Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum, Proposal 2 (2014)

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Proposal 2
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Type:Veto referendum
State code:Public Act 21
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Hunting and fishing on the ballot
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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August 5
Proposal 1 Approveda
November 4
Proposal 1 Defeatedd
Proposal 2 Defeatedd
Local measures

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum, Proposal 2 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Michigan as a veto referendum, where it was defeated. The measure would have upheld Public Act 21 of 2013, a law that allowed the Natural Resources Commission to directly designate game species and determine hunting seasons.[1]

Before the signing of PA 21, game animals needed to be declared in law, which subjected them to potential referendums. In 2006, for example, Michiganders overturned Public Act 160. PA 160 would have allowed for the hunting of mourning doves.

The Wolf Hunting Referendum, which was also on the ballot, was an attempt to overturn PA 520. However, PA 520 was superseded by PA 21, thus rendering the wolf hunting referendum merely symbolic. The Natural Resources Commission Referendum was an attempt to overturn the newer law, PA 21.

Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, a pro-wolf hunting group, initiated their own measure: the Natural Resources Commission Initiative. As an indirect initiated state statute, the state legislature had the opportunity to vote on the measure. Both legislative chambers approved the initiative by August 27, 2014.[2] The initiative rendered the Natural Resource Commission Referendum moot. Keep Wolves Protected and the Humane Society, along with Common Cause and Progress Michigan, started a coalition called "Let Michigan Vote." Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle stated, "The Legislature is allowed to do this, but it’s not good government. It’s a subversion of the (democratic) process."[3]

A "Yes" vote on a veto referendum was to uphold the law, and a "No" vote was to reject the law. Therefore, the referendum's supporters were campaigning for a "No" vote.

Election results

Michigan Proposal 2
Defeatedd No1,856,60363.84%
Yes 1,051,426 36.16%

Election results via: Michigan Department of State

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text was as follows:[4]



Public Act 21 of 2013 would:

  • Allow the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to designate certain animals as game for hunting purposes and establish the first hunting season for game animals without legislative action.
  • Continue the NRC’s designation of wolves as game and allow the NRC to set a wolf hunting season.
  • Grant the Legislature sole authority to remove a species from the list of designated game animals.
  • Eliminate the $1.00 hunting and fishing licensing fee for members of the military, whether stationed inside or outside of Michigan, subject to any lottery.
  • Give the NRC sole authority to regulate fishing.

Should this law be approved?
Yes 
No [5]


PA 520

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed the 2012 Public Act 520 on December 31, 2012.[6] The statute established wolf hunting seasons in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Normally, a law would be suspended from measure certification until the statewide election. However, this was not the case when veto referendum supporters turned in valid signatures. Due to PA 21, the state's hunt was no longer designated by the legislature and thus the referendum was an attempt to overturn a law that had been superseded. Proposal 1, therefore, was rendered moot in practice.

PA 21

State Senator Tom Casperson (R-38) sponsored Senate Bill 288, which essentially rendered the referendum meaningless.[7] SB 288 empowered the Natural Resource Commission to declare game animals and establish hunting seasons without legislative action. Prior, game animals needed to be declared in law, which subjected them to potential referendums. Gov. Snyder signed the law on May 8, 2013, and the legislation became known as Public Act 21. Snyder justified his signature by noting, “This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan.”[8] Referendum supporters initiated the Natural Resources Commission Referendum to overturn PA 21.[9]

Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management

Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), a group supporting wolf hunting, decided to fight Proposal 2 with their own indirect initiated state statute, the Natural Resources Commission Initiative. The indirect initiative was one in which the initiative did not go straight to the ballot following signature verification, but to the legislature. The legislature could either agree to adopt the initiative as law or place the initiative on the ballot. On May 27, 2014, the campaign group filed signatures with the Michigan Secretary of State.[10] The measure was certified, and the legislature reconvened to vote on the matter. On August 13, the Michigan Senate approved the initiative. The Michigan House of Representatives approved the measure on August 27, 2014. The initiative rendered Proposal 2 moot.[11]

Neither Michigan Proposal 1 nor Proposal 2 had any practical long-term effect due to these events.

Following pro-hunt initiative's approval

Approximately $816,768 was spent to get the two anti-wolf hunting veto referendums on the general election ballot in Michigan.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), the campaign group sponsoring the measures, had planned to initiate litigation against the pro-hunt Natural Resources Commission Initiative, arguing that the initiative's content was too broad. The organization still encouraged people to turn out and vote "no" on November 4, just in case the pro-hunt initiative was overturned by a court in the future. As Jill Fritz, director of KMWP, said, "If those referendums are overturned in November, and the initiative is overturned in court, wolves could not be hunted for trophies."[12] KMWP could not initiate a third veto referendum, however, as the pro-hunt initiative contained appropriations for the DNR to battle invasive Asian Carp, a matter unrelated to wolf hunting. In 2001, the Michigan Supreme Court determined the state constitution protected all laws making appropriations from veto referendums.[13]

Opponents of the wolf hunt, realizing they could still send a message of disapproval to lawmakers, continued their campaign.[14] Also, the two measures, which overturned the two laws, were set to block the wolf hunt until the pro-hunt initiative was set to go into effect in late-March or April 2015.[15] Since the veto referendums were on the table and the pro-hunt law wasn't yet in effect, the state did not schedule a wolf hunt for 2014.[16]

Support for "yes" vote

Note: Supporters were those against the veto referendum and who were campaigning for a "yes" vote.




  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs[17]


Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, labeled opponents "radical out-of-state animal rights organizations." He argued the following:[17]

  • "We need to pass this law, otherwise HSUS will continue to target Michigan to take away our hunting and fishing rights, one by one. Contrary to how it raises its money, HSUS spends much of it attacking hunting rights, not sheltering pets. In fact, it has spent over $1 million in Michigan attacking hunting rights just through its two referendums. I wonder how many dogs and cats they could have sheltered with that money if they actually spent it how most of their donors thought it would be spent?"
  • "Some of the anti-hunters claim this is only about wolves, but it’s much larger than that. This is fundamentally about whether we manage wildlife species in Michigan with biology, scientific data and sound management principles, or if we manage wildlife based on how misleading HSUS can make a political commercial or how much money they can spend airing it... Hunting and fishing are vital parts of our heritage and our economy. Our fish and wildlife deserve to be managed with the best available science, not the slickest television commercials."

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of October 27, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $827,926
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $3,169,948

As of October 27, 2014, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management committee had received $827,926 in contributions.[18] Virtually all of the following contributions were expended on Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management's own initiative—the Natural Resources Commission Initiative—and not on directly supporting Proposal 1 or Proposal 2.

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management $827,926 $755,816
Total $827,926 $755,816

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
MI Bear Hunter Conservation Association $110,000
Safari Club International, Lansing Chapter $55,000
Safari Club International, SE MI Bowhunters Chapter $55,000
Safari Club Intentional, Flint Region $40,000
Michigan United Conservation Clubs $27,446
Safari Club International, Michigan Chapter $26,000
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation $25,000
MI Hunting Dog Federation $20,000
UP Bear Houndsman Association $20,000

Opposition to "yes" vote

Note: Opponents were those who initiated the veto referendum and were campaigning for a "no" vote.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Logo.jpeg

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected sponsored the measure's signature collection and led the referendum campaign.[19]


  • Wolfwatcher Coalition[20]
  • The Humane Society of the United States


Colleen Pace, owner of Riverbank Farm in Davison, President of the American Association of Riding Schools and member of the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition, responded to yes vote supporters' claim that wolf hunting should be decided by the Natural Resources Commission. She argued:

Michigan voters are routinely asked to make decisions about complex social and economic issues, elect judges and school board officials, and decide which legislators will represent us in Lansing. We voters are also qualified to weigh in on such important decisions as whether a small and fragile population of a species recently removed from federal endangered status should be killed for trophies, or out of fear and hysteria. The wildlife of Michigan is held in the public trust, and all voters have the right to decide their fate…

The NRC is not a panel of “experts” on this issue. In fact, there is not one biologist, ecologist, or resource scientist among them. They are business owners and hunting enthusiasts that have ignored testimony from two of the world’s most renowned wolf experts — John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson — opposing a wolf hunt, and instead solicited input from the big-game lobby group Safari Club International and Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association to authorize a trophy hunt on wolves…

One can approve hunting game for meat without supporting pure blood-sport. Wolves play a significant role in the U.P. ecosystem by reducing deer, beavers, and smaller species. Scientists understand that, when we remove the predators by hunting and trapping them indiscriminately, we upset the entire food chain. [5]

—Colleen Pace[21]

Other arguments made by those favoring a "no" vote included:

  • Nancy Warren, Executive Diretor of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, said, "Decisions of the NRC cannot be challenged by the public. P.A. 21 is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Michigan residents and it takes away the rights of citizens to challenge game designation decisions."[22]
  • Reviewing statistics from the state’s first wolf hunt, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected’s Jill Fritz said, “But when 1,200 hunters get out in the woods looking for wolves, they discover what scientists and many people in the U.P. have been saying all along: that wolves are shy, elusive animals who want to avoid human contact.”[23]

Campaign contributions

As of October 27, 2014, Keep Michigan's Wolves Protected committee had received $3,169,948 in contributions.[24] Contributions were utilized for both Proposal 2 and Proposal 1.

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected $3,169,948 $1,542,326
Total $3,169,948 $1,542,326

Top 3 contributors:

Donor Amount
Humane Society of the United States $1,015,783
Humane Society Legislative Fund $255,127
Robert Rhue $60,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Michigan ballot measures, 2014


  • The Oakland Post said, “Regardless, the fact is that the reasons for hunting the wolves do not add up. There aren’t any recorded wolf attacks on humans in Michigan. There are non-lethal ways to deal with the wolves. And nobody eats wolf meat anyway. Get out there and sign that petition. At least 161,305 signatures will have to be validated and they’re due March 13. For those reading hot off the press, that’s tomorrow folks.”[25]

Related lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2014

Humane Society v. Johnson et al.

2014 measure lawsuits
By state
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By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
Single-subject rule
Signature challenges
Initiative process

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed a federal lawsuit with Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern Michigan District Court. The groups asked the court to strike down a state statute requiring petition circulators to be residents of Michigan. Sherri Ferrell, a resident of Florida, desired to help circulate a petition for the referendum, but could not. She alleged, as did the appealing organizations, that her legal inability to do so infringed upon her free speech. The lawsuit stated, "Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators severely restricts the abilities of non-Michigan-residents – including volunteer members of HSLF and Sherri Ferrell – to engage in core political speech in Michigan and to associate with the organizations and Michigan residents who support the initiatives." The lawsuit named Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R), Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and Colleen Pero, chairperson of the Board of State Canvassers, as defendants.[26]

The ACLU deemed circulator residency requirements to be unconstitutional. They noted that similar laws have been struck down by federal judges.[27] The Local Initiative and Referendum Initiative, which was circulated in Michigan, but did not make the ballot, would have eliminated residency requirements.

Judge Cleland dismissed the lawsuit on March 31, 2014, because the legislature passed a law, known as House Bill 5152, that permitted out-of-state circulators on March 27, 2014. Cleland said, "It appears to the court that, upon the Governor’s anticipated approval, the Plaintiffs’ case will become moot. In view of this impending change in the law, the parties have agreed to dismiss this matter."[28]

Commentator Jack Lessenberry, who was against the pro-wolf hunt laws, stated his opposition to the lawsuit, saying, “They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland to throw out this law. Well, I hope he doesn’t. State residents should decide state law. If anybody can come in here to collect signatures, it will make it far easier for people like the Koch brothers to slap all sorts of anti-democratic referenda and amendments on the ballot.”[29]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan

In order to qualify the proposed referendum to the statewide ballot, supporters were required to collect 161,304 valid signatures and turn them in 90 days after the final adjournment of the legislature.

Proponents submitted signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State on March 13, 2014. They claimed to have gathered 66,000 more than the 161,305 required to put the measure on the ballot.[30] On May 6, 2014, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified 182,732 signatures, thus placing the referendum on the ballot.[31]

Similar measures

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading


  1. MLive.com, "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launching second petition drive after new law blocked original effort," July 2, 2013
  2. MLive, "Wolf hunt law approved by Michigan House after heated debate, Capitol protest," August 28, 2014
  3. The Detroit News, "Wolf hunting opponents form coalition to push against legislative action blocking vote," July 8, 2014
  4. Michigan Secretary of State, "Proposal 14-2," accessed September 5, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Michigan Legislature, "Senate Bill 1350 (2012)," accessed January 16, 2014
  7. Michigan Legislature, “Senate Bill 0288 (2013)”," accessed January 13, 2014
  8. Detroit Free Press, “Gov. Rick Snyder signs off on gray wolf hunt in the U.P.”, May 8, 2013
  9. MLive, "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launching second petition drive after new law blocked original effort," July 2, 2013
  10. CBS Detroit, "Pro-Wolf Hunting Group Submits 374K Petition Signatures; Detroit Zoo Objects," May 27, 2014
  11. MLive, "Wolf hunt law approved by Michigan House after heated debate, Capitol protest," August 28, 2014
  12. MLive, "Michigan wolf hunt ballot proposals: Will your vote matter?," October 7, 2014
  13. MLive, "Michigan Election 2014: How Asian Carp money makes new wolf hunt law immune to referendum," October 8, 2014
  14. Toledo Blade, "Mich. voters can to make statement on wolf hunts," October 9, 2014
  15. The Detroit News, "Ballot language approved for wolf hunting referendums," September 4, 2014 (dead link)
  16. Detroit Free Press, "Want to hunt Michigan wolves? You'll have to wait until at least 2015," September 11, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Detroit News, "Letter: Manage wildlife with sound science, not soundbites," March 4, 2014 (dead link)
  18. Michigan Secretary of State, "Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management Committee Statement of Organization," accessed October 27, 2014
  19. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected
  20. Wolfwatcher Coalition, "Michigan Wolves," accessed February 27, 2014
  21. MLive, "Guest column: You, voter, are qualified to decide on wolf hunts," September 30, 2014
  22. The Detroit News, "Let our wolves go unhunted," February 18, 2014 (dead link)
  23. Battle Creek Enquirer, "First Michigan wolf hunt falls short of quota," January 4, 2014
  24. Michigan Secretary of State, "Michigan Committee Statement of Organization," accessed April 2, 2014
  25. The Oakland Post, "Join the OU wolfpack: Protect Michigan wolves from hunters," March 12, 2014
  26. MLive, "Wolf hunt opponents challenging Michigan law on collecting signatures for ballot questions," February 10, 2014
  27. Washington Times, "Mich. sued over residency rule in petition drives," February 10, 2014
  28. MLive, "Judge dismisses ballot proposal suit after Michigan Legislature OKs out-of-state petition circulators," April 1, 2014
  29. Michigan Radio, "People defending wolves need to fight fairly," February 13, 2014
  30. WEMU, "Wolf Hunt Issue getting Closer to Ballot," March 12, 2014
  31. MLive, "Another anti-wolf hunt proposal approved for Michigan ballot," May 6, 2014