CPWM delivers petitions to Lansing

Lansing — Michigan’s hunting and fishing community sent a loud and clear message to the state Legislature last week: It staunchly supports scientific game and fish management.

Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management presented 374,130 petition signatures to the Secretary of State on May 27 in support of the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a grass-roots initiative that seeks to:

  • Ensure that the state Natural Resources Commission maintains its authority to designate game species through the principles of sound scientific wildlife management;
  • Provide free hunting and fishing licenses to active military members;
  • Appropriate $1 million for rapid-response funding to protect Michigan fisheries from Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species.

The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act also would nullify two ballot proposals backed by the Humane Society of the United States to end the use of hunting as a tool to manage the state’s wolf population.

Last fall, Michigan held its first wolf hunt in nearly 40 years. The hunt was limited to three areas of the Upper Peninsula where wolf/human conflicts and livestock depredation were high. The target was 43 wolves, and hunters killed 23.

“Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management has collected more than 374,000 signatures in this effort, which is over 121,000 more than either of the referendums collected by radical out-of-state animal rights groups that oppose our efforts in conservation,” Merle Shepard, chairman of CPWM, said in a release. “This initiative will not guarantee a wolf hunt; it will only guarantee that the decision about whether or not to have another wolf hunt, and other hunting and fishing decisions, are based on scientific data and the recommendations of professional biologists.”

At least 258,000 of the signatures must be validated by the state Board of Canvasers. If that  happens – and CPWM officials are confident it will – the state Legislature will have 40 days to pass the law. If the Legislature fails to approve it, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act will be put on the November ballot for a public vote.

Drew Youngedyke, the secretary for CPWM, told Michigan Outdoor News that it usually takes five or six weeks for the signatures to be approved. The Legislature then has 40 days to act. The state Legislature is scheduled for summer break June 27, but has several days scheduled for sessions in July and August.

“The Legislature will return (to Lansing) in mid-August for supplemental appropriations bills and will likely take it up then,” Youngedyke said.

He added that he was not surprised by the number of signatures volunteers collected.

“The last two or three months we have been on pace to collect 365,000 to 375,000 signatures. We did a weekly (check) and had a very steady pace since we were able to collect signatures at Cabela’s,

Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, Jay’s Sporting Goods, Franks Great Outdoors, and a lot of other, smaller sporting goods stores and bait and tackle shops,” Youngedyke said. “It was very exciting and encouraging to see all of the hard work put in by all those volunteers pay off.”

Youngedyke said the state’s conservation coalition held a lobby day at the state Capitol last week.

“All the legislators we spoke with were very supportive,” he said.

“The out-of-state special interests who oppose our efforts fail to understand what most residents of the Upper Peninsula and 67 percent of Michigan residents overall do – that in some parts of the U.P., wolves are killing pets and livestock and entering our communities, without fear, and that sound science should determine the bounds of conservation and protection against such species,” state Sen. Tom Casperson said in a release. “Management of Michigan wildlife should not be dictated by anti-hunting organizations who care more about raising money than they do about Michigan residents who must live with the policies the radical organizations support.”

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