To the Editor:
The editorial published April 23, “Let experts manage Michigan’s wildlife,” reprinted from the Detroit News, totally missed the mark. Using “sound science” resonates well with the public. In an ideal world, wildlife experts, researchers and biologists should guide wildlife management decisions, however, that is not reality.
Top Department of Natural Resources officials are political appointees and the Natural Resource Commission is a politically-appointed body. At the March meeting, the NRC called upon an official from Montana and an officer of Safari Club International for their opinions, while two renowned Michigan wolf researchers, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, were not invited. The legislative liaison for DNR provided testimony before the legislature, however the state’s wolf biologist did not.
Although Proposal G requires that the NRC utilize sound science to the “greatest extent practicable,” the NRC has the authority to make policy decisions without a scientific basis, or go against the available scientific data. NRC decisions should utilize unbiased science, not selected opinions.
The referendum initiative to repeal Public Act 520, designating the wolf a game animal, was supported by hundreds of Michigan groups, organizations, businesses and veterinarians. More than 253,000 signatures of registered Michigan voters were submitted to the Secretary of State. Only registered voters could circulate the petitions and only registered Michigan voters could sign and signatures were collected in every county. Only registered Michigan voters could sign the petition. This is a Michigan referendum initiative, protected by the Michigan Constitution.
Senate Bill 288 extends the authority to the NRC to designate any species a game animal which cannot be challenged by Michigan voters. It would deem the referendum initiative meaningless. The $1 million appropriation included in this bill assures it cannot be challenged through the referendum process.
The true motive for this bill (and its companion House Bill 4552) has nothing to do with science. As noted in the analysis, the NRC “Orders are not subject to the Constitution’s referendum provisions.”
The referendum process does not threaten anyone’s right to hunt, fish or trap, but SB 288 silences the voices of Michigan residents by taking away their right to challenge wildlife laws. Wildlife belongs to all of us, not just those who want another trophy.