House gives state agency wolf hunt control

In this April 18, 2008, file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters won’t get a chance to vote on whether hunters should kill wolves in Michigan. State lawmakers have decided to give control over the wolf hunt to a state agency.

In the state Capitol Wednesday, the disagreement among the members of the House of Representatives was about whether hunters should be allowed to kill wolves — and also about how the legislature does business.

While a small group of people sat in the gallery dressed in hunter orange, Democrats and Republicans had it out on the floor.

“This act will ensure that sound science will continue to be the basis for policy decisions affecting fish and wildlife populations in Michigan,” Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond) said.

“That’s where my concern comes in: How long before the wolves that are killing animals on farms and people’s pets and dogs? How long before — if we get too many of these animals and they aren’t controlled — before they attack a child?” Rep. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) questioned.

“I know if there really were wolves menacing school children on the way home, we’d have DNR sharpshooters out there right now taking down the wolves. We wouldn’t have waited for a hunting season,” Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) rebutted.

That was the wolf part of the debate — but the House’s vote was about making a law out of a pro-wolf hunt petition, avoiding a public vote in the November general election on another citizen petition that would stop wolf hunting.

So the argument Wednesday was also a debate over the public’s right to vote.

“This is not about hunting. This is not about wolves. This is about the right of the people of Michigan to petition their government,” Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) said.

“I hope we’ll say to the residents of Michigan that we’ll give them a chance to vote on this like they’ve asked — whether for or against it. The only way to do that is to vote no on this initiated law and let it go to the voters,” Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing) agreed.

In the end the House, like the Senate did previously, voted 65-43 to give the power over wolf hunting to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, taking the decision out of the voters’ hands in November.

It was the second time the legislature kept the wolf hunting decision out of voters’ hands. Lawmakers found another way to get around an earlier petition for a vote of the people on wolf hunting.

“When the citizens go out and take their time to collect signatures , you take it away from them. The collective arrogance of this legislature is breathtaking,” Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) said.

“The response I’ve been getting from my constituents, the calls I’m getting what I’m hearing on the street are why doesn’t the legislature let the voters decide. Hundreds of thousands of people signed these petitions. Why doesn’t the legislature trust the very voters that send us here to sit in these seats to allow those voters to make that decision,” Irwin said.

But wolf hunting remains a controversial topic — so it may not be going away.

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