Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wolf in sheep’s clothing subverts democracy

There’s a lot of fuss being made over 658 wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But what should be of concern to everyone is the attempt to subvert the democratic process in the state.

In March 2013, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition of animal welfare groups, conservationists, veterinarians, business owners, faith leaders and Native American tribes, submitted more than 255,000 signatures of Michigan citizens allowing voters to decide in the November 2014 election if the wolf should be designated as a game animal.

Now, the gathering of those signatures is no easy feat. It involved a lot of hard work by dedicated volunteers. To be sure, there may have been financial backing involved in gathering the signatures, but it is fairly certain we’re not talking about plutocrats here.

Before the people even had an opportunity to vote on the issue, legislators and the governor hastily approved  PA 21, allowing the  Natural Resources Commission to designate the wolf and other protected animals as game species, a decision that could not be overturned by the voter referendum process. So the wolf-protection group launched a second petition drive in August 2013 to overturn PA 21.

The group has a March deadline to gather the some 250,000 signatures required. But this attempt to have voters settle the issue also could be sabotaged.

Another group, Citizens for Wildlife Protection, has launched an initiative that, among other things, would solidify the role of NRC in designating game animals. Oh, it has a high-falutin name, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, but basically it is designed to protect the hunting lobby. An initiative is different than a referendum, and requires more signatures, but basically gives the legislature time to enact the requested law before the issue is placed on the ballot. There is a good bet lawmakers would do so, caving to the gun and hunting lobbies.

“The group behind this petition drive has no intention of putting the initiative on the ballot, because they know that the people of Michigan do not support the trophy hunting of wolves,” said Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. “Legislators are afraid to let the people of Michigan vote. They’d rather put their trust in the bureaucrats of the Natural Resources Commission, who will be sure to grant the wishes of big game and trapping interests.”

The issue here is not the issue, folks. Whether you are for or against hunting wolves is beside the point. The point is citizens ought to have the right to vote on and settle the matter. Hiding behind legalities to subvert the will of the people is exactly the type of thing that frustrates people with the democratic process. Eventually, the people will get their act together and take power away from the lobbyists and politicians. It would be better for the process if folks could settle such issues amicably. 

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