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MI: Ballot language approved for wolf hunting referendums


Lansing —The State Board of Canvassers approved the language Thursday for two Nov. 4 ballot referendums seeking to overturn laws that allow wolf hunting in Michigan.

Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, pledged a campaign asking voters to strike down the hunting laws. Her group collected petition signatures in 2013 and last spring to put the two laws to a vote of citizens through the state’s constitutional referendum process.

The group also will go to court to try to overturn a third law, passed late last month, that allows continued wolf hunting no matter how the vote goes on the referendums, Fritz said.

“We’re glad that the people will be informed about wolf hunting,” she said. “(And) we hope when they go to the polls, they will vote no. Absolutely, there will be a campaign leading up to the election.”

A representative of the pro-hunting coalition that pushed the newest law said hunting supporters don’t plan to spend money campaigning against the two wolf referendums. The groups concede there will be no wolf hunt this year, said Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots and public relations manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management.

“We got (the new law) passed, and it will take effect in March,” YoungeDyke said Thursday. “The November ballot issue will have no effect on future wolf hunts in Michigan.”

The Nov. 4 referendums will ask voters to endorse or overturn Legislature-passed 2012 and 2013 laws permitting wolf hunting. A “Yes” vote will be a vote in favor of wolf hunting. A “No” vote will be a vote against wolf hunting.

Both laws are frozen until voters get a crack at them, meaning a wolf hunt can’t be scheduled at least until after Nov. 4.

If voters overturn the 2012 and 2013 laws, another wolf hunt can’t be set until last month’s third pro-wolf hunting law takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the year — late-March or early April 2015.

The newest pro-wolf hunting law, called the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, was approved by the Republican-led Legislature in response to petitions collected by pro-wolf-hunt groups.

They used the Michigan Constitution’s initiative process that allows citizens to propose new laws. Once petitioners have collected enough signatures, lawmakers have 40 days to approve the proposed new law or decide to allow it to go to a statewide vote.

By passing it, the GOP majority and some Democrats — clearly in favor of wolf hunting — avoided having it go before voters along with the two anti-hunting referendums in November.

Fritz said Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, believes the new law is unconstitutional. The group contends the petition language violated a single-issue constitutional requirement for citizen initiatives.

The new law allows the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, made up of gubernatorial appointees, to determine which animals can be hunted as game.

But it also requires $1 million a year in state funds to battle Great Lakes invasive species such as Asian Carp and calls for free hunting and fishing licenses for members of the military.