Think of where you were a year ago. I know where I was: Sweating every signature, wondering if we’d get enough to submit the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to the Legislature. Even though we ended up with over 375,000 raw signatures, it was a slow build – a crescendo – and at about this time last year it was just starting to pick up, but was by no means certain.
The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act grants the Natural Resources Commission authority to name game species using sound science, meaning that radical anti-hunting groups cannot overturn that decision through referendum, grants them the same authority on fisheries orders using sound science and supports that authority with a $1 million appropriation to help fight aquatic invasive species, and keeps hunting and fishing licenses free for active military members.
Volunteers from every corner of the state stepped up and collected signatures from their neighbors, at big outdoor trade shows and retailers like Jay’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Frank’s Great Outdoors and Gander Mountain, and small local gun shows. The Michigan Bear Hunters Association (MBHA) donated $100,000 and sent petitions to each of their members. We sent three to each of ours. The Michigan chapters of Safari Club International (SCI) raised over $400,000 collectively for the effort, and between volunteer and contracted signature collectors we got it done.
The coalition was huge, including SCI, MUCC, MBHA, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, U.P. Bear Houndsmen, the Upper Peninsula Sportsmens Alliance, U.P. Whitetails, U.P. Whitetails of Marquette County, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermens Association, Ducks Unlimited and dozens of local conservation clubs around the state. It was endorsed by people like Steven Rinella, a Michigan native who hosts MeatEater on the Sportsmans Channel, and Mike Avery of Outdoor Magazine Radio.
On May 27, we submitted over 375,000 signatures to the Secretary of State, and the Board of State Canvassers certified that just under 300,000 of them were valid and filled out correctly, a typical average and well more than the 258,000 that we needed.
The Humane Society of the United States put on a strong push to try to thwart this initiative in the Legislature, because they knew that if it passed it would render their November referendum campaigns on two earlier bills allowing wolf hunting completely meaningless. But Matt Evans, our Legislative Affairs Manager, orchestrated an even stronger push to get the bills passed. The Senate passed the bills on August 13, and the House passed them on August 27. And they did render those November referendum campaigns meaningless.
Unless bills get immediate effect, they take effect on the 91st day after the Legislative session ends, which was December 30. Thus the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act takes effect today!
In December, a federal judge, Beryl Howell, placed wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan back on the endangered species list in what we believe is a clearly erroneous ruling. Along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan DNR, and several other state and national conservation organizations in the Hunter Coalition, we are appealing that ruling. Even if successful, an appeal could take years, though, so we are also supporting narrow federal legislation – H.R. 884 – to delist recovered wolf populations in those states, including Michigan, where even at their lowest point in the yearly cycle, their population is more than three times the minimum recovery limit that it has exceeded for fifteen years. And just this weekend, the National Wildlife Federation passed our resolution to support that legislative approach.
Once that federal legislation is passed, due to the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and the efforts of every person and group that made it happen, we will have the law in place here in Michigan to allow a scientifically-supported wolf hunt, which is just a small, but significant, part of the larger idea that we manage fish and wildlife populations in our state with sound science, biological data, and input both from the biologists we’ve tasked with managing fish and wildlife and goal-setting from the public and hunters, anglers and trappers like you.
There is no magic bullet to keep the Humane Society of the United States from trying to attack hunting rights in Michigan. Even though they outspent us by millions of dollars, though, we defeated them in our state with this initiative, and we made their next attack harder for them. If HSUS feels like spending their money to attack hunting rights in our state, they can. They have a lot of money, and like a bully, they try to use it to attack hunting rights state by state, species by species, method by method when they think they can outspend hunters and anglers in the state. But with the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, we didn’t have to outspend them. We outworked and outsmarted them, and did what you do with any bully. We punched them in the nose and let them know that there is no easy fight for them in Michigan, because we will fight back even harder. And win.
Today, your work becomes the law in Michigan. Congratulations!