Q&A: Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act

Categories: Pure Michigan

This fact-based Q&A has been put together in response to questions and concerns lawmakers have received from residents statewide with regard to the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. It is not an exhaustive list, but it does address many frequently asked questions.

Fall Colors on Michigan River

via MDNR

Why are scientific management and conservation important?

Wildlife management and conservation have been protecting Michigan’s great outdoors for years. The use of natural processes and active intervention to protect Michigan’s habitats from potential problems—including overpopulation and invasive species—is crucial to maintaining balanced, natural environments across the state. Preserving Michigan’s natural state while keeping all residents safe is a top priority of scientific management.

What does the Conservation Act do?

Department of Natural Resources logoToday’s conservation and scientific management efforts are regulated by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and executed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The NRC is made up of a panel of residents from across the state with natural resources backgrounds whose job is to make conservation decisions based on sound science, not politics or emotions. The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act reaffirms the NRC’s authority to enact management tactics such as outlawing sales of Asian carp and limiting wolf hunts.

 

How did the Conservation Act get to the House?

Nearly 300,000 registered Michigan voters exercised their constitutional right to petition state government to reaffirm the authority of the NRC. This initiative process is aimed at having a citizen-initiated proposal become law—much like an elected representative introduces a bill—and is not designed to put an item on the ballot. The process is a less common though completely viable option for Michigan residents to create change in state government and is in no way circumventing the state’s constitutional process.

Why not put it on the ballot for voters to decide?

Both the state Senate and House voted to approve this citizen-initiated law, which reaffirms the NRC’s authority without creating new public policy. The state constitution says the Legislature shall take action within 40 days, by either approving or rejecting the initiative. Had either legislative body rejected the initiative, it could have ended up on the ballot this fall. Because the Act was a citizen initiative, the governor does not have a vote in its passage. However, representatives in the House took action because there is no need to wait to reaffirm the NRC’s authority to decide game species based on sound science, especially while northern Michiganders are faced with an aggressive overpopulation of wolves.

But why are wolves a problem?

An abundance of wolves in northern Michigan in recent years has caused an increase in attacks on livestock, family pets and even people. Due to safety concerns that present a real threat to northern Michigan families and their livelihoods, the NRC established a limited wolf hunt to contain this type of aggressive behavior and temporarily reduce the wolf population in this region. Only specific situations warrant active intervention by scientists, and overpopulation and safety risks for humans are two important reasons to scientifically manage northern Michigan’s wolf population.