LANSING, Mich. – For the fourth time in recent years, Michigan lawmakers are moving to authorize wolf hunting, this time after the state Court of Appeals recently declared a 2014 law unconstitutional.
The Republican-controlled Senate approved legislation recently that would define wolves as a game species and authorize the Natural Resources Commission to designate game, consistent with sound scientific wildlife management. The bill was sent to the GOP-led House, where a committee quickly approved it and set the stage for a final vote this week, the final one of the two-year term.
Wolf hunting is not allowed in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota under a 2014 federal judge’s ruling that threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list. But the bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, said the state should have a wolf-hunting law on the books in case Congress addresses the issue.
Michigan had a wolf hunt in 2013. In 2014, Michigan voters rejected two laws allowing wolf hunts. But the votes were symbolic because majority Republicans had approved a third measure initiated by pro-hunting groups.
That law was struck down more than three weeks ago because a provision providing free hunting, trapping and fishing licenses to military members is not related to the scientific management of fish, wildlife and their habitats, according to a 3-0 appeals court decision.
Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor tried removing funding in the bill that makes it referendum-proof, yet GOP senators rejected her amendment. She said 64 percent of voters opposed wolf hunting in one of the 2014 statewide votes and they should be able to “take a similar action again.”
Casperson, who represents much of the Upper Peninsula, where wolves are, said non-rural voters who defeated the wolf-hunting laws were influenced by a multimillion-dollar TV ad blitz backed by the Humane Society of the United States.
“It’s frustrating when those that are dealing with the actual issue are rejected or ignored and people that don’t even live in the affected area are dictating to us how we’re going to do this,” he said. “Their money got the people to think the way they did.”
The Humane Society, urging the Legislature to reject the new measure, issued a statement from John Vucetich, a wildlife ecology professor at Michigan Technological University.
“The bill represents both contempt for citizens’ appreciation of native wild wolves and a disregard for science,” he said.