed in three designated Wolf Management Units (WMUs), or areas -- labeled A, B and C -- of the Upper Peninsula.

Here Warren talks about Michigan Public Act 21, which gives the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) -- a body of 7 political appointees with little or no scientific background -- the authority to schedule a wolf hunt. Concerned citizens collected signatures a second time (though not in time to stop the 2013 wolf hunt), and PA 21 is now on the November ballot as Proposal 2. Warren asks for a "No" vote on it to repeal the law.

Warren noted the 2013 wolf hunting season did not result in the death of "problem" wolves. The wolves that were killed, except for one, were not even near any farm.

Wolf hunt proponents next introduced the misnamed "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act," attaching a million-dollar appropriation to prevent any referendum. It did not even require the Governor's signature and, according to Warren, may be proved unconstitutional.

Warren notes that most of the 22 wolves killed during the 2013 wolf hunt in Michigan were killed in places where wolves are actually beneficial. Only one was ever near a farm, and there was no evidence of any of them being involved in depredations. She also describes how a group of pro-wolf-hunt groups introduced the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act," which did not require the Governor's signature and cannot go to the voters for referendum because of an appropriation attached.

In concluding her talk, Warren points out how the DNR has failed to educate the public about wolves and their role in balancing the ecosystem:

Nancy Warren of Wolfwatchers speaks about wolf management, the need for education abut the positive aspects of wolves, and the ballot proposals concerning the Michigan wolf hunt. She points out that the Michigan DNR has done nothing to promote eco-tourism about wolves, while the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn. brings in $5.5 million.

Diane Miller commented on her Finlandia University students' reactions to Warren's presentation.

"Nancy's talk, which draws on decades of experience with wolves, counteracted a lot of misinformation that has been promoted out of fear and the desire to trophy hunt," Miller said. "Several students told me that they appreciated Nancy's talk because it offered them what they needed to fully understand the wolf hunting issue and thus have a more informed response to a referendum question as they vote for the first time."

To access the text of Proposals 1 and 2, click here.


* Click here to see the video with John Vucetich.

** See our June 27, 2013, article by Nancy Warren: "Nearly half of wolf depredations attributed to one farm with poor animal husbandry practices."

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