Photo from Detroit Free Press - Two DNR official examine a hunted wolf
LANSING (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - A pro-hunting coalition got the go-ahead today to launch a petition drive that would circumvent two ballot proposals aimed at stopping gray wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula.
The Board of State Canvassers approved the form of a petition today that was submitted by Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), which wants the Natural Resources Commission to be the sole decider of what animals are listed as game species and can be hunted and how wildlife is managed in the state.
"We want the wildlife to be managed by sound science, not by hype," said Merle Shepard, chairman of the CPWM. "We want to make sure the professionals are the ones who are making the decisions."
But anti-wolf hunting activists say the competing petition drive is about one thing.
"It's pretty clear that special interests will go to any lengths to keep their wolf hunt," said Jill Fritz, director of the Michigan chapter of the Humane Society of the United States. "And they'll do an end run around the voters to get their way."
She fears the Natural Resources Commission could overreach its authority and list all sorts of animals as game species without any citizen oversight. "This would take the ability away from citizens to repeal monumental decisions like that," she said.
If the CPWM collects at least 258,088 valid signatures in six months, it hopes to submit the petition to the state Legislature. If lawmakers approved the petition, it would automatically become law. If they did nothing or rejected the issue, it would go to a statewide vote in November 2014.
The group has made its petition repeal-proof in two ways: by adding an appropriation to the initiative to fight aquatic invasive species like Asian carp, and by putting the sole authority to name game species in the hands of the Natural Resources Commission. If passed, neither provision could be repealed through a petition drive.
If the petition ends up on the statewide ballot next November, it would compete with two other hunting proposals being spearheaded by opponents of the wolf hunt. Those proposals would repeal the two laws that gave the green light to the hunt of 43 wolves in the Upper Peninsula, which began Nov. 15 and ends Dec. 31. So far, the Department of Natural Resources reports 17 wolves have been killed as of this morning.
CPWM is a coalition of hunting groups, the National Rifle Association and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Jeff Timmer, a spokesman for the group, said they'll begin collecting signatures immediately and could use paid circulators to collect the signatures.
The Keep the Wolves Protected group, which opposes the wolf hunt, already has gotten one of its petition drives on the November 2014 ballot, but the Legislature passed another law to circumvent that proposal. The anti-wolf hunt group is currently collecting signatures to repeal the second law passed by the Legislature.
Detroit Free Press