Wolf meeting an exercise in how to get things done

All sides involved in the current debate over whether a wolf hunt will be established in Michigan should be congratulated for the respect they showed each other at a wolf management meeting last Wednesday in Marquette.

The session -held at Northern Michigan University- detailed state wolf management efforts, allowed participants to complete a survey on wolves and wolf hunting opinions and have questions answered by a team of three state wildlife biologists.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials recognized the potential for confrontation between passionate proponents and opponents of a potential hunt and decided on a format that did not include an open microphone, public hearing style session.

This greatly diminished the potential for verbal sparring, contentiousness and sometimes unruly behavior of public comment meetings or hearings. Instead, participants wrote their questions for the biologists down on index cards and a facilitator read the questions allowed, which were then answered by members of the team.

Audience members politely listened, sitting quietly, some recording or taking notes. Despite statements made during the meeting that could have solicited boos or rah rahs from either side of the debate in the crowd, none of that occurred.

The same respectful behavior was in evidence during a DNR presentation on wolf management, which started off the meeting. Presenter Adam Bump detailed what the DNR has been doing to manage wolves, laws in place, history and what plans for a wolf hunt would and would not include. Bump wanted the audience to hear him out, reserving any anger they might want to express with him or the department until after the presentation.

Bump said a wolf hunt decision will be made by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, perhaps in July. He said any hunt would not be aimed at lowering wolf population numbers, but rather at providing another tool for state officials to employ in dealing with wolf conflicts where non-lethal means have failed.

When the meeting was over, the hunters, environmentalists, wolf advocates and anti-hunt ballot proposal signature solicitors left quietly, while a few remained to get more questions answered or make comments to state officials. DNR officials said another wolf session in Ironwood the previous evening was attended by a much larger crowd, but no less respectful of each other and the DNR than in Marquette.

With think debate over the issue is healthy and should occur, the more respectful the better. We also think the more accurate information injected into the issue, the better. Congratulations to all involved.