Volunteers from state conservation organizations will be collecting signatures in the coming weeks and months to support a proposal to strengthen the state’s ability to use science to manage our natural resources, to make it easy for active military personnel to enjoy the outdoors, and to battle invasive species. Volunteers seek to collect at least 280,000 valid signatures from registered voters in the next six months in order to send the proposal to the state legislature.
The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act would mandate: that the state Natural Resources Commission has the ability to – when backed by science – designate game species; that active military personnel receive free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and that state government appropriate $1 million to the DNR to be used specifically for rapid response activities to prevent and eliminate aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp.
Language for the proposal was approved earlier this week by the Michigan Board of Canvassers. The group behind this push, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), is a consortium of conservation groups from across the state and includes the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Chapter of Safari Club International and the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance, among many others.
CPWM is the same group that successfully thwarted the 1996 attempt by the anti-hunting group Fund for Animals to all but eliminate bear hunting in Michigan.
This push by CPWM is an apparent effort to fight fire with fire. A local group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, backed financially by the biggest anti-hunting group in the world – the Humane Society of the United States – is seeking to trump science and the tireless work of professional wildlife biologists by overturning the state Natural Resources Commission’s ability to name game species. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected wants to manage wolves at the ballot box. It would prefer to throw science by the wayside and manage wolves through “educating” the general public with 30-second commercial snippets. They apparently feel this is better than allowing biologists who have devoted their lives to learning and implementing proven management strategies to do their work. Personally, I think basis of this push is less about wolf management and more about not allowing the expansion of hunting opportunities, period.
In an effort to manage an apex predator, the state NRC, with recommendations from biologists, approved a management wolf hunt this year in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The goal is to trim 43 wolves total from three distinct areas where wolf predation and nuisance problems have persisted. Michigan’s growing wolf population was pegged at a minimum of 658 animals last winter. That’s the number of wolves counted during the DNR’s biennial wolf survey.
Wolves were removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2010 in the Upper Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Management activities including hunting and trapping, have taken place for two years in those two states. The NRC approved the limited management hunt in Michigan for this year after repeated attempts – both lethal and non-lethal – to reduce wolf predation and conflict failed.
Let’s hope CPWM’s effort doesn’t fail or we’ll be back to having an apex predator population spiralling out of control with no hope of keeping it in check.