LANSING (AP) — A pro-hunting coalition on Monday received the go-ahead to collect petition signatures aimed at protecting Michigan’s ability to hold wolf hunts, putting in doubt efforts to stop the hunts at the ballot box next November.
Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, which includes the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and various hunting organizations, will try to gather 258,000 signatures for the citizen-initiated law. If enough are amassed, the measure would go to receptive lawmakers who twice have approved measures that opened the door to hunting the predator.
If lawmakers do not act, the proposed law would go to voters, who already will decide one and perhaps two ballot issues involving wolf hunting in 2014.
Michigan’s first wolf hunt since the animal was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago got underway last month and runs through December, unless the maximum kill of 43 is reached beforehand. Hunters had killed 17 wolves in the Upper Peninsula through Monday morning.
“We want the wildlife here to be managed by sound science, not hype and who can spend the most money on commercials,” Merle Shepard, chairman of the pro-wolf hunt group, said after the state election board approved the form of its petition.
Hunting forces are betting that legislators will pass the law, which would effectively make the 2014 referendum or referendums meaningless and save millions spent on advertising to defend wolf hunts.
Supporters contend a hunt is needed to rein in a predator that has killed or injured hundreds of cattle, sheep and dogs since the mid-1990s. Opponents say the damage and danger are exaggerated. Relatively few farms have experienced problems, they say, and the landowners have legal authority to shoot wolves caught attacking livestock.
The latest measure would reaffirm a 1996 voter-approved law letting the state Natural Resources Commission regulate hunting. It would allocate $1 million for “rapid response” activities against aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp. Under state law, tacking on the appropriation would make the legislation immune from being overturned in a referendum.