By Alexa McCarthy
Ingham County Chronicle
Ingham County residents will be voting on statewide wolf hunting proposals that are sure to stump a few.
Two proposals on the general election ballot would either allow or prohibit the state from holding a wolf-hunting season. But what many may not know is that it also involves who makes decisions involving Michigan wildlife.
“The thing that’s confusing is that there are two ballot proposals and they seem to agree on some things and disagree on other things,” said George Tesseris, an East Lansing resident. “And for a person to read that ballot proposal on voting day, it’s confusing.”
The proposals were added because of different petitions by the Humane Society of the United States and a group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.
The species is mostly confined to the Upper Peninsula. “It’s an interesting vote because the state has wolves in an area with a limited population,” said Nick Popoff of the Department of Natural Resource. “But the majority of the popular vote live where there is no wolves, so it’s a bit awkward.”
Proposal 14-1 was added in March 2013 after the Michigan Legislature passed a bill in December 2012, Public Act 520, to designate wolves as game animals. The proposal deals exclusively with wolf hunting and allows the state to retain the animal as a game species.
Proposal 14-2 was added not long after when, in April 2013, the Legislature introduced a law granting the Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate animals as game species without legislative action. The bill was passed as Public Act 21 and included $1 million in appropriations for the Department of Natural Resources to fight invasive species. This meant the act cannot be overturned by public vote, what we will see on Tuesday.
Proposal 14-2 deals with the Natural Resource Commission’s ability to have independent authority to designate game animals and regulate fishing.
Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management was the group responsible for the Natural Resource Commission act, Public Act 21, which essentially made the ballot proposals moot on wolves. The group is leading “yes” campaign in favor of the proposals, which still would have an effect on wildlife management.
Popoff said that while the Michigan gray wolves have been the face of this battle, in the end other species and departments could be affected if the commission has independent authority.
Popoff works in the policy and regulatory division in the state’s fisheries division and he said the vote directly affects his position and the way decisions are made.
“There are three parts, the first are the wolves. Then $1 million will go toward preventing invasive aquatic species,” said Popoff. “Then the third part is the fisheries will now be governed by the Natural Resources Commission, which is largely a political body.”
A “no” vote could revert fishing regulations and other wildlife decisions back to the director of natural resources. A “yes” vote would revert it to the commission. “It makes it a little uncomfortable when a political body is overseeing science,” said Popoff. This is because, while directors in the DNR are educated and have experience in their field, members of the commission do not.
Popoff said it is important to vote on the proposals because no on knows what could happen in the future. If both proposals are rejected, then the Humane Society will take the case to the Michigan Supreme Court. The group argues it was unconstitutional to add the $1 million provision would say it is unsound if Michigan voters oppose it in the ballot.
Tesseris says he is voting “yes” on the proposals because he likes the idea of the controlling its own decisions. “They’ve been succeeding in controlling the elk population and I believe they have a good management system.”
As for the wolves, he said, “The wolves control the deer that eventually make their way to our part of the state. But I do think you should be able to hunt them, with control.”