LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan is one step closer to an Upper Peninsula wolf hunt.

A State House panel has approved legislation that could block a group’s effort to ban wolf hunting in Michigan.

The bill was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the House Natural Resources Committee. It would empower the Natural Resources Commission to decide which types of wildlife can be hunted, which currently only the Legislature can do.

One Democratic member of the panel abstained.

The bill was approved by the Senate last week and now heads to the House floor.

If signed into law, the measure effectively renders meaningless a potential statewide vote next year on overturning the Legislature’s designation of wolves as a game species.

Earlier this month, opponents gathered the more than 240,000 signatures necessary to request a statewide vote on whether the animals should be hunted. If a certain number of the signatures are considered valid, wolf hunting would be suspended until a vote is held in 2014.

But if the bill passed by the Senate Thursday – which now heads to the House – is signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, even if voters strike down wolf hunting in 2014, the NRC could approve wolf hunting anyway.

Wolves were removed from the endangered list in early 2012 after rebounding from near-extinction in the upper Great Lakes region.

Supporters of the bill say it’s time to allow hunters and trappers to thin the population. They say wolves are killing livestock and venturing too close to towns.

Opponents say wolves are still recovering and it’s too soon for a hunt.  Wolf advocates who accepted the idea of farmers protecting livestock, which is already allowed, recoil at talk of hunting and trapping — which they fear will slash wolf numbers drastically.

The Humane Society of the United States has said it may sue to restore federal protections.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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