August 14, 2014

Fate of Michigan’s Continued Science-based Wildlife Management Rests in House’s Hands

The Michigan Senate, led by the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, displayed their commitment to conservation yesterday by approving the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA). This citizen-initiated law is a result of the collective efforts of the Michigan sportsmen’s community to silence the emotional stirrings created by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over last year’s wolf hunt. Well over the 258,088 signatures required to validate the initiative were gathered from sportsmen and women in an effort to institute SFWCA.

This initiative will ensure that the Natural Resource Commission (NRC) maintains exclusive authority over setting regulations affecting the taking of fish and game and ensure that such regulations are promulgated using sound scientific principles. It also will provide free fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses to active members of the military as well as appropriate $1 million to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) for rapid response, prevention, and control of invasive species.

HSUS has led the oppositional charge against wolf hunting and the NRC’s regulatory authority by channeling out-of-state dollars to fund advertisements and petition drive efforts that have led to the authorization of two referenda to be included on the November ballot. If approved, these referenda would undermine the science-based wildlife management tenets that guide the decisions made by MDNR and NRC and take away the agency’s ability to set sound policy for Michigan’s fish and wildlife resources.

In 1989 only three wolves called the Michigan north woods home. Today, nearly 700 wolves are thriving in Michigan as a result of efforts undertaken by the MDNR and others from the conservation community. This commitment to the species has led to the establishment of a sustainable population and subsequent delisting from the federal endangered species list in 2012, effectively giving management authority back to the MDNR. After careful review of the science, the NRC established the state’s first ever managed wolf hunting season last year. The establishment of this season is emblematic of the type of conservation victory made possible by hunter and angler dollars.

The petition signatures were verified by the Michigan Secretary of State on July 24, giving the Michigan legislature 40 days to vote on SFWCA or let it go to the ballot for popular vote in November. The Senate has made the first move by approving SFWCA and so now the bill’s fate rests in the hands of House members, whose approval would immediately put this act into law without the governor’s signature. They are poised to vote on August 27. Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership has been championing the issue amongst their colleagues; however, it is also the responsibility of members of Michigan’s sportsmen’s community to communicate the importance of SFWCA to their state representatives so that quorum and the necessary votes can be achieved later this month. It’s critically important that fish and wildlife management decisions be driven by sound science, rather than emotionally charged and ill-informed campaigns.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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