House Subcommittee Trims Proposed DNR FY 2015 Budget
Back in January, in Governor Snyder’s State of the State address he touched on the importance of Michigan’s high quality natural resources and pledged to continue his support for them. In his February Budget Message, Governor Snyder backed up those earlier comments with a 70% General Fund increase to the DNR and a 40% General Fund increase to the DEQ. This type of General Fund investment in natural resources is unprecedented.
However, on March 20th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources cut $11 million in General Fund (GF) from the $47 million Gov. Snyder had proposed. This still represents a $10 million GF increase over the DNR’s current annual budget and House DNR Subcommittee Chair Representative Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) believes that much of this funding could be restored as the appropriations bill moves through the process in the House and Senate.
The biggest cut was the $4 million in proposed new funding for wildfire protection and forest management. This funding is particularly important as the DNR’s wildfire program commonly works to protect private land as well as State Forests, yet this effort has most recently been funded primarily through State Forest timber sales. Each fire season in Michigan we have seen the result of major forest fires in recent years, which literally “burns up” the money that would otherwise be used to manage the forest for wildlife habitat, timber, and recreation.
Other proposed Budget Recommendations that are on the chopping block include:
- $2.5 million to expand Michigan’s Trails, to create more non-motorized trails and help to establish the proposed Belle Isle to Wisconsin trail;
- $1 million in ongoing funding from the proposed $6 million for the Invasive Species Initiative, leaving $3 million in program support and $2 million for local grants.
- $1 million to merge and expand the Michigan Conservation Corps with the Summer Youth Initiative Program
- $2.625 million in GF dedicated to state parks repair and maintenance.
An additional $125,000 was added in a new line item to fund a DNR position to work with public and private forest landowners and audit the state’s best management practices for water quality and forestry.
We must remain vigilant to call on our Michigan Representatives and Senators to restore many of these cuts as the budget makes it through the legislature. As of press time, the Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee has not voted on the proposed budget and we hope much of what was included in the Executive Budget is preserved so these differences can be worked out in the conference committee.
Despite these cuts in the House Subcommittee, MUCC still believes proposed increase in General Fund shows that our natural resources are finally being recognized as the important economic drivers they are for Michigan; hunting and fishing alone generate $4.8 billion annually for Michigan’s economy. We will solidify the power of sportsmen and women here in Michigan when Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management completes its petition drive this May to protect scientific management and enact an additional $1 million appropriation for a ready-response fund to combat aquatic invasive species.
Stay tuned to mucc.org to follow the DNR Budget process and for more detailed information you can also visit the House Fiscal Agency’s website here: http://www.house.mi.gov/hfa/Naturalresources.asp
MUCC continues to work with the Natural Resources Commission to ensure that the DNR upholds its promise of transparency and accountability for the use of our hunting, fishing, and trapping license dollars, and particularly our Game and Fish, Deer Range Improvement Program (DRIP), Fisheries Settlement, and Turkey funds are used for their intended purposes. We have been working over the last several months to develop a tracking mechanism (scorecard), a working draft of which can be downloaded from the DNR’s website here: http://michigan.gov/documents/dnr/DNR-lcns-restrt-sccd_449122_7.pdf. This is still a work in process, but we would welcome your comments as we move forward!