Bear hunters donate $100,000

Gaylord, Mich. — The fight against efforts to repeal wolf hunting in Michigan received a massive cash infusion last month when the Michigan Bear Hunters Association made a $100,000 donation to Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management.

The MBHA, at its convention in Gaylord on March 22, presented CPWM with the money to help in the coalition’s efforts to introduce a citizens-initiated bill to protect the Michigan Natural Resources Commission’s ability to name game species based on sound science.

“It’s substantial, especially for an organization that size. There’s national organizations that … can’t give that much,” Merle Shepard, CPWM chairman and head of the Michigan chapter of Safari Club International, told Michigan Outdoor News. “It shows the bear hunters understand this issue is not about wolves; it’s about everything. It’s about hunting.

“They know the other side won’t stop with wolves.”

CPWM is currently working to collect 258,000 valid signatures to put legislation before state lawmakers that would do three things: enshrine the NRC’s ability to name game species into state law, provide free hunting licenses for active military members, and set aside a $1 million general fund appropriation to respond to Asian carp and other invasive species.

If approved by the Legislature within 40 days after the signatures are validated, the bill would be shielded by Michigan’s constitution from public referendum and would not require the governor’s signature to become law.

The effort is designed to neuter two anti-hunting ballot proposals for 2014 that would potentially negate the NRC’s authority to manage wildlife by using sound scientific evidence from state biologists.

The anti-hunting ballot initiatives, led by the Humane Society of the United States and its local front group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, would ask voters to repeal the specific laws granting the NRC authority to name game species passed by the Legislature last year.

Beyond Michigan, HSUS is also working to repeal hunting in other states like Maine, where it collected signatures to put the use of hounds, bait, and trapping for bear hunting on the November ballot.

CPWM treasurer Drew YoungeDyke, who accepted the MBHA’s $100,000 check in Gaylord, said the contribution is the largest the coalition has received by far, and it’s already encouraging other hunting groups to pitch in, or to donate more.

“Several clubs are going back to their boards to reconsider larger donations,” YoungeDyke said, adding that MBHA members were also among the biggest financial contributors when anti-hunters attempted to repeal bear hunting methods in 1996.

CPWM is currently on track with its signature collection and plans to have the signatures for the citizens initiative to the Secretary of State by the end of May, with the hope of presenting the bill to the Legislature sometime this summer. If the measure isn’t approved by the Legislature, it would be placed on the November ballot.

Dusterwinkle told MBHA members that the donation is designed to ensure the CPWM effort is a success, and to send a message to anti-hunters that Michiganders prefer to manage wildlife by way of science, rather than a popular vote.

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