A rough year: Motorboats, shooting ranges, fishing guides and COVID

One year ago, Michigan boaters and anglers had their ability to enjoy Michigan’s natural resources taken away from them via an executive order (EO) and subsequent interpretation.

EO 2020-42, issued by Gov. Whitmer and related to a ban on certain outdoor activities, did not specifically prohibit motor boating. However, on a “Frequently Asked Questions” web page published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), motor boating was included in the list of prohibited activities, and MUCC members were issued citations for violation of the ban’s interpretation.

MUCC solicited legal advice on the matter almost immediately following issuance of the order and crafted a letter to the governor. When it became clear that the DNR and governor’s office had dug in on their prohibition of motor boating, MUCC then filed suit against DNR Director Daniel Eichinger and Whitmer in federal court alleging that the legal language of the EO did not align with its interpretation.

Almost immediately following the MUCC court filing, the governor and DNR director rescinded the FAQ disallowing the use of motor boats. Without MUCC’s members stepping up to help with legal costs and Michigan residents becoming mobilized, boaters and anglers would have remained docked and been unable to enjoy recreational boating and fishing opportunities last spring.

MUCC would also like to thank Aaron Phelps and Varnum Law for their legal services. Without Aaron and his team, MUCC would not have presented the case it did and been successful in a timely fashion.

This is only one small example of MUCC’s fight to protect your rights as a hunter, angler, trapper and conservationist in Michigan. While we fully understand the hard decisions the administration and those we have entrusted to manage our natural resources had to make, MUCC fully believes that the outdoors has been and will continue to be a place of respite for millions of Michiganders as we move to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shooting ranges

Included in the aforementioned EO were provisions that disallowed the operation of shooting ranges –– a major source of income for many of our MUCC-affiliate clubs.

MUCC began its advocacy work on the matter by sending a letter to the governor and offered suggestions of how orders could be tailored to allow this mostly-socially-distant sport.

MUCC demonstrated through multiple calls, letters and meetings with policymakers, stakeholders and the administration that shooting ranges would not be a significant source of COVID-19 spread if proper social distancing measures were adhered to. 

In the governor’s subsequent issuance of an EO related to the matter, shooting ranges were able to reopen provided social distancing protocols were adhered to.

MUCC understands that the time shut down for many clubs created a significant decrease in income. The organization is only as strong as its affiliates, and we are proud that we were able to represent and achieve action for the more than 200 affiliate clubs that call themselves a part of the MUCC family.

Fishing Guides

Around the same time that shooting ranges were forced closed, Michigan fishing guides were also ramping up for a busy spring season. However, an EO issued in April prevented guides from operating.

MUCC heard from fishing guides throughout the state who couldn’t afford to lose a season of fishing. After days of deliberation and working through what safe social distancing would look like on guided trips, MUCC sent a letter to the governor proposing measures that would limit clients based on guides’ ability to social distance but still allow them to operate.

On May 7, fishing guides were permitted to return to work if social distancing measures were followed. MUCC understands that the lost income in April and from running smaller-than-normal trips is irreplaceable, but the organization was proud to represent our fishing guide community and do everything in our power to get them back on the water and making a living.

A Rough Year

While this has been an extraordinarily tough year, we hope you understand that MUCC stands by its members and affiliate clubs –– you are our strength and we are your voice.

Moving forward, MUCC looks forward to continued engagement on the conservation issues challenging us, and we are hopeful that the rest of 2021 will see some return to normalcy.

As we work through defeating COVID-19, we look forward to returning to work on the important resolutions our members have passed through our grassroots process. We are optimistic that the legislature will ramp up work on non-COVID bills with more priority and that we may, at some time this year, attend in-person Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meetings.

Nonetheless, we are all in this boat together. Thanks for sticking with us through this unprecedented year –– we are all undoubtedly stronger because of it. To those among our ranks that we have lost to this terrible disease, your memory will not be forgotten. And our hearts go out to friends and family who lost loved ones. Together we are strong. United we will flourish. Together, we are conservation.

Since 1937, MUCC has united citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage – and we do so from Lansing to Washington D.C. Please join us today: http://bit.ly/JoinMUCC.

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