- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - In an expected move, officials with Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission confirmed Thursday there won’t be a gray wolf hunt this year.

Commissioner John Matonich said at a meeting in Lansing that the commission lacks the authority to set another hunt. The seven-member panel appointed by the governor is awaiting results of two referendums on the November ballot aimed at repealing legislation making the wolf a game species and giving the panel the authority to make such designations.

A third, citizen-initiated measure overriding the referendums and backing the wolf hunt was approved by lawmakers last month, but it won’t take effect until March.

Matonich said he asked the Department of Natural Resources to update the state’s Wolf Management Plan and review statistics related to the killing of dogs and cattle by wolves.

The DNR, which advises the commission, has argued in favor of tightly regulated wolf hunts.

The battle over the hunt began in 2012, when the combined gray wolf population of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin was dropped from the federal endangered species list. The wolves had bounced back strongly after disappearing from most of the Great Lakes region in the last century.

With federal protections removed, each state was put in charge of managing its wolves. Minnesota and Wisconsin have moved forward with hunts. The Michigan Legislature followed with the hunt-enabling laws in 2012 and 2013.

Opponents gathered enough petition signatures to put both the measures on the ballot this fall. But they weren’t able to prevent the commission from permitting a hunt last year, during which 22 wolves were killed. The Department of Natural Resources in April estimated the population at 636.

Even if voters repeal the earlier laws, the measure approved in August will remain in effect.

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