2:47 PM EDT, May 2, 2013
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican-led state House passed legislation Thursday that could block voters from deciding whether to allow wolf hunting in Michigan, sending the measure to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's desk.
The measure, which passed on a 72-38 vote, would give the governor-appointed Natural Resources Commission the power to decide which types of wildlife can be hunted.
Supporters of the bill say it would protect residents in rural Upper Peninsula communities whose safety is threatened by the growing wolf population.
"We need resource management science to be our guide to help us in this situation with serious threats to our livestock, our pets and our families," said Republican Rep. Ed McBroom, who represents Vulcan in the Upper Peninsula.
But opponents say the bill, which passed the Republican-led Senate last week, is an attempt to run around a proposed referendum on wolf hunting. They say lawmakers are fast-tracking the measure through the Legislature so the governor can sign it before the state Board of Canvassers certifies signatures in support of a statewide referendum on wolf hunting in 2014.
If enough signatures are deemed valid, no wolf hunt could be held until after the referendum. But if Snyder passes the bill, the NRC could approve wolf hunting anyway, even if voters strike down wolf hunting in a 2014 referendum.
Recent Department of Natural Resources counts estimate there are about 700 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. DNR wildlife biologists last month asked the Natural Resources Commission to schedule a two-month hunting season this fall. Up to 43 wolves could be killed in three areas of the Upper Peninsula where officials say the animals have repeatedly attacked livestock and pets. The commission could vote on the plan later this month.