Crowded Ballot for Wolf Hunt

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Lansing, Mich. (WILX) A citizen-driven ballot initiative that would give the Department of Natural Resources the final say on wolf hunting is on its way to the state legislature, after the Board of Canvassers certified nearly 300,000 signatures Thursday morning.

The initiative allows the DNR to rule what should or not should be game species, provides funding to combat aquatic invasive species and restores free hunting licenses for active military members.

"It's not actually addressing wolf hunting," said Amy Trotter of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. "What it does is it gives the commission authority to name game species and even if wolves are named a game species, it doesn't necessarily mean there will be a season on them."

It's the latest voter-driven initiative to get on the ballot since the legislature passed a law to allow wolf hunting in Michigan in 2012. Since, groups in support and opposition have garnered enough signatures to be on the ballot.

This time, proponents got enough signatures for what's known as an "indirect initiative," meaning it will be sent the legislators who may sign it into law within 40 days. If they don't, it goes on the ballot -- alongside the two hunting-related referendums that are already there.

But if lawmakers do adopt the proposal, the two referendums would be moot, though still on the ballot.

"It's a rather tangled mess at this point," said Cooley Law School Professor Devin Schindler. "The veto referendums would be seeking to veto laws that are no longer on the books and because they no longer have any legal effect, there's no sense in vetoing them."

All parties agree multiple ballot items on the same issue are bound to cause confusion. But the Sierra Club's Michigan director says it's still the way to go.

"This is a question about whether we're going to see democracy allowed, where the voters get to decide this as the petitioners have wanted or if it's going to be the legislature preempting that," said director Anne Woiwode. "It's not anti-hunting, it's not groups that have any particular agenda, it's about how the process is done."

The best thing the legislature can do, Woiwode said, is step aside and let the people cast their ballots, pointing to the multiple petitions from people wanting to vote.

But no matter what happens this November, Schindler says it's far from final. Because it's a matter of statutory and not constitutional law, he says a new wolf hunt law could be passed on any given day.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs hopes lawmakers will vote when they come back for session Aug. 13.

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