By Maddy O’Callaghan
Capital News Service
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has canceled its in-person classes for outdoor safety certificates and is now offering only online courses.
The decision to move to online classes for boating, snowmobile, off-road vehicles and hunting was made in the interest of public safety, according to Lt. Thomas Wanless, the hunter education administrator at the DNR.
All boaters born after June 30, 1996, must have a boater education card, according to the DNR. That requirement also applies to anyone who uses personal watercraft devices such as jet skis. All individuals under 16 have to complete ORV and snowmobile safety courses.
Once you have completed your recreational safety certification, you do not need to renew it.
Walness said that DNR offers hunter education through online and take-home methods, but those courses must be followed up with a face-to-face field day.
Because face-to-face field days were , hunters cannot receive their full certificates until DNR resumes in-person classes.
Wanless said those who want to earn a safety certificate can go online or check back later for in-person classes.
The DNR has provided online safety training courses for 15 years. Wanless said more than 19,400 students earned their recreation safety certificate online in 2018.
“The online training courses have been gaining in popularity over the last several years because of the flexibility in scheduling for the student,” Wanless said.
The courses are designed to be done at an individual’s own pace and are led by volunteer recreational safety instructors, deputy sheriffs and conservation officers.
Wanless said online courses have the same content and cost as classroom courses, and the exam questions are the same.
Because online is the only current option, Wanless said the DNR is expecting the number of students who take the online course to significantly increase during this year’s boating season.
Kathryn Kenny, the executive director of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau, said that although discretionary travel is prohibited through April 30, completing an online course for the future is a good idea.
“We’re not promoting any travel yet at all, but we recommend that anybody who is interested in being a boater this year take this time to stay at home and be prepared,” Kenny said. “Education is always a good thing.”