Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives on a largely party line vote chose to play politics with Michigan’s natural resources.
HB 6354, which would have decriminalized failure to report a deer harvest by reducing penalties from a misdemeanor and possible jail time to a civil infraction, was unanimously approved as introduced by the House Government Operations Committee. The Department of Natural Resources, MUCC and the Michigan State Advisory Council of the National Deer Association indicated their support and there was no opposition.
Only 5 hours later, it was amended on a voice vote on the House floor with many members of the body, the public, or stakeholder groups not even getting an opportunity to read the amendment.
The bill now removes the Natural Resource Commission’s (NRC) authority to ever require reporting of a deer harvest, a grave legislative overstep on NRC authority.
While Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) remains neutral on the implementation of mandatory deer harvest reporting, we will adamantly oppose attempts by the legislature to subvert the politically insulated commission process solidified in state law through Proposal G of 1996.
MUCC was founded in 1937 under the belief that politics should not play a role in the management of our natural resources. While the commission decision making process may at times be far from perfect it provides some level of insulation from political winds and is far superior to allowing wildlife management to occur by popular vote.
What are the real world implications of this maneuver by the legislature? In all likelihood, the Michigan Senate could rubber stamp the bill and the Governor will veto this legislation as passed out of the house. This means that non-compliance with mandatory harvest reporting will remain a misdemeanor, which the NRC and Department of Natural Resources had no authority or avenue to change on their own.
The legislature had an opportunity to support clean, and almost universally supported legislation, but instead chose to score political points to grab a few headlines prior to deer season.
MUCC’s executive board is taking up an emergency resolution on October 5th to support decriminalization of harvest reporting and may recommend further changes to what information is collected under reporting, however any changes to harvest reports will be brought to the NRC in the course of the regular deer hunting regulation cycle, which are up again for review in the spring.