Michigan wolf hunt bill signed into law

Federal action still needed to proceed

AP Photo A 2014 federal court ruling now prevents wolf hunting in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

LANSING (AP) — Michigan will be poised to quickly reinstate a wolf hunt if federal authorities allow the animal to again be removed from the endangered species list.

Gov. Rick Snyder this week signed a law authorize hunting if Congress or federal courts take actions that would permit it.

State lawmakers quickly passed the bill this month after the Michigan appeals court recently declared a 2014 law unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 1187, introduced by Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, lets the Natural Resources Commission designate game species and issue fisheries orders with a requirement they consider sound science, including a $1 million appropriation to protect Michigan fisheries from aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp.

Tying the Asian carp funding to the law could shield it from a statewide referendum as was done in 2014, when voters rejected the hunt, though the results were non-binding.

Most of that hunt opposition came from lower Michigan and more urban areas, where wolves are not found, Casperson and other Upper Peninsula officials have argued.

“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,” Casperson said earlier this month.

A 2014 federal court ruling now prevents wolf hunting in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, after a judge threw out an Obama administration decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list.

Michigan’s only wolf hunt was in 2013, when 22 wolves were killed in the Upper Peninsula.

Some conservation groups applauded the new law, saying it will mean more natural resources management decisions are based on science and not sentiment.

“Placing that authority with the Natural Resources Commission ensures that DNR biologists’ recommendations are considered, rather than having vital conservation decisions about our fish and wildlife resources politicized,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, in a news release.

After passing the state Senate 27-10, Casperson’s bill later cleared the state House on a 69-39 vote.

The bill reauthorizes sections of the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a law the Legislature passed in 2014 after grassroots conservation groups collected more than 370,000 citizen signatures in support, according to Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

The SFWCA had also included another section related to the funding of fish and wildlife management that allowed active duty military to obtain free hunting and fishing licenses.

In November, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that provision was not closely enough related to the rest of the initiated law to be included in it, and invalidated the entire law.

The future of a wolf hunt in Michigan now lies with the federal lawmakers.

“Congress needs to deal with it,” Casperson said earlier this month, “and I believe they will deal with it, and this problem should go away.”


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