Northern Michigan University Environment and Native American Students This Wednesday Join Debate Over Wolf Hunting in Michigan
(Marquette, MI) – For spiritual, religious, cultural, ecological and common sense reasons, two groups of Northern Michigan University students are hosting an anti-wolf hunt education and petition signing event this Wednesday to help put the issue before Michigan voters.
The “Wolf Hunt Petition Signing Night” is from 7-10 p.m. this Wed., Feb. 27, 2013 in Jamrich 103 on the NMU Campus sponsored by the NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team and the Native American Students Association (NASA).
Saying she opposes the proposed Michigan wolf hunt “because it is senseless” and motivated by money, NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team member Katelin Bingner, 20, said “the wolf isn’t our enemy, the wolf is closer to being something like our brother.”
Only registered Michigan voters can sign the petitions provided by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected that is seeking enough signatures to force a November 2014 referendum on the wolf debate.
Hunting wolves is a trophy sport because they have little or no fur value and are not generally consumed by humans, said Bingner, an NMU sophomore biology major from Spring Arbor, MI.
In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed western Great Lakes wolves from Endangered Species Act.
In a lame-duck session, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed Public Act 520 in late 2012 turning the wolf into a game animal and giving the Michigan Natural Resources Commission the power to decide the creation of a wolf hunting season.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected organizers have until March 27 to get 161,305 signatures in the effort allow voters to decide the fate of the wolf hunting bill.
“It is premature to have a wolf hunting season in Michigan and trophy hunt animals that were just taken off the endangered species list,” said NMU EarthKeepers II Student Team member Adam Magnuson, 21, of Marquette.
“There are less than 700 wolves in Michigan and they are a recovering population,” said Magnuson, an NMU environmental studies and sustainability major.
“The wolves were on the federal endangered species list for 40 years – and it seems pointless to spend the taxpayers money to protect them for 40 years and then hunt wolves immediately after they are off the endangered species list,” Magnuson said.
Anti-wolf hunting groups are actively trying to defray fears about wolves and are attempting to educate the public about reasons the predators should be protected – especially those unfamiliar with the U.P. wolf packs.
Religious reasons for protecting Michigan wolves include respect for nature and human impact on the environment including wildlife, said Tom Merkel, a peer minister at NMU Catholic Campus Ministry in St. Michael Parish.
Quoting the many environmental and wildlife protection messages from retiring Pope Benedict XVI, Merkel noted the head of the Catholic church told followers that “preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.”
Often called the Green Pope, Benedict XVI noted that “the order of creation demands that a priority be given to those human activities that do not cause irreversible damage to nature.”
Merkel said the pope’s messages can be directly related to the slaughter of Michigan wolves including the statement that “the world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit.”
Wolves do not pose a significant threat to humans and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources “cull problem wolves involved in livestock depredation,” Bingner said.
“It is absolutely vital that we remember to take the Native American perspective” about wolves that were once wiped out by Michigan residents and it has taken five decades to start the recovery of the gray wolf with the latest state population estimate of 687 wolves, she said.
Michigan’s proposed 2013 wolf hunt “is distressing, saddening and I don’t like the idea at all,” said Amanda Weinert, 21, co-president of the NMU NASA and citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
In addition to moral reasons for not hunting Michigan wolves, Weinert said the wolf is significant in Anishinaabe heritage and culture.
Recounting stories told to her by elders, the Garden, MI native said wolves are “important to our group because of the story of the Great Spirit Gitchi Manitou” and the connection between the first man with a wolf as they “traveled Turtle Island.”
“In traditional Anishinaabe storytelling the first man is lonely so he asks Gitchi Manitou – the Great Spirit for a companion and is given the ma’iingan or wolf,” said Weinert, an NMU senior with a major in metalsmithing and jewelry, and is seeking a bachelor in science and a minor in Native American studies.
“The wolf came with him on the journey to name all the animals and plants,” Weinert said. “At end of the journey Gitchi Manitou said the two would part ways but would still be connected.”
“The Anishinaabe and the wolf are connected and live parallel lives,” she said.
The early 1900’s slaughter and injustice suffered by Michigan wolves reminds Weinert of similar mistreatment of Native Americans at the hands of European-American settlers.
“There are great similarities with Anishinaabe peoples mistreatment and not being understood with the the general mistreatment of wolves,” she said.
“Wolves have been driven out of their homeland” and that “compares to the Anishinaabe because they too got re-located (and) put on reservations,” Weinert said “Wolves got pushed out of their territories by the mining and logging industries – it’s man’s effect on the forest.”
Merkel said the message to protect wolves can be seen in the pope’s mesage that “the order of creation demands that a priority be given to those human activities that do not cause irreversible damage to nature” and “care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity” because “the deterioration of nature” is “closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence” adding man shouldn’t “turn his back on the Creator’s plan.”
A Catholic, Merkel said protection of wildlife and nature is important in many religions including the Dalai Lama who said “wealth is not necessarily a bad thing” but must be “earned in an honest manner” while ensuring that neither “individuals nor the environment suffered for it.”
Merkel said the Dalai Lama told followers that mankind should “maintain gentle, peaceful relations with our fellow human beings” and we must “extend the same kind of attitude toward the natural environment.”
The NMU petition signing to protect wolves will include watching a short video titled “The Timber Wolf of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.”
In the proposed wolf hunts occurs during the fall of 2013 in the U.P., Michigan would be the seventh state with a wolf hunting/trapping season, according to wolf hunting opponents who say Wolves once roamed most of North America until being over-hunted and destroyed by humans
Wolves have had little effect on Michigan deer population, anti-wolf hunting groups have said adding Michigan needs to increase compensation to farmers suffering related livestock losses instead of slaughtering wolves for trophies
Restoring federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region that ended in 2012 is goal of recent federal lawsuit that charges the removal of wolves from the endangered list in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is threatening wolf recovery throughout most of their historic range
The Feb. 2013 lawsuit was filed against Suit filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar by the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Animals and Their Environment, Help Our Wolves Live, and Born Free USA.
Minnesota had an estimated 3,000 wolves before they came of the endangered species list, while Michigan and Wisconsin had 687 and 782, respectively.
Article/news release written by Greg Peterson, EarthKeepers II volunteer media advisor