Profile of Jill Fritz

        Upon first meeting Jill Fritz, you might notice her humble personality and paw print socks peeking out from underneath her pants. As the Humane Society of the United State’s Michigan Director, she fights for the respect and fair treatment of many different furry creatures across that state from within Lansing. Now, she has become one of the loudest voices for the protection of two of Michigan’s most charismatic animals: the Gray Wolf and the Michigan voter.

        Fritz, 48, is the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign, which mobilized in December after Governor Snyder signed in Public Act 520, designating the wolf as a game species. She is determined to prevent the DNR from creating a hunting season only a year after the wolf’s delisting, at least without the say of Michiganders. She has coordinated a team of volunteers across the state to collect over 161,000 signatures before March 27th  to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot. In the context of wolf hunts newly emerging in Minnesota and Wisconsin, she has become a controversial figure in the debate on wolf management, but her campaign goes beyond simply wolf politics. “It’s alarming how the scientific information was ignored and how fast this went through.” she says, “Beyond the welfare of the wolf species, Americans should care very much that things like this can happen in their legislation without true information.”

         Fritz, graduated from San Diego State University and was hired as a producer at the local public radio station KPBS, where she worked for 15 years juggling her time between the station and volunteering as President of a local grassroots initiative called the San Diego Animal Advocates.“I had always been an animal activist,” she says.  “What first got me motivated was reading how fur coats were made. That was a seminal moment for me because I was so horrified to think that this was going on. I needed to devote my life to trying to stop this kind of abuse.”
        In 2006 she found herself desiring to pursue animal rights full time. Being an admirer of the work of the Humane Society of the United States, and a “Midwesterner at heart,” she landed a position as the HSUS director of Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 2009 Fritz moved to Lansing to become the Michigan state director. There, she fights for animal rights and ethical treatment. “I kinda just do a little of everything,” she says “whether it’s working on legislation to improve treatment of animals in breeding facilities or helping with animal fighting. If I encounter suffering and there’s something I can do, I feel obligated to do so.”
        Now that her attention has turned to the controversial issue of wolf management, her name is popping up everywhere, from NPR reports to the Facebook pages of hunting groups. Naturally, not all of this publicity is positive. “Jill Fritz and the Humane Society intentionally use a lot of one-liners about the hunt that are distasteful in order to get signatures,” says Amy Trotter, Resource Policy Manager of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “Ballot box biology is not the way to do things because the areas with the most population get the say, and in this case they’re being dealt underhanded tactics.”
        For others like Nancy Warren, Great Lakes regional director of the National Wolf-Watcher Coalition, Fritz’s efficiency leaves a strong impression and high hopes for the campaign. “She is probably the most organized and focused person,” she says. “I’ve dealt with a lot of people from a lot of organizations. Jill is something else. She gets it done.”
        As the debate unfolds, and signatures are collected, Fritz is becoming a game-changer between citizens and management science. But Fritz hopes that the campaign will reach much farther than the mitten state. “Watching what happens in Michigan, I hope that the other states will see that many more people oppose the hunting and killing of wolves, they just haven’t had the chance to have their voices heard,” she says.

About mauraniemisto

I am a senior at the University of Michigan with a concentration in Program in the Environment. I also have minors in International Studies and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

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