What do these petitions mean now?
On Friday, December 19, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howard put Great Lakes gray wolves back on the Endangered Species List. The federal wolf ruling halts scientific wolf management and overturns the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 rule removing the wolves from the list and placing them under state management. One of the biggest misconceptions about this ruling, though, based on erroneous reporting in the Associated Press’s release, is that the ruling makes the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act “null and void.” To the contrary, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act will still go into effect in March.
The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act was never just about wolves; it was about, as its title says, making fish and wildlife conservation decisions with sound science. The actual provisions of the SFWCA, which was passed in August as PA 281 of 2014 and will take effect on March 19, 2015, allow the Natural Resources Commission to designate game species and issue fisheries orders using sound science, keeps hunting and fishing licenses free for active military members, and provides $1 million to the DNR to fight aquatic invasive species, like Asian carp, which is part of managing fisheries scientifically.
None of that is affected in the least by the court ruling; all the court ruling means is that the NRC will not be able to add wolves to the game species list until they’re once again removed from the Endangered Species List. How we do that is a potentially long and complicated road, but we did our part here in Michigan. Whenever it gets figured out on the federal level, Michigan will have the ability to use hunting to manage wolves scientifically because of the hard work of volunteers who collected signatures for the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. In the meantime, every other provision of the SFWCA will take effect in March, including barring the Humane Society of the United States from running a statewide referendum on the designation of any future new game species.
So what’s next? The court ruling makes clear that the actual language of the Endangered Species Act is decidedly unclear. The judge’s ruling hinged on her interpretation of the meaning of “distinct population segment” and whether or not a listed animal is recovered in a significant part of its range, neither of which are well-defined in the ESA. Her ruling basically says that they cannot be de-listed and managed in areas where they are clearly recovered – such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – until they are recovered in other parts of their former range where suitable habitat exists. In other words, we can’t manage them in the U.P. until they’re roaming Oakland County in significant numbers (hint, hint).
To fix that, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the groups like MUCC that intervened as defendants in the lawsuit (including U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, Safari Club International, the National Rifle Association, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, the Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) will have to determine if an appeal is the best course of action, or an amendment to the Endangered Species Act that clarifies the meaning of those terms, just as potential examples.
This ruling does, however, invalidate the Michigan laws that allow farmers and pet owners to shoot wolves that are in the act of attacking pets and livestock. Remember how all throughout the debate of the SFWCA and Proposals 1 and 2 the anti-hunters like Jill Fritz and Nancy Warren kept saying, “there are already lethal tools available, so we don’t need a hunting season?” Well, this ruling on the lawsuit filed by HSUS takes those away, too, proving that HSUS simply doesn’t care about the family pets or livestock that get killed by wolves, as long as no wolves are ever killed.
But like I said, we took care of business here in Michigan. The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act will still take effect in March. That didn’t change. And as soon as things get figured out on the federal level, the laws of the State of Michigan will be in place to manage wolves scientifically. With hunting.
What do these petitions mean now?