HOUGHTON - New faces and familiar issues defined 2012 in outdoors news.
Ongoing outcry over and attempts to manage Michigan's gray wolf population appear to have met some progress legislatively, though nothing was done this year to deal with the situation on the ground.
A second attempt to remove wolves from the federal endangered species list was successful on Jan. 27. Before the rule went into place, state officials were prohibited from any lethal means of control.
Late this year, the Michigan Legislature approved a bill designating the animal as a game species - a major step toward a limited hunt to occur as soon as 2013.
DNR figures estimate a wolf population approaching 1,000 animals less than 40 years after the entire U.P. wolf population consisted of a handful on Isle Royale. Reports of livestock depredation have become numerous, and interactions between wolves and humans have been on the rise.
Still, the issue may not be settled, as the Humane Society of the United States has pledged to continue fighting the wolves' delisting.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources leadership gained a significant local flavor in 2012.
Keith Creagh became the DNR's third director in a two-year span when he was appointed to the position by Gov. Rick Snyder in June.
Creagh, previously the director of the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and owner of a degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University, replaced Rodney Stokes, who was reassigned by the governor.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission, the body that oversees the DNR, is now chaired by Ontonagon resident J.R. Richardson.
Richardson, who was appointed to the panel in 2007, was reappointed to another term on the NRC last year and is scheduled to serve through the end of 2014.
The DNR made some amendments to brook trout regulations in the U.P. Five U.P. trout streams had their daily creel limits doubled to 10 fish as a fifth type of trout stream was added to state regulations.
The list of experimental streams includes the East Branch of the Ontonagon River in Houghton County and the East Branch of the Huron River in Baraga and Marquette counties.
Several conservation groups were unhappy with an earlier proposal for a larger list of upgraded U.P. trout streams, particularly after DNR staffers had announced a public survey of Michigan anglers indicated majority support for retaining the original limit of five.
The DNR's attempt to execute an invasive species order to control feral swine was met with significant resistance both locally and on a statewide level.
The state banned the raising of several types of exotic hogs earlier this year, estimating thousands of loose animals had done damage in woods and fields on both peninsulas after escaping facilities. Five lawsuits have since been filed from farmers and landowners who believed the law was too vague and violated their property rights.
In November, a Marquette County Circuit Court judge upheld challenges to the perceived vagueness of the state ban but allowed lawsuits challenging the policy to forward so other issues the law raises, including due process claims and illegal government taking, can be considered.