HSUS’s Straw Man Argument Against Wolf Management
In statements made to the press in articles on both the referendum petition drive and their lawsuit to put Great Lakes wolves back on the Endangered Species List, the Humane Society of the United States is waging a straw man argument against wolf management.
Wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were removed from the Endangered Species List because they’d far exceeded their recovery goals in the regions and, thus, are no longer “endangered.” Management was turned over to the states based on the states’ management plans, which in Michigan included public hunting as an option when population densities were linked to wolf-human conflicts and other control measures were ineffective. Michigan wildlife officials have pledged to follow the plan closely. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, regulated public hunts were held last year with precise population management targets. Wisconsin exceeded its target by just one wolf, and Minnesota closed its season early when its quota was met.
Yet, according to HSUS statements, you’d think the states were returning to the bounty system that was eliminated over 50 years ago in Michigan. In a statement to the Associated Press, Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS, said the decision to turn management over to the states, “paves the way for the same state-sponsored eradication policies that pushed this species to the brink of extinction in the first place.”
Additionally, HSUS’s lawsuit claims that, “[r]ecent actions taken by states in the region further encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations and are reminiscent of a time when bounties paid by local and federal governments promoted the widespread killing of wolves that nearly wiped out the entire species from the lower 48 states.” They’re even trying to confuse the federal court over the difference between regulated hunting and bounties!
Actually, the “state-sponsored eradication policies” that he refers to were bounties that were paid by states to people to kill wolves when they were deliberately trying to remove wolves from the state. The Michigan wolf bounty was abolished in 1960 and wolves were granted state protection in 1965 before being placed on the federal Endangered Species List in 1973. However, the only type of hunt even being considered now is a regulated management hunt as considered by the Michigan Wolf Management Plan. How do we know this? Because that’s exactly what was said by the NRC, the DNR and hunters before HSUS even announced its referendum petition drive.
At the December meeting of the Natural Resources Commission, before the Wolf Management Bill – SB 1350 – was signed into law, new Chairman J.R. Richardson said that “if a bill delegating authority to create a hunt is signed into law, it will be the NRC’s responsibility to develop a socially responsible framework for population management on a limited basis to resolve conflicts in specific areas.”
At the January NRC meeting, after the Wolf Management Bill was signed into law, DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason said that the Wolf Management Plan will be closely followed. Also at that meeting, DNR Furbearer Specialist Adam Bump gave a presentation which included a graph showing a correlation between wolf densities and livestock depredations in Gogebic County and outlined a timeline for studying whether science showed that the conditions for a regulated public hunt had been met as outlined in the Wolf Management Plan.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Mike Thorman of the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation “said he is speaking on behalf of 54 different groups around the state, and they are not lobbying to create a wolf hunting season right away, but if and when the DNR feels it’s necessary to have a management hunt, they will support the decision. They do encourage both the DNR and NRC to be very careful to follow the wolf plan, which was thought out very carefully. They also encourage the DNR and NRC to go slow and be the poster child on how to manage wolves; show the rest of the states Michigan knows how to manage the resource,” according to the official minutes of the meeting.
The NRC, DNR and hunters have uniformly and unequivocally stated that the process initiated by the Wolf Management Law would be “population management on a limited basis to resolve conflicts in specific areas,” that the Wolf Management Plan will be closely followed, and that hunters “are not lobbying to create a wolf hunting season right away, but if and when the DNR feels it’s necessary to have a management hunt, they will support the decision,” and they “encourage both the DNR and NRC to be very careful to follow the wolf plan,” respectively.
What was HSUS’s response to this? They began telling people that the Wolf Management Law “allow[s] trophy hunters to slaughter wolves for sport,” and that “cruel and unsporting practices” like “aerial gunning from helicopters,” might be used (all quotes from the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected “fact sheet” handed out at their public meetings and from their campaign emails).
The HSUS and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected are using a “straw-man” argument: the facts don’t support their position, so they’re making up their own “facts” that people are more likely to support – as long as they don’t know the truth. However, their straw law bears little resemblance to the one they’re trying to repeal.
The actual Wolf Management Law was passed to provide the DNR with one of the management tools – regulated public hunting – authorized by the Wolf Management Plan if certain conditions are met. HSUS knows it won’t be able to cause a stir by telling people that, though, so they’re telling people that their petition will stop “trophy hunting,” even though no one is suggesting one, and telling the press and the courts that it will lead to “state-sponsored eradication policies” – bounties – that were abolished over 50 years ago.
HSUS’s paid signature gatherers (and a few volunteers) are circulating petitions around population centers far from wolf country. At the meetings where they picked up their petitions, they were given “fact sheets” and a presentation on the straw man wolf bill that HSUS keeps talking about, but they were told nothing about the actual Wolf Management Law that their petitions would repeal. HSUS has instructed them not to answer questions, just to get their signatures and move on. They don’t want their signature collectors learning the truth about their campaign, either (HSUS told them that “this is not the public education part of the campaign”).
So beware when you’re asked to sign a petition to “protect the wolves”: It’s a petition in sheep’s clothing. You’d be better off just giving the collector two or three dollars (what they’re paid for your signature) than giving them your signature and encouraging them to continue misleading your fellow citizens.