Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 26, 2013

Forum: Wildlife deserves sound scientific management

BY ERIN McDONOUGH

---- — The Record-Eagle’s April 16 editorial about the Scientific Wildlife Management package demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how game species are managed in Michigan. Rather than “taking aim at Michigan voters,” SB 288 and its House counterpart — HB 4552 — are the only way to ensure that game management decisions are made using sound science — as mandated by the voters almost 17 years ago.

These bills share the Legislature’s current authority to designate a game species with the Natural Resources Commission. Michigan citizens voted overwhelmingly in 1996’s Proposal G to mandate the Natural Resources Commission to use sound science in its game management decisions.

The Record-Eagle’s editorial said “the Legislature should have no role in that decision,” regarding a potential wolf hunt, but this bill would not give them a role. Proposal G gave exclusive authority to the NRC to make game management decisions — like whether or not to have a hunt — using that sound science mandate. These bills allow the NRC to use its sound science mandate on game designation as well as management.

Very simply, either wildlife management will be based on science or it won’t. Either decisions will be made based on the recommendations of biologists, or they’ll be made based on 30-second ads. This bill ensures that decisions about whether to hunt a species — from designation as a game species to whether a hunting season will be created and what regulations will be in place — are made using the sound science mandate that only the Natural Resources Commission has, just as Michigan voters intended with 1996’s Proposal G.

And far from being “phony-baloney,” the appropriation contained in the legislation is for research and management of fish and game species — the research necessary for the Department of Natural Resources to make scientific recommendations to the NRC.

These bills do not silence the voters. They honor votes already cast, rather than discarding them every time out-of-state money buys its way onto our ballot with paid signature gatherers and poll-tested talking points that bear no resemblance to the truth, as the Humane Society did with its wolf referendum.

For example, the DNR’s wolf hunting recommendations to the NRC are targeted only to areas of the U.P. where wolves have been killing livestock and pets, far from being “only for trophies” or even allowing “aerial gunning from helicopters,” as the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected group told people to get them to sign their petition.

When we voted for Proposal G in 1996, we said unequivocally that we wanted wildlife to be managed using sound science, not ballot-box biology. When the Scientific Wildlife Management package gets to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk he should sign it immediately and be proud he protected the rights of Michigan’s 750,000 hunters and 1.2 million anglers, and signed the bill that fully implements Proposal G to manage fish and wildlife using sound science instead of politics.

About the author: Erin McDonough is Executive Director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the largest state-specific conservation organization in the country. McDonough earned a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Science from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in Natural Resources Policy from the University of Michigan.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.