Michigan lawmakers propose wildlife council to promote hunting, fishing

by Eric Freedman

The council can be created with the projected $1.6 million the Department of Natural Resources estimates it will generate from the hunting and fishing license increase. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons.

The council can be created with the projected $1.6 million the Department of Natural Resources estimates it will generate from the hunting and fishing license increase. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons.

Fresh from Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval of the first hike in hunting and license fees since 1997, lawmakers now want to establish a way to use the $1-per-license surcharge for media and promotion.

Their bill would create a Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund to finance a new wildlife council. The council would develop “a comprehensive media-based public information program to educate this state’s general public about the benefits of wildlife, wildlife management and the important role that licensed hunters, anglers, trappers, sportsmen and sportswomen play in wildlife and wildlife management.”

The state will collect the $1 surcharge, which was included in the new fee structure, on base licenses, combined hunting and fishing licenses, and all-species fishing licenses. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates it will generate $1.6 million the first full year.

Under the bill, the DNR director would appoint unpaid council members, including active hunters and anglers and representatives of agriculture and of businesses “substantially impacted” by fishing and hunting.

DNR public information officer Ed Golder said, “The primary purpose of the $1 surcharge is to promote public acceptance of hunting and fishing among the non-hunting and non-fishing public, and to educate people about the primary source of conservation funding in Michigan, which is the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.”

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Jon Bumstead, said of anglers and hunters: “We basically pay our way.

“We need to educate the public,” said Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “DNR is good at a lot of things, but marketing isn’t one of them.”

And Erin McDonough, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said most people don’t know that license fees “pay for the lion’s share” of the costs to manage the state’s natural resources, benefiting other outdoor sports like hiking, kayaking and cycling.

“That’s the reason these resources – Pure Michigan – are here,” McDonough said.

Boosters of the fund say Colorado’s “Hug a Hunter” and “Hug an Angler” media campaigns have been successful. Michigan will be the second state to undertake such a program, McDonough said.

Effective next March, most hunting and fishing fees will rise. Revenue from the fee hike – estimated at $18.1 million the first full year, not counting the surcharge – will be spent to improve fishing and hunting opportunities, including habitat protection, and for conservation officers and wildlife biologists.

In license year 2012, Michigan sold 2.4 million hunting and 1.2 million fishing licenses, up slightly from 2011.

So far this license year, it has sold 1.2 million hunting licenses. Golder said that number will jump substantially when the license year ends next February 28 because most are sold during deer season.

Forty-five legislators introduced the bill one day after Snyder signed the license fee increase. Cosponsors include Reps. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City; John Kivela, D-Marquette; Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck; Ray Franz, R-Onekama; Joel Johnson, R-Clare; Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle; Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township; Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills; Frank Foster, R-Petoskey; and Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes.

The bill is pending in the House Natural Resources Committee.

  • Tom M.

    Yep interest picks up when they come in where more people can get at them, lasts 2 3 weeks, a month before they rot. Steelheaders will be out untill ice but not in any numbers like was and could be people fishing Perch in good weather, year round. Scoopy listen to yourself, “nobody has time to go fishing, to busy, but everybody has time to fish salmon”???? The majority of your available customer base can’t afford to fish salmon in the big lake, $500. bucks for a 4 hour charter etc… you want numbers you offer a product that everyone can afford and do! Salmon ain’t it. People lining the river banks to catch salmon hasn’t happened since the 70″s when they were new. Very few people fishing on the channel this year. Still only a couple weeks or so before they rot. Also the salmon alewife plan affects every other user group and the health of the lake. Did you know the alewives eat the same zooplankton we don’t want the Asian Carp to eat? The same zooplankton ALL fish need, the lake needs to be healthy? Plus they eat native larval fish? Alewives alone can wipe out all the zooplankton in Lake Michigan in a matter of days! Based on records the alewives alone depending on population levels can wipe out all zooplankton in between 5 to 50 days! With or without zebra mussels! So why are we trying to fill the lake back up with alewives? They eat the same zooplankton we don’t want asian carp to eat, at high levels same impact as asian carp! Destroy the whole lake for one fish? Not good business or marketing. It’s like burning down your store to sell charcoal!

  • Scoop

    Your song, error-filled as it is, is at least consistent. Have you been to the east shore Michigan rivers this fall? They’ve been packed with shore and wading anglers for more than a month now. Their target? Salmon, along with an occasional trout.

  • Tom M.

    Sorry, the lakes overrun with invasive species, the best “plan” they have is to increase invasive species. Based on 2012 costs with this it would add up to about $29 million dollars spent by the MDNR “communicating”. Anyone buying a fishing license next year is forced to buy a salmon/trout all species license whether they want one or not, (most do not). The too busy, video game excuses are getting very old. Americans at work talk about what they’re going to do after work, can’t wait for the buzzer, live for the weekend, not thier jobs. Apparently all the thousands of people fishiung in Saginaw bay are unemployed no accounts, who can’t afford video games, but they can afford boats and bait. Regardless, hot Perch fishing, please not for a very long time, spurts but not consistant and the entire fishery threatened to collapse (not just the stinkin salmon) by said invasives and the asian carp. Managing the entire fishery for one fish, one tiny user group is the problem, not marketing. Overfishing inland lakes problem No.2. The salmon experiment is a collosal failure both biologically and financially, whatever mone generated for the few, costs the many billions in invasive species “control” costs not to mention, those costs spreading across the state and country. 50 lakes in Minnesota have spiny fleas now, had to come from here, zebras, gobies etc… spreading the joy, came from here. Mismanagement of the highest order, just so some jerk can brag he puts a thousand bucks worth of gas in his salmon boat and everybody knows his name? The DNR gets paid to protect the natural resources, not selfish people or invasive species!

  • Scoop

    Tom, you’re missing the real reason there’s a decline nationally in fishing and hunting. It’s a lifestyle change of the wired/wireless world, a down economy (look no further than what has happened in Detroit, for example) and a whole host of other factors. A number of studies have found “lack of time” as today’s families are busier than ever. “Not catching fish” is incorrect in many if not most cases. One example: right now the perch fishing is on fire in many bays and lakes across the Great Lakes, yet only a small percentage of diehards have the time or make the effort to get out there (in my area, it’s mostly the retired folks).

    Often, marketing campaigns being done nationwide are efforts to increase awareness of those who might not know a lot about fishing and hunting. Mentors are sometimes involved to get things jump-started. Single parents or inner city folks are sometimes targeted, again to raise awareness. There are more than two million folks in Michigan who don’t need to be marketed to, as they already know the value. But it’s good business for a fish and game department to keep marketing something that brings in not only money for their programs and projects (and yes, salaries), but also money to the state as a whole in economic impact.

  • Tom M.

    The MDNR needs to get back to it’s core function, protecting our natural resources. Good fishing does not need to be marketed, if people aren’t fishing somewhere, it’s usually because they’re not catching fish. Saginaw Bay is a perfect example, the only thing protecting the Walleyes is the weather. Good weather boat lauches packed. No advertizing campaign I’m aware of. If your hugging a fisherman your crowding his spot!

  • Scoop

    Harold, can you show some links to the acreage Michigan has clear cut in the past decade vs. what they’ve left alone? I think you’d be surprised to see that there’s a whole lot more tree-hugging going on than you portray here. Forests are renewable resources, and young growth is terrific for most wildlife.

  • Doug

    Snyder and his clones in the MI legislature seem to forget that wildlife is not just fish and game. Don’t call it a “wildlife council” if it just deals with game fish and species that are hunted.
    Missing, it seems, from the list of groups to be represented on the council are those concerned about non-game wildlife, the spread of invasive species (especially invasive aquatics spread by anglers using boats), etc.

  • Harold

    I have nothing against hunters and fishermen–heck, I’m one of ‘em–but it’s a crock that hunters and fisherman are the sole reason that we have conservation in Michigan, and that’s what this campaign is really trying to promote. Granted, in the past the DNR has done some good things, but the mismanagement of our state lands is really getting to be disturbing. The DNR has no plan to appropriately manage OUR public land to sustain the full range of natural habitats which we are blessed with–in particular, old growth or “ancient” forests. The politicians who run the DNR seem bent to clear-cut every state forest we have–and it is truly alarming to see the amount of clear-cutting which is wiping out forest habitat. The DNR seems all-too-concerned about “trees” for timber companies–and not with forests. Of course, a lot of the clear cuts are to promote excessive deer populations…but that’s not conservation.