Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 27, 2013

Another View: Let experts manage Michigan's wildlife


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Two Senate bills that would give the state Natural Resources Commission power to designate wildlife as game animals have opponents howling. Some are particularly upset because the legislation reinforces the current law allowing wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula. But these bills are reasonable.

Over the years, the Department of Natural Resources has expertly managed deer, elk, turkey and other wild game. ...

The bluster over the bills — especially the fervor over wolf hunting - led by groups such as the Human Society risks upsetting an effective system of wildlife management.

A law passed last year authorized hunting of wolves in Michigan, and the DNR has proposed allowing hunters to kill up to 47 wolves this fall in parts of the Upper Peninsula. The department’s data show the animal is no longer an endangered species and has even become a threat to livestock and other wild species in some areas.

As noted by bill supporter Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, evidence has grown that the wolves are attacking farm animals. Of even greater concern are reports that wolves are making their way closer to communities. In one case, Kowall says, a pack of wolves roamed near a playground crowded with children.

The legislation would pre-empt an effort by those who oppose wolf hunting to make an appeal to voters. The group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has gathered and submitted more than 250,000 signatures in the hopes of placing the issue on the November ballot. Those signatures are awaiting certification. The group argues that with less than 700 wolves in Michigan, it’s too soon to start killing them.

One of the Senate bills, however, contains a $1 million appropriation, meaning it could not be overturned by a citizen’s referendum. So opponents to wolf hunting see the legislation as a runaround to the referendum process.

It may be, but in this case it’s warranted. Decisions about wildlife management should not be subject to campaigns, often funded by out-of-staters, that play to the emotions of voters.

Currently, the power for designating game animals for hunting lies with the Legislature. The proposed bills would allow the Natural Resources Commission to decide which animals could be hunted.

The Legislature would retain supervision of the commission and could reverse decisions on hunting.

Concerns also have been expressed that the bills would potentially nullify the public vote’s ban on dove hunting. The referendum was ill-advised, but voters did speak on the matter and their decision should be honored. It should not be tampered with by the Legislature. ...

The Detroit News