When a government body is in the process of passing a new statute, they typically ask for public comment. They don’t have to adhere by it, but it is usually considered.
But, as ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano explains, the feedback about the current wolf hunt raises questions about the consideration given to more than 4,000 concerned citizens.
“Let’s take it away from biology through referendum. Let’s put it in to the experts. Let’s let them make some of these decisions. The public still has a voice. They still go in and can say ‘yea or nay’ to the decisions. I think that’s a good policy moving forward,” remarked State Senator Tom Casperson in a speech on the Michigan State Senate floor.
Public Act 21 takes the decision on hunting wolves out of Michigan voters hands through referendum and into those of the NRC (Natural Resources Commission); a non-elected body that is appointed by the governor regardless of their scientific background.
“Under the Michigan Constitution, we can challenge laws [made] by legislature, but we can’t challenge rules made by the NRC,” noted Nancy Warren, a member of the National WolfWatcher Coalition.
The only NRC member who does have a scientific background voted against a proposed hunt, and they weren’t alone.
“We asked for how many comments were submitted into the NRC regarding this proposed wolf hunt, and at first I was told there was no information like that available. I thought, ‘You’re asking for comments. You must have a record of how many comments were submitted,'” said Warren. “After going back and forth on FOIA requests…”
Nancy Warren was given a flash drive containing more than 6,000 comments regarding the hunt. After parsing through the duplicates, Nancy and other members of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected found a total of 4,900 individual comments. Only 13 of the 3,650 Michigan submissions favored the hunt, the remainder opposed such an action.
What’s more troubling is that within the pile of comments, an email from the NRC chairman was found stating that he trashed an additional 2,000.
“DNR is not required to listen to public opinion. But, I think this public opinion that so many people opposed this wolf hunt, would give them pause. They should at least consider it,” Warren added.
But, as of now, the hunt is scheduled to go on as is.
“We can narrow down what packs are we actually affecting. Are there some cases where there are some packs that I wish I didn’t have in the boundary? Yes, there are. Is depredation going to continue? Likely, yes. I don’t anticipate that this is going to stop depredation, but it may lower depredation. That’s the key thing. We’re trying to control those negative aspects of wolves. We have to answer to Michigan citizens. That’s our constituent group. We have to draw a fine line between folks that would love to see every wolf, and the guys that don’t want to see any wolves. What we came up with, we feel, is a very sound science, very conservative measure to control that negative aspect of wolves. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. Nothing is going to be perfect,” concluded Brian Roell, a well-respected Michigan DNR Wolf Coordinator since 2004.
So the question were left with is – Is it worth harvesting five percent of Michigan’s wolf population when it might involve a mixture of problem wolves, and wolves that have never done anything wrong?