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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Senate Lets Ban on Wild Hogs Stand

The long-awaited ban on possessing wild hogs in Michigan went into effect on October 8, after the Senate failed to take up legislation that would let game ranches and breeding facilities continue to import and raise the animals.  In December 2010, the DNR had classified the wild hog as an invasive, exotic and prohibited species under Public Act 451, Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.  The DNR was required by the act to prohibit possession of any invasive species that met certain criteria.  The wild hog, which does more than $1.5 billion worth of damage annually to crops, forests and livestock nationwide, met all criteria.  The action, originally scheduled to take effect on July 8, was seen as critical to “shutting off the faucet” of wild hogs escaping from game ranches and breeding facilities across the state over the past ten years.  But the game ranch industry pushed legislators to replace the ban with a regulatory approach that would allow game ranches to continue to import and keep wild hogs.
Several bills were debated, but none made it out of the House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee.  However, in late June, a substitute bill was hastily sent (without committee review) to the House floor.  After unprecedented political arm-twisting by House Speaker Jase Bolger and Governor Rick Snyder, the House passed the bill despite strong opposition from the state’s agricultural leaders and conservation community.
The bill lacked the support to pass the Senate and so did not become law.  But just hours before the ban was to take effect on July 8, Governor Snyder ordered the DNR to extend the effective date until October 8, 2011 to “allow the Senate time to pass the legislation.”
The Conservancy has testified several times in support of the ban and in opposition to the proposed legislation.  The group believes the ban is necessary and that a regulatory approach would be contrary to the intent of Public Act 451.  The Senate agreed and did not move the ill-conceived legislation forward.  Implementation of the ban should now proceed, with aggressive enforcement expected on or before April 12, 2012.  Hopefully, no further political mischief will hinder efforts to control wild hogs in Michigan.
 As this issue went to press, the DNR was sending mixed messages about how the ban would be enforced.  One statement suggested the agency might delay enforcement to again give the legislature more time to approve a regulatory approach.  This would be ill-advised and probably illegal.  Michigan also has the huge challenge of eliminating wild hogs that are already roaming the State.  The wild hog situation requires a lot of work and continued vigilance.

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