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Pro-Wolf Hunting Group Submits 374K Petition Signatures; Detroit Zoo Objects

DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press

LANSING (AP/WWJ) — A pro-hunting coalition on Tuesday turned in 374,000 petition signatures to protect Michigan's ability to have more gray wolf hunts, proposing a law to override two November ballot issues intended to stop wolf hunting.

Once the measure backed by Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management is certified — the group needs 258,000 valid signatures — the Republican-led Legislature will have 40 days while in session to vote.

It's a blow to those who want to end Michigan's hunt on wolves. The Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management initiative has collected enough signatures to allow lawmakers to pass a law keeping the hunt without it going on the ballot.

The hunt began after some farmers claimed wolves threaten their livestock. Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan told WWJ's Sandra McNeill he favors doing away with the hunt.

"The reality, there's very little risk to livestock and wolves are really important to the ecosystem," Kagan said.

He added there's no evidence to suggest there are too many wolves right now, saying it's "very much in question" whether they should have been removed from the Endangered Species Act list.

If the hunting signatures are approved, the initiative could circumvent a ballot proposal in November to outlaw wolf hunting.

If lawmakers approve it, the November ballot issues would become moot. If legislators do not vote, voters will see three wolf-hunting related proposals in November.

Michigan held a wolf hunt last year, the first since the animal was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago.

Two Republican lawmakers from northern Michigan, Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and Rep. Jon Bumstead of Newago, joined hunting groups to celebrate their signature-gathering effort. They plan to push their fellow legislators to approve it, likely in late summer.

Casperson said he fears opponents of wolf hunting, who helped collect signatures to repeal two 2013 laws that cleared the way for the first hunt, will successfully use "30-second sound bites" in political ads to persuade downstate voters.

"I think what's happened is we've kind of awoken a sleeping giant ... to keep our heritage and keep our way of life," he said of various hunting groups joining together to

The newest measure would reaffirm a 1996 voter-approved law letting the state Natural Resources Commission regulate hunting. It would allocate $1 million for "rapid response" activities against aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp. Under state law, tacking on the appropriation would make the legislation immune from being overturned in a referendum.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Director Jill Fritz said the newest legislation feels like deja vu.

"This is now the third ballot measure on wolves and wildlife protection, and the people should be allowed to vote on them," she said. "In an election year, we call on Michigan legislators to stop playing games with voters and stop trying to circumvent a fair election on this issue. It's time to stop this abuse of power."

The Natural Resources Commission scheduled a hunt under authority granted by the Legislature last summer, following approval of a bill designating wolves as a game species.

Opponents gathered enough voter signatures to require a statewide referendum on the game species law. Legislators then passed a second law giving the commission the authority to decide which animals should be designated as game species that can be hunted, prompting opponents to collect enough signatures for a second referendum.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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