SALEM, Ohio — A circuit court judge in Michigan has dismissed lawsuits between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and a pig farmer who challenged the state’s invasive species order banning feral pigs.
Missaukee County Chief Judge William M. Fagerman dismissed the case Feb. 26 on the basis that the farmer — Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres — no longer possessed the type of pigs that were banned.
Baker had been breeding Mangalista hogs with Russian Boars to produce a winter-hardy hybrid, and had been marketing the meat to his customers as a specialty product.
Related: Michigan farmer fights to keep hogs he raises
Enforcement of the invasive species order went into effect April 1, 2012.
At that time, the Department of Natural Resources fined Baker $700,000, or $10,000 per hog, for continuing to keep the banned pigs. Baker and his legal counsel spent the past two years arguing his pigs were not feral — that they had never gotten loose and posed no harm to other animals or to the state.
Ed Golder, public information officer for Michigan DNR, said officials discovered through the proceedings that Baker no longer possesses the banned hogs and there essentially was “no longer anything to be fighting about.”
The ISO names certain types of hogs that are banned, and a declaratory ruling includes a physical description of what those hogs look like. Golder said Baker’s hogs — while they may still have some Russian boar genetics — no longer possess the physical traits of hogs that are banned.
Those physical traits include certain characteristics related to color, underfur, skeletal appearance, tail and ear structure.“(Baker’s hogs are) acceptable because they don’t have the distinctive phenotypical characteristics of Russian Boar,” Golder said.
In addition, Golder said the fines — which he said Baker had not yet paid — would be suspended.“Mr. Baker is in compliance with the Invasive Species Order and Michigan law, which is exactly the outcome we sought when the cases began,” Golder said.
This is a relief for Baker, who can keep the hogs he has without fines. But his legal counsel, Michelle Halley, of Marquette, Mich., said she’s in the process of determining any long-standing damages.
She said Baker’s hogs should have been found legal all along, because they were hybrids of Russian Boar. She is not yet sure how much damages will be, but said they would include legal fees Baker spent fighting the case.
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