MARQUETTE (AP) - The Michigan Court of Claims has upheld a law empowering an appointed panel to allow hunting of wolves.
The state Legislature approved the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act last August. It gave the Michigan Natural Resources Commission the authority to classify animals as game species. The commission already had given wolves that designation, which led to the state's first authorized wolf hunt in 2013.
The law nullified two citizen votes last fall that would have prevented wolf hunts. A group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed suit, saying the law violated the Michigan Constitution.
In a ruling issued Friday, Court of Claims Judge Mark T. Boonstra disagreed, writing that the group's suit "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." He said the court was not taking a position on whether wolves should be hunted or not.
"That policy judgment is properly left to the Legislature and the people of the state of Michigan," Boonstra said. "Rather, the sole question before this court is whether the legislative enactment in question violates the Michigan Constitution as alleged."
A state spokesman praised the ruling.
"The citizen-initiated law gives authority to the Natural Resources Commission to regulate sport fishing in Michigan, aligning with the NRC's authority to regulate the taking of game," John Pepin, a Department of Natural Resources spokesman in Marquette, told The Mining Journal. "The act gives the NRC the authority to name game species. All of this supports sound scientific management of natural resources in Michigan."
The Michigan United Conversation Clubs, a leading hunting and fishing group, also praised the decision.
"The court recognized that the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act was about just what its title says, managing fish, wildlife and their habitats with sound science," spokesman Drew YoungeDyke said in a statement.
The wolf protection group said it will appeal.
"The judge was clearly hostile to our case, and did not seriously address the key issues of the complaint," said Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Director Jill Fritz. "We have good legal arguments and our next step will be to the Court of Appeals."
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