LANSING, Michigan; AUGUSTA, Maine––Ballot initiative campaigns heavily funded by the Humane Society Legislative Fund arm of the Humane Society of the U.S. won symbolic and temporary protection for wolves in Michigan on November 4, 2014, but failed to protect bears in Maine.
Blogged HSUS president Wayne Pacelle in the wee hours of November 5, “Michigan voters repealed two dangerous laws that sought to establish a trophy hunting season on the state’s fragile wolf population and to strip voters’ right to have a say on wildlife issues, including the wolf hunt.”
With 85% of Michigan precincts reporting, 1.3 million voters, 55% of those who cast ballots, had agreed to repeal the state wolf hunting season.
With 85% of Michigan precincts reporting, 1.6 million voters, 64% of those who cast ballots, had repealed legislation that reserved decision-making on wildlife management to the seven-member gubernatorially appointed state Natural Resources Commission.
A win––for the moment
Pacelle proclaimed the Michigan votes to be “Not only a win for wolves in Michigan, but a win for all of our nation’s wolves. This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state,” Pacelle noted, “since wolves were stripped of federal protection.”
Recounted Jeff Karoub of Associated Press in September 2014, after the Michigan Natural Resources Commission cancelled the scheduled 2014 wolf hunt pending the outcome of the voting, “The battle over the hunt began in 2012, when the combined gray wolf populations of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin were dropped from the federal endangered species list. With federal protections removed, each state was put in charge of managing its wolves. Minnesota and Wisconsin have moved forward with hunts. The Michigan legislature followed with hunt-enabling laws in 2012 and 2013,” which became the subjects of the 2014 ballot questions after hunt opponents twice gathered enough signatures to put the legislation before the electorate.
But the November 5, 2014 election results will not prevent wolf hunting in Michigan for long. Explained Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press, “A third citizen-initiated legislative petition drive, which supports the wolf hunt and supersedes the other two petition ballots, was passed by the Michigan legislature in August.”
This enabling legislation is to take effect in March 2015.
In Maine, “Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal,” wrote Patrick Whittle of Associated Press. With the votes from 56% of the precincts counted, 52.2% of the voters favored continuing to allow baiting, hounding, and trapping bears.
Assessed Aislinn Sarnacki of the Bangor Daily News staff and Ben McCanna of The Forecaster, “The outcome was apparent for most of election night, as the vote tally on Question 1 — which read: ‘Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?’ — leaned decidedly toward no. A resounding margin in Portland for the ‘yes’ side––a 9,000-vote margin––tightened the race slightly, but according to a Bangor Daily News projection was still too much for the ‘yes’ side to overcome.”
The pro-baiting, hounding, and trapping side won statewide by 20,000 votes.
Remembered Sarnacki and McCanna, “In 2004, Mainers rejected an identical anti-baiting ballot measure, 53% to 47%, with a similar split between rural counties and the urbanized Portland area.
“In 2004,” Sarnacki and McCanna wrote, “pro-ban groups raised about $930,000 for the campaign, while their opposition raised just shy of $1.3 million. This time around, the pro-ban campaign raised about $2.7 million. On the other side of the debate, groups opposing the referendum raised about $2.4 million, according to financial reports filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.
Said Pacelle, “It was very difficult to overcome active involvement and spending by the state government, which caused much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods. It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign,” which became subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting and an unsuccessful appeal to the Maine Ethics Commission.
Claimed Pacelle, “There seemed to be a consensus building that trapping and hounding of bears are unacceptable. Lawmakers and the hunting lobby must address this, or they’ll be inviting another initiative in short order. In fact, our polling showed a narrow majority of people wanted to ban all three practices,” Pacelle said, “but a substantial percentage of people were ‘wrong way’ voters ––casting ‘no’ votes even though they intended to stop inhumane and unsporting practices. The closeness of the vote,” Pacelle finished, “strongly suggests that our defeat is not a mandate to continue these inhumane, unfair, and unsporting hunting methods.”
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