Hog-Tying Michiganders in the Debate Over Asian Carp

08/20/2010 11:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Move over zebra mussels and Asian carp, there's a new invasive species in town. The latest animal to captivate Michigan residents, however, does not inhabit the vital inland waterway system or Great Lakes. No, this time the threat comes from land dwelling wild boars. Luckily for Michiganders, lawmakers' response to these destructive wild boars is much more rational than the state's extreme demands to combat Asian carp. In fact, the new threat may even pose a lesson for carp catastrophists in the state.

A proposal to declare wild hogs an invasive species was raised at a meeting of both the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and Agricultural Commission (AC) last Thursday. Inclusion on the invasive species list would allow the state to increase its efforts in the fight against these destructive animals and kicks off a new initiative to stop the problem before it is too late.

The NRC, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and related groups concerned with these unwelcome swine have taken calm, rational steps to curb the hog population. The current proposals aims to eliminate the unmonitored population, but allowing game ranchers who make a living off the boar to maintain their livelihoods. Fence height and construction regulations, ranch licensing and charge fees for escaped boars and encouraging wild hunting of the animals are just a few of the restrained, appropriate options proposed by commissioners at the meeting, and in the case of hunting, already underway.

When it comes to a very similar issue in the region, however, Michigan lawmakers need to take a page out of their own playbook. The response to wild boars is a far cry from the attitude and approach that officials have taken regarding Asian carp. While cooperative, rational solutions have been the standard in dealing with this new invasive species found right in the heart of Michigan, cries for panicked, politicized actions have been the norm when combating the Asian carp plaguing Illinois, Indiana and the rest of the Mississippi River Valley. The issues are strikingly similar, though.

If we approach the Asian carp issue the same way groups in Michigan have approached the wild boar issue, we would be in a much different (and better) place than we are now. States would not be pitted against each other and we would likely have even more resources committed toward a comprehensive, multi-tiered solution that avoids economic devastation of shipping, agriculture, and industry in the region. Michigan must learn that education and collaboration, as opposed to panic and infighting, are central to the successful control of invasive species.

Everyone agrees that Asian carp are a serious threat. Yet Michigan needs to take a look in the mirror here. Lawmakers, relevant agencies and regional stakeholders need to apply the rational thinking and cooperation used to combat wild boar to the Asian carp debate. A comprehensive, long-term solution can only be achieved if it is based in common sense and sound economics.