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Friday, November 08, 2013

A (Wolf) Pack of Lies

There is more fallout this week in the wake of the MLive.com investigative series exposing politicians and state officials who made up stories out of whole cloth in order to prompt Michigan’s first wolf hunting season in half a century. A leading booster of the wolf hunt, Sen. Tom Casperson, took to the floor of the state Senate yesterday and apologized to his colleagues and to voters for including a fictional account about wolves at a daycare center in a resolution he authored in 2011.

Wolf2Sen. Casperson acknowledged, “I was mistaken, I am accountable, and I am sorry. Words matter. Accuracy matters. Especially here, with a topic that is so emotional and is so important to so many, especially those whose way of life is being changed in my district. A decision here of whether or not we use sound science to manage wolves, as with all decisions this body makes, should not be based on emotions, agendas or innuendo, but rather on facts.”

The Michigan DNR’s furbearer specialist, Adam Bump, also took an apology tour this week, appearing on Michigan Radio to explain the comments he previously made in May, when he had said that wolves were showing up on people’s porches and staring at them through glass doors. Bump says he misspoke back then, and the scenario didn’t exist.

Lawmakers and agency staff who claim the mantle of “sound science” have been telling tall tales, trying to drum up an irrational fear of wolves as part of the public debate to push through their political agenda. They used heated rhetoric and scare tactics to pass a law designating wolves a game species, and then to pass a second law circumventing the voter referendum process because they didn’t like the fact that citizens gathered more than 250,000 signatures to place the wolf hunting issue on the statewide ballot. The fact is, there has never been a wolf attack on a person in Michigan, it’s already legal to shoot wolves that threaten livestock or public safety, and more than half of all the reported incidents of wolf depredation have come from a single feckless farm that leaves dead cattle out to rot and attract wolves to a free buffet.

It’s one thing for these public officials to own up to their mistakes. But the people of Michigan need more than apologies—they need compensatory action. The first wolf hunting season, set to begin one week from today, is the result of a public policy decision based on false information, and it must be suspended. Wolves have just recently come off the endangered species list and have not been hunted in Michigan for decades. What harm would it do to retain the status quo for another year, and allow a fair and honest debate to play out based on the facts so Michigan voters can hear from both sides and make an informed decision in November 2014?

It’s up to Gov. Rick Snyder to bring some accountability and transparency to state government, by suspending next week’s wolf hunt. This was an abuse of power and an abuse of the process, and the only way to repair some of the damage and restore the public trust is to let the people have a say on whether wolves should be hunted, or not.

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