Science Whoops Emotion

In a major victory for sportsmen and professional wildlife management, the Michigan Legislature has showed its confidence in the state Department of Natural Resources Commission by passing a citizen initiative requiring the Commission to identify game species and issue fisheries orders using sound science.

Further, the initiative effectively hamstrings anti-hunting groups that sought to manage wildlife - specifically, gray wolves - via the ballot box.

The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act passed the Michigan House of Representatives Aug. 27 in a bi-partisan 65-43 vote after breezing through the state Senate Aug. 13. It was sent to the legislature through the effort of a sportsman’s coalition that gathered nearly 300,000 signatures. The Act counters a pair of referendums sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based anti-hunting organization, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which sought to repeal two bills that allow a regulated hunting season for wolves in certain areas of the Upper Peninsula where they have killed pets, hunting dogs and livestock.

    The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, as approved, achieves three goals:
  • Reaffirms the commission’s authorities originally granted in Public Act 21 of 2013 that were subsequently suspended due to the pending general election ballot referendum.

  • Ensures the continued provision of free hunting and fishing licenses for active-duty members of the military who have maintained residency in Michigan.

  • Appropriates $1 million to the Department in FY2015 for aquatic invasive species (Asian carp) management activities designed to prevent, control, eliminate, or respond rapidly to, the presence of aquatic invasive species.

Because the initiative contained an appropriation, it is not subject to a third referendum by HSUS or its in-state front group, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. It becomes effective 90 days after the end of the current Michigan legislative session, likely in late March or early April 2015.

You could say the sportsman’s coalition comprising Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management beat the HSUS and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected at its own political game. And that makes last week’s victory for sportsmen all the sweeter.

“We are very thankful to the legislators who voted for sound science, the voters who signed the petition, the organizations who supported it, and the tireless volunteers who collected the signatures of almost 300,000 registered Michigan voters,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “This is an important step to protecting the rights to hunt, fish and trap in Michigan from radical animal rights organizations.”

While the two HSUS-sponsored referendums will remain on the November ballot, despite the outcome, they are effectively trumped by the provisions of the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

“Although two pending ballot referendums — seeking to repeal the NRC’s ability to declare game species and to remove wolves from the list of game species in Michigan — remain on November’s general election ballot, practically speaking the outcome of those proposals is now moot: the NRC will legally regain the authority to declare game species no later than April 2015,” wrote Dennis Knapp, DNR Chief of Staff in an Aug. 28 interagency memorandum.

The coalition comprising Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management included the Michigan chapters of Safari Club International, the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance, U.P. Whitetails, Inc., the U.P. Bear Houndsmen, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the United States Sportsmen's Alliance. The act also received the endorsement of the National Wildlife Federation, the Michigan Salmon and Steelhead Fishermen’s Association, the Lake St. Clair Walleye Association, the Lake St. Clair chapter of Muskies, Inc., and numerous local conservation groups throughout Michigan.

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