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Tribes Oppose Michigan Wolf Hunt

Tribes Oppose Michigan Wolf Hunt

(Photo courtesy of Tracy Brooks, Mission Wolf-USFWS)

Host: Rebecca Williams
Show date: 11/13/2012

Summary:

This is the Environment Report. Iím Rebecca Williams.

Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation to make gray wolves a game species. That would make it possible to have a hunting and trapping season for wolves. (You can listen to a related Environment Report story here.)

One version of this legislation cleared a Senate committee late last week.  It now moves to the full Senate. 

But a number of tribes in Michigan are opposed to a wolf hunt and that could hold the process up.  Reporter Bob Allen has been covering this and he joins me now. Bob, whoís opposed Ė and why?

Allen: Many of the Indian tribes in Michigan are opposed to this legislation right now, and thatís primarily because they feel the wolf has a special status for them. It figures importantly in many of their creation stories. They consider the wolf to be a brother or part of their kin. Hereís what Kurt Perron, the president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, told me about that:

ďAs we see the wolf returning, or gaining strength, just like we, as Ojibwe Anishinaabe people have, we see that relationship. So thatís what concerns us with the hunt, itís almost like youíre hunting our brothers.Ē

Perron also said that by hunting wolves, you really donít know whatís going to happen in terms of how that affects the pack structure of wolves, since they are pack animals.

Senator Tom Casperson of the western Upper Peninsula, is the primary sponsor of the wolf hunt bill, and he says that he has met a couple of times with the Indian tribes, and heard their concerns, and he recognizes and respects their relationship to the wolf. But he also says that thatís not a value that all of his constituents hold.

ďI donít know how you negotiate that, because thatís a personal belief they have. But at the end of the day, I do think many people donít hold that same belief, so what do we do. Do we hold fast to it because the tribes say itís sensitive to them, when many of my citizens donít hold that same value?Ē

RW: So is there any chance people can compromise on this?

Allen: I think thereís some chance of compromise, but the Indian tribes are insisting theyíre equal partners with the state in managing the stateís resources under a court decree that happened back in 2007 that settled some of the inland hunting and fishing rights.

Jimmie Mitchell, whoís the head of natural resources for the Little River Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Manistee, has been meeting with Senator Casperson and some other state officials to talk about this. He thinks that if the state can make the case that a wolf hunt is necessary, that the tribes, if itís based on sound science, will go along with that or at least part of it. He thinks if itís necessary, the tribes could go back to federal court, and open up that consent decree again, and make the state abide by the terms of that agreement.

ďWeíre really hoping not to get there. We want to sit down as co-managers and collaborate in a fashion that we can all share that information. I think whatever wolf management that needs to occur can.Ē

One possibility that Senator Casperson sees for some compromise on this, is that heís been talking about limiting a wolf hunt to just a few counties in the western Upper Peninsula, where the problems have been most severe with wolves attacking livestock and pets, and he thinks that would be a way to sort of defuse some of this conflict. But itís going to be up to the Natural Resources Commission to make that decision. This bill that heís sponsoring would only reclassify the wolf as a game animal, and any terms of a hunt or whether there would even be a hunt on wolves, would be totally up to the Natural Resources Commission.

RW: Well, and this wonít go anywhere for a couple of weeks, because the state Senate is in recess until the end of the month. Thank you Bob!

Allen: Youíre welcome, Rebecca.

Bob Allen is a reporter for Interlochen Public Radio.  Thatís the Environment Report. Iím Rebecca Williams.

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