Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-53) weighs-in through his Facebook page on the upcoming House vote this Wednesday, August 27th, over the various wolf hunt ballot initiatives:
On Wednesday, the Michigan House is scheduled to vote on a citizen initiative, supported by a petition drive, to authorize the Dept of Natural Resources to set hunting rules for wolves. This initiative is an attempt to nullify the efforts of another citizen petition drive to prevent the hunting of wolves as authorized by legislative action last year. If this new measure passes the House, as it has already passed in the Senate, citizens will face ballot questions on wolf hunting, but those questions will be meaningless. If the legislature takes no action, that allows the pro-wolf hunting initiative to come before voters alongside the anti-wolf hunting proposal.
Advocates of the proposal argue that DNR has a strong record of success with scientific management of fish and wildlife habitat and that the decision whether and when to hunt wolves should be decided by the Natural Resources Commission (the governing body of the DNR). Also, supporters argue that wolves are wreaking havoc in the Upper Peninsula, damaging property and threatening schoolchildren. This may seem alarmist, but these were the arguments made on the floor of the House and Senate in support of a similar measure, passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, that authorized a wolf hunt and set off this series of citizen initiatives.
Opponents of the most recent proposal argue that, with the wolf only recently coming off the Endangered Species List, the population of wolves in Michigan is insufficient to support hunting. They argue that scientific management of wolves would dictate that Michigan packs are not ready for a hunting season and that the NRC only approved the last hunt because of political pressure from certain lawmakers and the Governor. The only scientist on the NRC, a biologist, was the lone dissenting vote against scheduling the 2013 wolf hunt. Further, opponents of the measure argue that the claims of wolf/human conflict are exaggerated. They point out that a huge percentage of the livestock killed in the UP were the result of one farmer who has a history of farm management violations (such as not cleaning up carcasses on his land). Even further, they point out that one Senator had to apologize for exaggerating stories of wolf/human conflict when debating on the Senate floor.
I think you see where I’m at on this issue. I’m no opponent of hunting, far from it. I see the value of scientific management of fish and wildlife. In most instances, the DNR has been a trusted steward. I also know that almost all of the conservation resources in Michigan have come from hunters and anglers and that our best environmental policies come from an era when environmentalists and conservationists were in strong alliance. Nonetheless, in the present instance the NRC has buckled to political pressure and reacted to exaggerated stories and now we have multiple petitions, signed by hundreds of thousands of citizens asking to vote on the matter.
I think we should let voters decide.
His opinion is a reflection of the party platform — supporting the democratic process in Michigan through citizen-driven ballot initiatives and referendums. Irwin is not alone in that view. A growing number of editorial boards are slamming GOP lawmakers for their increasingly bold usurpation of voters rights.
These are the same editors, commentators and community leaders that will be calling the endorsement shots prior to the general election this November. A sampling: