Michigan wolf hunting would be reauthorized under lame-duck bill Source
LANSING, MI — A Republican senator has introduced lame-duck legislation that would reauthorize Michigan wildlife mangers to classify gray wolves as a game species if the animal is ever removed from the U.S. Endangered Species list after a 2014 law which allowed that was stuck down by an appeals court.
Senate Bill 1187, introduced by state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, on Dec. 1, comes nine days after the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 Michigan Court of Claims ruling that upheld the state Natural Resources Commission’s authority to open a hunting season on Michigan wolves.
The bill has bypassed committee and goes directly to the Senate floor. It’s not clear when it’s scheduled for a vote.
Jill Fritz, who led the campaign Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said the bill is basically identical to previous legislative and ballot-initiated laws to allow wolf hunting that were nullified by referendum voters and the courts.
The bill would amend the state Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and includes a $1 million appropriation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a provision that would make it referendum-proof.
“This is an issue that’s been gone over and over and over again,” said Fritz, the director of wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States.
“The people have voted on this already.”
“Why are they so eager to open a hunting season on this small population of wolves that by official Michigan Department of Natural Resources population estimates has declined since 2012?” she said.
Casperson’s office did not immediately return a call for comment about the bill. Casperson, whose term ends in 2018, lost a bid for the state’s 1st U.S. House congressional district to Jack Bergman in the Republican primary this year. He is current chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Casperson is a vocal advocate for wolf hunting who sponsored legislation that enabled Michigan’s 2013 wolf hunt after the species was temporarily removed from the federal endangered list. He later apologized on the Senate floor for introducing a resolution to hunt wolves that fabricated an incident about three wolves being shot outside an Upper Peninsula daycare center.
Nonetheless, he supports hunting to protect livestock from attacks and has framed the issue before as a disconnect between downstate and U.P. voters.
Twenty-three wolves were killed during the state managed hunt. There was no hunt in 2014, when statewide voters overturned the enabling laws.
In 2014, a federal judge overturned the last delisting of Great Lakes wolves. In a controversial opinion, the judge ruled the Endangered Species Act does not allow the government to declare a “distinct population segment” of a species recovered and then drop protection within that zone on a map.
Wolves are presently listed as endangered in Michigan and cannot be killed except in the defense of human life. There have been multiple bills in Congress since the federal order to strip wolf protection in several states.
In November, a three-judge state appeals court panel sided with the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign lawsuit, which argued the ballot-initiated law that re-enabled wolf hunting — the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, also known as Public Act 281 of 2014 — attached unrelated provisions like free hunting licenses for veterans in order to entice petition signers.
Judges said the law violates the “title-object clause” of the Michigan constitution.
Fritz said she and other wolf hunting opponents would be traveling to Lansing to speak out against S.B. 1187 on Tuesday. The bill dies if it’s not passed by both chambers on Dec. 15 and signed by the governor, although nothing would stop Casperson or another lawmaker from reintroducing the bill next year.