Millions in Federal Sportsmen’s Dollars at Risk!

House Bill 4684 sponsored by Representative Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin) will be taken up in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation tomorrow despite warnings from federal officials that if the bill becomes enacted, the state would likely lose $25 million in annual federal wildlife funding. This is $10.5 million in wildlife funding, $2.3 million for hunters safety funding and $11.7 million for sport fish funding.

This bill prevents the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) from issuing orders to restrict one certain use, equestrian riding, on all “pack and saddle trailways…that currently are or at any time previously were used by pack and saddle animals.” This would give riders free rein over trails, regardless of conservation concerns or conflicts with other uses. This is where the problem lies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says the move would violate federal and state laws which allows Michigan to qualify for $25 million annually in federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration (WSFR) Funding, also known as Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funding. WSFR funds are generated by excise taxes on sporting equipment and qualifying states receive a distribution of the funds each year for wildlife and sportfish conservation programs. Basically, every time you purchase hunting or fishing equipment, you are contributing to these funds that come back directly to Michigan to support wildlife habitat and restoration. Consider it the sportsman’s circle of life.

The catch is, we only get that money back if we follow the law that says the use of hunter and angler dollars, whether it’s to buy land or maintain the habitat, should not be diverted to manage for other uses. Whether we like it or not, if the DNR can’t control the activities that are happening on game and fish purchased lands, we don’t receive our federal wildlife funding.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs believes that any bill that attempts to deny Michigan, regardless of the activity, these critical federal dollars – dollars that Michigan sportsmen and women have paid for through their purchasing of sporting goods and licenses – is not acceptable.

We ask that everyone call their State Representative and ask them to vote NO on HB 4684. It is unnecessary legislation that puts the conservation of Michigan’s fish and wildlife at risk.

House Bill 4684 is on the November 9, 2011 agenda of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation, which will meet at 307 House Office Building, in Lansing at 3:15 PM.

  • MHutchens

    While I totally agree with the need to defeat this bill, it should be noted that this problem is one that the DNR has created with their recent campaign against horseback usage on some public lands. Much like a few years ago when the snowmobile lobby attempted to eliminate sled dogs from the groomed trail system on public lands we are seeing more and more trails groomed for skiing in the winter being made off limits to equestrian users during the summer. It is an inherent problem when we label a section of public trail as a “snowmobile trail” or a “ski trail” that user group assumes that they own those trail sections. In most cases, the trails used for winter activities and maintained through grooming existed long before either snowmobiles or modern X-country skis were invented. The DNR is complicit in that they have named these trails on public land as “Snowmobile” or “ski” trails. In reality they are trails through public lands that the rest of us allow to be maintained to assist those user groups enjoy their activities, they WERE NOT deeded to a certain user group. Any time a user group attempts to usurp ownership of a section of public lands and eliminating all others from that land, they should expect resistance and any time an agency charged with managing public lands for all of the state’s citizens chooses to favor one group over another, they should expect to have the powers they are abusing to be curtailed.

    • Guest

      Well maybe they should let me ride my cows on state land too! Why do horse people get to use state land? I can’t let my cows pasture on the land?

  • Tgregory26

    Lets see a large portion of public land in our state is National Forest that’s Federal. A large portion of state land is from tax reversion and a large portion is purchased with land trust fund from the oil and gas leases.
    Just how much is actually WSFR ? What’s the percentage? How many existing trails cross such lands?

    I ride National Forest trails all the time . How does it suddenly become forbidden on state land purchased with Fed Money?

    How much “greener” can you get than a horse?
    How is it a horse interferes with conservation but motor vehicles don’t?

    I quit MUCC when they floated the trial balloon of limiting all equestrian use of state land from September thru January in a letter to legislators, even though they had no approved resolution from the clubs or members.

    I guess I just don’t see the “United” in MUCC anymore, limiting access to the outdoors hardly seems to fit , what good is State Land if you can’t use it

    • Kwood

      While this issue was brought up by horseback riders in the Pigeon River Country Forest, the issues with this bill are not about horseback riding per se.

      It is important to understand that horseback riding is NOT illegal on land purchased with sportsman’s funds. It is, however, an activity that, like all other activities, is required to be managed by the state fish and game agency, our DNR. The problem with this bill is not horses, it is the fact that the bill language would not allow the department to manage horseback riding on state fish and game areas. Even if hikers, campers, or hunters had a bill with similar language it would still be a bad idea, no matter what the user group is.

      Whether we like it or not, the requirements for receiving back our Federal sport fish and wildlife dollars are that the DNR has to have the right to manage uses that are not fish and game related.

      Again, the use of horses is not illegal, but the way they are going about demanding access is. This goes for any user group using state land.

      The issue of the DNR not providing sufficient access for some user groups should be looked at; but it is unacceptable to lose millions of dollars that sportsmen and women essential paid for with their equipment purchase to do so.

      • Tgregory26

        I’m not buying it its the same “cry Wolf” everytime. The bill is not asking for new access just to be able to use the trails that always existed before.
        Show me the science….why were they closed

        • Foxtrotin

          The DNR is always crying wolf about something, I just talked to MC Masters about the bill and he is putting in some lanauge in the bill that will not put Michigan in Diversion. From day one on this issue they are saying we would put the state in diversion, that is a crock the USFW says it is allowable recreation, infact I just came back from riding my horse in Missouri and they allow horseback riding on Pitman Robertson land. So why can’t Michigan do the same thing. I see it as some personal agendas in the DNR, probably because the horse people have gave them so much grief about this issue and haven’t went away. I think the DNR has a lot more important things to consider than this issue, all we ever hear is how broke they are. but what they are not telling you is how much Federal money they really get and what they spend it on,they don’t really want us to know. This green agenda is a lot bigger that we really know and that is what it really boils down to. When you get time google up United Nation Agenda 21 read it yourself and a lot thing will start make sence of what is happening in Michigan. They keep buying land and don’t really have the resources to manage it as they should, but they keep buying and buying and for what? To Keep US off the land that is purchased with We the Peoples Money from the Michigan Trust Fund. This money could be used for better things like improving the the Hunting and Fishing in this state.

        • Rork

          Kwood explained it about as clearly as can be imagined, but you still refuse to get the point.

  • T Ezop

    Sounds like a dumb move to even put a bill like that together. Why would the state want to give federal monies, just to allow horses only, if thats the way I read it.
    Make the trails open to all users.
    Will the horse people need to have a sticker on their mounts, same way as atv’s & sno machines do?

  • Joanne

    Don’t we have bigger problems than messing with what we already have??? Leave it alone already….Everyone should beable to use public lands!!

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