Camo at the Capitol: One Year Later
Almost a year ago, hundreds of hunters, anglers and trappers rallied on the Capitol steps and met with their legislators in support of the rights to hunt, fish and trap and in support of conservation funding. Thanks to the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling protecting shooting ranges, we’ve now accomplished all three priorities that we advocated for at Camo at the Capitol, and we’re in the middle of a tough fight to keep one of them.
The three issues that sportsmen and women advocated for at last year’s Camo at the Capitol were the rights to hunt, fish and trap, conservation funding and shooting range protections. Specifically, we asked the Legislature to support Senate Bill 288, which allowed the Natural Resources Commission to name game species and issue fisheries orders while providing free licenses to active military members; Senate Bill 289, which created a collective right to hunt, fish and trap in Michigan; restructured license fees to increase conservation funding for fish and wildlife habitat and conservation officers; and House Bill 4580, which would clarify that the Sport Shooting Ranges Act does not exclude ranges with commercial activities from its protections against restrictive zoning.
On May 8, 2013, Governor Snyder signed Senate Bills 288 and 289 into law. At that point, it was the biggest victory for hunting rights since 1996’s Proposal G. Senate Bill 288 ensured that when we decide as a state what species of wildlife will be hunted, the decision will be made based on the recommendations of professional biologists, not misleading political advertisements. And Senate Bill 289, for the first time ever, made hunting and fishing rights in Michigan. Since then, though, the anti-hunters (led by the Humane Society of the United States) have submitted enough signatures to referendum SB 288. That’s why we’re in the homestretch of collecting our own signatures for the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which would protect the provisions of SB 288 and create a $1 million rapid response fund to fight Asian carp. Volunteer today!
On September 17, 2013, Governor Snyder signed House Bill 4668, which enacted hunting and fishing license fee changes which simplified the license system, raised some fees, lowered others, and is expected to generate over $19 million in conservation funding. Significantly, the conservation community insisted on transparency in how that funding is spent, and MUCC analyzed how their spending projections aligned with their divisional strategic plans to ensure they were consistent. We’ll continue to monitor spending to ensure that revenues from hunting and fishing licenses are spent as advertised, such as on fish and wildlife habitat and conservation officers.
And just last week, the Michigan Supreme Court issued its ruling in Addison Township v. Barnhart, the case that prompted the proposed shooting range protection legislation. The Michigan Court of Appeals had ruled that the Sport Shooting Ranges Act – which protects ranges from nuisance zoning ordinances that could force them to close – does not apply to ranges that have commercial activities, even though that language does not appear in the act. So the Legislature introduced a bill that would clarify that commercial activities do not exclude a range from protections under the act. And just before Camo at the Capitol, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments in that case, in which MUCC had filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief. After almost a year’s wait, the Court issued its ruling on April 1 and sided with the shooting range (and MUCC’s analysis in the brief) that nowhere in the Sport Shooting Range Act did it exclude ranges with commercial activities from its protection. And no, it was not an April Fool’s joke.
The hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation community has made some tremendous gains in the last year, especially the priorities we advocated for at Camo at the Capitol. We’re in the middle of a tough fight to keep those gains, though, and we need your help to keep them. Specifically, we need more volunteers to collect signatures for the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act at the Cabela’s stores in Dundee and Grand Rapids, and at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn Hills, especially on the the weekends. As we’ve seen over the last year, we can accomplish significant things when we’re active and work together as a community. Volunteer today!