Important ballot issues on horizon

ESCANABA?- We are at a point in time when the annual transition from summer to fall is beginning. Commonly referred to as the “Dog Days of Summer”, where the average temperatures are in the high end of the spectrum, for some it is a lull in the changing seasons.

The 2014 hunting regulations have to be published by Aug. 1 each year. It is a statutory requirement. The printed digests start moving off the shelves of license vendors as hunters make plans to hit the woods starting Sept. 15, the opener of small game season. They’ll get caught up on changes for the year so that problems won’t occur once they’re out in the woods. Unfortunately, this lull is for some cause to forget where we are with bigger issues.

All the planning and organization enjoyed here in Michigan by so many may be for not if an attempt to change the process of wildlife management succeeds. I’m talking about three initiatives, two ballot proposals and one a citizens/legislative plan, that could either maintain the science standards set forth from the North American Model of Wildlife Management or change the process to that of political debate and election in determining direction.

At the center of the issue is the gray wolf, a wildlife species that was at one time endangered and has since recovered to a point where increases in the general population of the UP have equaled that occupying the entire state of Wisconsin. Wolves have now evolved into being a detriment for areas of agriculture with livestock, public and private lands where wild game and pets have fallen victim to predation and more recently encounters with humans where the wolf seems to have lost the natural intimidation.

Entities like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) circulated petitions asking public to alter current practices and policy on wildlife management, requiring more involvement as referendums in the decision making process.

Those who support the continuation of using a science model as the basis of decision making also went to the public with a petition drive to keep the current system intact. The difference between the two is that those against the de-listing of wolves and use of hunting (and trapping) as a means of control are using a public ballot to make a change.

The support for keeping the science model in place have taken a different route.

The Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM) action will require action by the legislature to not only support state of the art research developed by professional biologists on game management decisions, a process voted on in 1996 as part of the Michigan Constitution, it will also assign an appropriation for fisheries management activities within Michigan necessary for rapid response, prevention, control and or elimination of aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp.

CPWM also proposes that those who are active members of the military be provided free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and again, ensure that the decisions affecting the taking of fish and game are made using principles of sound scientific fish and wildlife management.

The two HSUS ballot proposals for those in opposition of the science model will be obvious to the voter come November. It is certain to be marketed by supporters. The CPWM legislative initiative however is to be part of action under consideration by the state senate when they convene in brief session next week. This has not been on the minds of many since the initial petitions were submitted and thus why the Dog Days lull can be problematic.

It is important that the 375,000 registered voters that supported the science model petitions now contact members of the Michigan Legislature to reiterate their feelings. Elected officials will be making the decision as to whether or not this change is truly warranted or if a popular vote should set the benchmark in how Michigan manages wildlife.

In as much as the issue at hand, that being wolf management, is centered in the Upper Peninsula, those elected officials representing the UP have a clear understanding of what their constituents want. Those legislators far removed from this environment need to be encouraged to review the information provided and make their choice based on what they believe is in the best interest of the renewable natural resource.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), in cooperation with the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance, Safari Club International (Michigan Involvement Committee and all Chapters), as well as most if not all of the Michigan based conservation organizations urge supporters to make that contact now.

The measure is expected to be in the Senate on Aug. 13 and then passed to the House shortly after. MUCC has listed all the e-mail and office phone numbers of the legislature on the www.mucc.org website for those wanting to make contact. They stress the point to not let the Dog Days of Summer lull be cause of failure for those who support the initiative.