Huge Win for Michigan Wolves – November 2016

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Photo credit: MI DNR

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled a 2014 law that enables state wildlife officials to allow wolf hunting in Michigan is unconstitutional.

The appellate ruling in favor of the citizen group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), which challenged the state’s authority to hunt wolves, said the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, also known as Public Act 281 of 2014, violates the “title-object clause” of the Michigan constitution.

Background:

The fight to protect wolves began in 2012 when legislation was introduced designating the wolf a game animal and authorizing a hunting season.   Public Act 520 was signed into law December 28, 2012 during the final days of the legislative session saying in part, “The legislation finds that the sound *management of wolf populations…”   *The word “scientific” had originally been included in the language of the bill but was removed.

Michigan citizens have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum providing the law does not include an appropriation.  The law can then be placed on the ballot for voters to decide if a sufficient number of signatures are obtained.

In an effort spearheaded by KMWP, 256,916 voter signatures were collected (60% more than the required number) in less than 70 days, were turned into the Michigan Secretary of State on March 27, 2013.

The Michigan Legislature, ignoring the people, then passed a second law (Public Act 21 of 2013) to permit a wolf hunt and to give the political appointees on the Natural Resources Commission the power to choose game species.  It also eliminated a $1 hunting and fishing licensing fees for military personnel.  Public Act 21 rendered the referendum initiative meaningless and allowed the wolf hunt to take place November 2013.  Twenty-two wolves were killed.

Once again, spearheaded by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, nearly 230,000 voter signatures were collected and turned in to the Michigan Secretary of State.  This halted implementation of the law pending voter approval or disapproval.

Public Act 520 and Public Act 21 were placed on the November 2014 ballot, as Proposal 1 and Proposal 2, respectively. Voters repealed Proposal 1 (moving the wolf to the game species list) with a 55 percent “no” vote, and they defeated Proposal 2 (giving the unaccountable NRC the authority to decide which species can be hunted), with a 64 percent “no” vote. 

However, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management(CPWM), a ballot committee, was formed by a coalition of hunting, fishing and trapping groups including the Michigan chapters of Safari Club International, the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance, U.P. Whitetails, Inc., the U.P. Bear Houndsmen, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.

They began collecting signatures on their own petition, through a process in which the petitions go directly to the legislature.  The legislature could either agree to adopt the initiative as law or place the initiative on the ballot. The measure was certified, and on August 13, it was approved by the Michigan Senate.  It became law (PA 281) on August 27, 201 when the Michigan House of Representatives approved the measure.  It did not require the Governor’s signature and took effect March 2015 (however, the December 2014 federal court ruling restored endangered status to wolves and no hunt was conducted in 2015)

PA 281, is a mirror image of Public Act 21 (including the free hunting / fishing licenses for military) except it also included an unnecessary appropriation of $1 million dollars related to Asian Carp, the purpose of which was to prevent challenge through the veto referendum process.  

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel, agreed with KMWP’s argument that that the “provision of free licenses to active members of the military is not germane to the scientific management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats, nor does it directly relate to, carry out, or implement this principal object of PA 281.”  The law providing for a Michigan wolf hunt violates the “title-object clause” of Michigan’s constitution, which says “no law shall embrace more than one object,” and the object “shall be expressed in its title.”

The case can be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court or the legislature can enact another law against the will of the people.

Click to read the court’s opinion

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