Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest article: Why all the howling?

By Nancy Warren, Executive Director and Great Lakes Regional Director, National Wolfwatcher Coalition

Photo of wolf courtesy wolfwatcher.org. Reprinted with permission.

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?

Based on last winter’s population survey, there are an estimated 658 wolves spread across the U.P. There has not been one credible human threat by wolves in Michigan. In 2013, only 13 individual livestock animals were verified to have been killed by wolves, and each of these producers was reimbursed the fair market value of their losses. Of the approximately 900 working farms in the U.P., only  10 experienced a confirmed livestock loss to wolves.

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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Green Film Series to present documentary on living small Feb. 20 at Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON -- The Green Film Series continues at Michigan Tech with the documentary Tiny: a movie about living small, which will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Atrium and G002 Hesterberg Hall, Michigan Tech Forestry Building. The 62-minute film will be followed by coffee, dessert and facilitated discussion until 8:30 p.m. The event is FREE. A $3 donation is suggested.

The "tiny house" movement can be traced back as far as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau’s ideal of simplifying life, considering which comforts and possessions can be done without in order to live a life that is "more deliberate," rings true for many. Whatever their motivation, Tiny House owners have come up with some inspiring designs and innovations for living comfortably in small spaces.

From 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled. Yet in recent years, many are redefining their American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. These "Tiny Housers" live in homes smaller than the average parking space! Tiny takes us inside six of these homes, exploring the owners’ stories and the design innovations that make them work. Tiny is about a generation that is more connected, less tied-down than ever, and a society redefining its priorities in the face of a changing financial and environmental climate.

Dream big and imagine living small! Visit with "tiny home" owners and builders and gather resources.

The Green Film Series, showing one film a month from January to May, is co-sponsored by Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, the Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Keweenaw Land Trust -- with partial funding from the Keweenaw Community Foundation Environmental Endowment.

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club to hold monthly meeting TONIGHT, Feb. 18

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club members Gromit the Trail Mutt and Sandy Aronson pause for a photo on one of the bridges along the Maasto Hiihto River Trail. (Photo courtesy Trail Mutt Reports)*

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Hancock Chalet. All are welcome.

Questions?? Email Jay Green, KNSC president, at jbgreen45@charter.net or call Jay at 487-5411.

* Editor's Note: Click on our Feb. 10 article to see Gromit's photos of the Barneløpet children's ski race at Maasto Hiihto.

Family Engineering Night is TONIGHT, Feb. 18, at Houghton Elementary

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech's Center for Science and Environmental Outreach will present Family Engineering Night from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Houghton Elementary School.

The event will include student-led engineering activities for K-5 students and families. For more information contact Joan Chadde at jchadde@mtu.edu or visit www.familyengineering.org.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ray Sharp to offer poetry reading, book signing Feb. 18 at Community Arts Center

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center will host a reading and book signing of Memories of When We Were Birds, by local poet Ray Sharp, from 6 p.m. -  7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18.

In this book, Ray Sharp takes readers on a walk through the rugged landscape of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Sharp’s unique voice, tempered by the region’s stark beauty and harsh climate, echoes with the cries of coyotes and crows and soars on the wings of majestic Sandhill cranes. Memories is an unforgettable journey through the four seasons that explores the wild and untamed territories of the human heart.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.