By Mike Lehnert
Voters elect their representatives with the expectation they will reflect the will of the electorate and not special interests when they take office. That expectation may no longer be valid.
In November 2014, Michigan voters went to the polls and soundly defeated two separate wolf hunting proposals. Their voices were consistent with the spirit of landmark legislation. The Endangered Species Act -- passed in 1973 -- was led by Michigan Congressman John Dingell and California Congressman Pete McCloskey.
The Endangered Species Act was remarkable bipartisan legislation that looked into the future and recognized that species protection was essential if future generations were to enjoy the incredible benefits of this nation.
Sadly, at both the state and national level, special interests have gained control of the process and are poised to reverse the progress of two generations. Armed with questionable data on human/wolf interactions, and supported by well financed lobbyists, our Michigan Legislature quietly passed Senate Bill 288 which effectively thwarted the will of Michigan voters.
This law gives the Natural Resources Commission (an appointed, non-elected body without special scientific or game management credentials) the authority to designate game species in Michigan. Translation: If special interests ask for it, wolf hunting will be legal in Michigan.
Simultaneously, these same special interests are mounting an all-out attack on the Endangered Species Act at the national level. Special interests are supplanting the advice of science and wildlife managers and placing the wolf -- perhaps the most iconic of the endangered species -- in their crosshairs.
Last December, when reviewing the status of wolves as an endangered species in the Great Lakes, the federal judge commented that "'...removal was arbitrary and capricious' and 'violated the federal Endangered Species Act.'"
Opponents of the Endangered Species Act know that if they can't circumvent the laws, they will have to change them despite the clear intent of the American people. If opponents of the Endangered Species Act are successful with the wolf, then less charismatic species are fair game, and ultimately the Endangered Species Act will be gutted by special interests. This means that future generations will not enjoy the same quality of life in this country that has been placed in our stewardship.
Whether you support wolves or not, ignoring historic legislation and the mandates of the electorate should concern you. If the politicians whom we send to represent us in Lansing and in Washington, D.C. are able to set aside the will of the people in favor of well-financed special interests who want to overturn the Endangered Species Act, whose ox will be gored next?
The strength of our nation is that we try to elect individuals who represent our beliefs and our values and we hope they will remain faithful to their campaign promises when they take office. We expect them to follow the rule of law.
When they allow special interests to set the agenda, bypass the law, good science, and the will of the people, it undermines not just one of our nation's bedrock environmental laws -- a law that Americans rely on to ensure the future of our nations wildlife -- but also the fundamental principles that our country was founded upon.
If there is a characteristic that allows the United States to lay claim to American Exceptionalism, it is representative government. Let your elected representatives know that the people have spoken and protect your vote. Defend the wolf, defend the Endangered Species Act, and be vigilant to ensure that your rights are not abridged by special interests regardless of the issue.
Mike Lehnert is a retired Marine Major General. Despite numerous deployments and 37 years of service, he has been a lifetime Michigan resident and voter. He is both a hunter and a board member of the Endangered Species Coalition.