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LANSING, MI -- The Michigan Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on "citizen initiated legislation" that would allow wolf hunting to continue in the state and effectively undermine two separate referendums set to appear on the November general election ballot.
While lawmakers have the option to send the pro-hunt measure to the ballot as well, that appears unlikely. The House may take up the measure later this month.
Legislative approval and enactment could be the definitive blow in a years-long battle fought in the Michigan Capitol and across the state via competing petition drives.
Here’s a look at the timeline.
1965: Michigan declares the gray wolf an endangered species.
1974: With an estimated population of just six in Michigan, the gray wolf is listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), meaning it was considered to be at risk of extinction.
2008: Michigan enacts two new laws allowing citizens to kill wolves in the act of attacking their livestock or dogs. The laws followed a federal delisting rule that was later challenged in court before a new version in 2011.
2009: Michigan removes wolves from the state list of endangered species and reclassifies wolves as a protected, non-game species, after the estimated population topped 200 for five consecutive years. The DNR estimated there were a minimum of 577 wolves in Michigan the time.
May 2011: The state Senate adopts a resolution urging Congress to remove gray wolves in Michigan from the federal endangered species list. The resolution, identical to a House version passed the prior month, included an exaggerated story about three wolves appearing in the backyard of a daycare center.
December 2011: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirms it will remove gray wolves in Western Great Lakes region, including Michigan, from federal endangered species list. Wolves "are in the best position they've been in for the past 100 years," said David Mech, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota.
October 2012: Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, introduces Senate Bill 1350 to name wolves as a game species and authorize the Michigan Natural Resource Commission toestablish a hunt. The DNR says there are more than 600 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. Casperson says a hunt will "reduce livestock and pet depredation and enhance public safety."
December 2012: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs SB 1350, now known as Public Act 520 of 2012, allowing for an inaugural wolf hunt and giving the NRC the ability to establish future hunts. The final version of the legislation had passed the House 66-43 and the Senate 27-11.
March 2013: Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition largely funded by the Humane Society of the United States, submits signatures for a statewide referendum seeking to overturn Public Act 520 of 2012. The group says it wants to stop "the pointless trophy hunting of wolves" that are "just beginning to recover from the brink of extinction."
April 2013: Casperson introduces Senate Bill 288 to allow the NRC to designate new game species instead of just the Legislature. The bill would allow wolf hunting even if PA 520 was suspended or repealed.
May 9, 2013: The NRC approves first-ever wolf hunt in a 6-1 vote, setting a target of 43 wolves to be killed in the inaugural season. It’s estimated there were 658 wolves in the Upper Peninsula at the time.
May 14, 2013: Snyder signs SB 288, now known as Public Act 21 of 2013, into law. The final version, which specifies that the NRC can add any game species not already rejected by voter referendum at the time of enactment, had passed the Senate 25-11 and the House 72-38.
May 22, 2013: The Board of State Canvassers certifies the first Keep Michigan Wolves Protected referendum for the November 2014 ballot. The referendum seeks to overturn PA 520 of 2012, which had already been replaced with a newer law.
July 11, 2013: The NRC, in a 5-1 vote, again approves an inaugural wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula. Like the version approved in May, the hunt was to be limited to 43 wolves in three specific zones.
August 2013: Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launches second petition drive seeking referendum on PA 21 of 2013. The group acknowledges it will be unable to stop the pending hunt but says it will fight the new law "deliberately introduced and passed to scuttle our first referendum effort."
November 15, 2013: Michigan’s first-ever wolf hunt begins. A total of 22 wolves were killed during the 46-day hunt, which ended on December 31. Winter studies peg the 2014 wolf population at 636, down 22 from the previous year.
November 26, 2013: Citizens For Professional Wildlife Management, a coalition funded by hunting and conservation groups, announces plans for its own petition drive for a citizen initiated bill to reaffirm the NRC’s ability to designate game species. If approved, it wound render the anti-wolf hunt proposals moot.
May 6, 2014: The Board of State Canvassers approves the second referendum from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. PA 21 of 2013 is temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the November proposal.
July 24, 2014: The Board of State Canvassers approves the pro-wolf hunt petitions, sending the initiated bill to the Legislature for consideration. Lawmakers have 40 days to approve the measure or send it to the November ballot.
August 13, 2014: Michigan Senate meets for one of two summer session days in August. A tentative agenda includes consideration of the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.”
August 27, 2014: The Michigan House is expected to meet and hold record roll-call votes. It’s possible the lower chamber could take up the pro-wolf hunt bill on this day, which falls within the 40-day window.