Barking Up the Wrong Tree
December 6, 2013
If I lived in the U.P., I would find Trolls (folks living beneath the bridge) sniffing around and sticking their nose in my business and safety something to howl about.
I like wildlife as much as the next person and want our lawmakers to protect our natural resources for generations to come. Yet, a bit of common sense should also be a prerequisite to lawmaking and citizen initiatives as well.
The Michigan Legislature has joined other states in allowing wolves, once an endangered species but now making a strong come back, to be hunted.
It is reported that at least 17 wolves have been killed in the Upper Peninsula during the state’s first wolf hunt in decades. The wolf season started on November 15 and runs through December, unless 43 are killed before the end of the year. Each hunter is limited to one wolf.
It’s the first wolf hunt in Michigan since the wolf was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago. Twelve hundred people are licensed and able to hunt with a firearm, crossbow or bow and arrow.
Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) had estimated the state’s wolf population at 658.
Recently, the Michigan Natural Resource Commission used authority provided through Senate Bill 288, introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) and signed by Governor Snyder, to develop science based regulations including a limited wolf hunt in Michigan to help manage menacing wolves.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission scheduled a hunt under authority granted by the Michigan Legislature this summer following approval of a bill designating wolves as a game species.
Michigan is the sixth state to authorize wolf hunting following the removal of federal protections, a testament to the vigorous comeback of a species that was near eradication in the lower 48 states.
Senator Casperson is strongly and appropriately representing his U.P. constituents, especially citizens in the Western U.P. where wolves are concentrated and are killing pets, livestock, and wildlife and creating fear among residents.
Yet, the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected group announced it would seek a new referendum in order to reverse recently enacted legislation that allows the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to manage wolves according to sound science as they do with other game species.
If they succeed, this year’s hunt may be the last. Should it be?
Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected believes this latest step by the legislature and the NRC is an end run around the citizens rights and stated, “Michiganders deserve to have their voices heard on the wolf issue, and we hope they’ll have an opportunity to vote on two ballot measures next year to do just that.”
So, we would have a statewide vote to protect wolves that are not a threat to us Trolls? Is this democracy barking up the wrong tree?
Clearly, in our democratic society the folks at Keep Michigan Wolves Protected have a right to pursue this issue. Yet, should wildlife management really be directed from the ballot box?
Senator Casperson was doing some howling himself stating, “Just as it is their right to pursue a referendum on Michigan law, it is also my right and obligation as senator for the area where wolves are actually located to protect the changing local way of life.”
He continues, “I will be relentless in maintaining management policies to ensure that the people of the Upper Peninsula are heard as they overwhelmingly have pleaded for management efforts, including hunting, to help address problems caused by a growing wolf population in their backyards.”
“After all, U.P. residents are the only people whose daily lives are impacted by wolves in their communities.”
Clearly he has a point.
This debate reminds me of another senator from the U.P. who once famously said about “treehuggers”: “They come to the U.P. with $5 in their pocket and one pair of underwear and don’t change either the entire time they are here.”
Hunters Fire Back
But, not to be outdone, a pro-hunting group, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), got the okay earlier this week to launch a petition drive that would circumvent two ballot proposals aimed at stopping gray wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula.
The CPWM, a coalition of hunting groups, (the National Rifle Association and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs) wants the Natural Resources Commission to be the sole decider of what species are listed as game animals and can be hunted and how all wildlife is managed in the state.
Like I said, I love nature and wildlife as much as the next guy – yet, it seems Senator Casperson is right- we should decide this issue based on sound science, safety and local control. Will we?
Both sides will be hunting for votes on this issue in the future.