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2014 Election Impacts for Hunters and Dog Owners
Posted on 12/15/2014 in Your Dog, Your Rights.

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Sara Chisnell, UKC Legal Counsel
doglaw@ukcdogs.com

The 2014 election is over, a big one for hunters, and some interesting results have come out of Michigan and Maine with regards to hunting and conservation. In Michigan, wolves were ostensibly on the ballot but what was really happening was an attack on wildlife management. Maine had a battle over bears.


Michigan

The issue in Michigan was quite complicated so we must delve into some history. After years of battles and blocks by animal rights groups, wolves in the Great Lakes region finally came off the endangered species list in 2011. In the meantime, their numbers far exceeded the population goals into unsustainable populations that have caused excessive interactions with livestock and dogs - both pets and hunting dogs. The goal in Michigan was around 200; that number is closer to 700 at last count, and there’s even a confirmed pack in Northern Lower Michigan. In the years leading to delisting, there has been a wolf roundtable in Michigan comprised of experts - biologists, DNR, hunters, etc. - to determine how to deal with the wolf issue when they became delisted.

This has been a long, well thought out process, unlike Wisconsin where the season was opened immediately following delisting. HSUS, as per usual, tried to come in and override the will of the Michigan people with their MILLIONS of dollars raised from the sad shelter ads. This is how they operate: come into a state, pay signature collectors to gather enough signatures to get an issue on the ballot, and then turn it into a money battle - which side can spend enough money on emotional commercials to convince the public. Because that’s definitely how wildlife decisions should be made - based purely on emotion. That was Prop 1 - questioning the wolf hunt. Our legislature then passed a bill to empower the Natural Resources Commission with the ability to designate game species. Michigan voters already decided in the 90’s that the NRC would regulate the taking of game - this empowerment is a natural extension of that.

Well, HSUS couldn’t stand for that defeat. While we DID have a wolf season last year, they continued paying for, whoops I mean gathering, signatures for another referendum to take that empowerment away from the NRC. The wolf season we did have? The NRC had very cautiously allowed for only 43 wolves to be taken, and only in areas where there have been the most problems. Of that only 22 were actually killed - clearly not decimating the population. Michigan hunters stepped up and did something amazing last year. Several groups came together around the state under the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management and gathered signatures to support a citizen initiated law. Well over the amount of signatures needed were collected, the law presented to the legislature, and easily passed in August. It reaffirms what was already decided - that the NRC can designate game species - and added a few other things in as well, like free hunting licenses for veterans.

What is amazing about it? HSUS raised $2.006 million in contributions, $1.16 million in in-kind contributions and has spent $1.5 million this entire election cycle. CPWM did this on only $800,000. Michigan hunters have shown the rest of the country that it doesn’t have to be a money battle, and HSUS can be defeated by the will of the people—it takes some proactive measures.

HSUS still ran their TV ads that made some think that the wolf hunt was still at stake and you should vote to “save the wolves”, which only confused this issue further. CPWM chose not to waste money on TV ads because the whole issue is technically moot, and they don’t have vats of money raised from questionable advertising. So, unsurprisingly, the proposals in support of wolf hunting and support of NRC were shot down. Bottom line, this whole issue has already been decided. THE BALLOT DOES NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. Support of these laws would have been nice to show strength, but the only way that the law can be changed at this point would be in court.


Maine

A battle has been heating up in Maine for nearly 2 years over bear hunting. Question 1 would have banned the use of bait, dogs, and traps for bear hunting. HSUS had gone in with their usual modus operandi: get the issue on the ballot and turn it into a battle of the almighty dollar. I must be honest, I did not have high hopes for this issue, but Mainers pleasantly surprised me. This is the second time in 10 years that HSUS has gotten this very issue on the ballot! I guess Mainers didn’t speak loud enough to HSUS the first time around.

Not only has it been a fundraising battle, but earlier this month HSUS tried a really desperate move through its front group, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting in attempting to sue Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) for ads being aired on TV. They claimed that the ads “unfairly” told voters about the risk unregulated bears pose to public safety. Now that’s just rich, especially considering the lies I’ve seen Keep Michigan Wolves Protected spew forth in their campaign here. The IF&W was not spewing lies but rather informing the public on how they could potentially be impacted. Luckily HSUS was unsuccessful in their effort to keep the public swayed by only one side of the story.

A group was formed in Maine similar to the one formed in Michigan. The Maine Wildlife Conservation Council was created in opposition to Question 1: comprised of groups like the US Sportsman’s Alliance, Maine Professional Guides Association, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Trapper’s Association, and many other groups, small business owners, professionals and others. It is because of their efforts that HSUS did not win yesterday. Despite the fact that HSUS spent more than $2.5 million in this campaign, Maine voters rejected their anti-hunting animal rights agenda and kicked them right out of their state.


Aurora, Colorado

Aurora is a city just outside of Denver, Colorado that, like Denver, has long-standing breed discriminatory legislation. Voters in Aurora had a chance to rid the city of its ban on “pit bulls”, but unfortunately failed to do so. Instead of following the lead of what’s been happening around the rest of the country in the turning tide for pitties, Aurora has chosen to stick with its outdated, useless, and just plain wrong law that really fails to actually keep its citizens safe.

While this is a slight misstep in ending BDL, I am still hopeful as there has been so much positive change across the country as of late. As Animal Farm Foundation quoted Harriet Beecher Stowe, “when you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”