by Nick Bade-Dodge, MUCC Policy Intern
The New Year brings in a new set of bills and the reintroduction of bills that did not make it through the legislature in 2014. Fortunately for the conservation community, some very important bills that did not make it through last year are moving steadily through the legislature in this new session.
Last year, MUCC proposed resolutions to implement legislation regarding the use of aerial drones. The resolutions took the form of two bills currently titled Senate bill 54 and 55. The bills were introduced together and thus, will move through the legislature together. Senate bill 54 prohibits the use of aerial vehicles to interfere with or harass hunters when taking game. This resolution was in response to multiple instances of drones being used by anti-hunting parties to harass hunters while practicing their right to hunt or fish. Senate Bill 55 prohibits the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for taking game as consistent with fair chase principles. Both bills are in their third reading in the legislature, which means that they are nearing the final stages of becoming laws.
Another bill to keep an eye on is House Bill 4078 that states the allocation of funds in the Natural Resource Trust Fund (NRTF) for this year. The NRTF provides funding for projects around the state such as renovation of parks and trails for outdoor recreational use and acquisition of land. The Trust Fund appropriations bill is currently making its way through the legislature where it has currently been referred to the Committee on Appropriations as of February 10 after its 3rd reading. The next appropriations meeting is February 18.
After Snyder announced his budget for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, we found that there had to be a cut of $103 million for this fiscal year. That means that there will be cuts across the board. However, this does not mean that the Department of Natural Resources’ budget will suffer too greatly. Although $1.5 million was cut from the Parks and Trails portion of the DNR budget, we will still be seeing some increases to conservation management, recreational shooting, and infrastructure improvements for state parks and recreation areas. The DNR budget still needs to pass through the legislature like other bills, so keep posted for updates on its status.