“Perhaps you didn’t hear us the first time…” read the labels on the boxes filled with petitions containing nearly 230,000 signatures, which animal advocates delivered to the Secretary of State’s office in Michigan, urging her to put a question on the upcoming ballot in November to allow citizens to have a voice regarding wildlife decisions.
In 2013, the Michigan state legislature stifled the voices of their constituents on matters of humane treatment of wildlife—reopening hunting on the state’s barely recovered wolf population and then pivoting all wildlife decision-making power to seven political appointees. As the ASPCA’s mission is to give a voice to animals who cannot speak for themselves, it made sense for them to join the ‘Keep Michigan Wolves Protected’ campaign to restore the citizens’ voices and protect the long-suffering wolf population.
“The gray wolf of Michigan was previously on the brink of extinction, and while there has been some improvement, the wolves have not fully recovered, occupying only five percent of their historic range,” said Vicki Deisner, state director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Midwest region, and a former Michigan resident. “Allowing a wolf hunt to continue in Michigan will undermine the long-term survival of the wolf population.”
Animal advocates from across the state came out in droves to volunteer for the campaign, gathering signatures at home, work, and public spaces; helping with paperwork in the campaign office; and making countless phone calls to urge others to join the cause. They braved below-freezing temperatures and talked to thousands of strangers, garnering more signatures to help put the question of wildlife decisions on the November ballot. The reception of these “strangers” was spectacular as they formed friendships and bonded with activists in their efforts to protect wolves, a species still at risk – there are less than 700 wolves left – after years of over-hunting. It was clear that the vast majority of Michiganders were on the side of the wolves on this issue.
“Referendum work is one of the most direct ways that citizens can effect concrete changes in the law to prevent animal cruelty,” said Jessica Johnson, senior manager of grassroots advocacy for the ASPCA. “Over the past few months, I’ve felt humbled and honored as I witnessed first-hand animal advocates from across the state join this campaign to reclaim their voices after the Michigan legislature’s power-grab.”
Their work doesn’t stop here. The coalition plans to take the momentum of their grassroots energy all the way to November, making sure the residents of the great state of Michigan seize the opportunity to retain their voice for animals and vote to protect Michigan wolves.
For more information on this campaign, or to find out how you can become involved, please visit www.keepmichiganwolvesprotected.org.