Throughout the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) 100-year history, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has proved to be one of the department’s most valuable partners and critics.

On March 30, the DNR celebrated the 100-year birthday of the Michigan Department of Conservation –– the first iteration of the DNR. The department was born out of necessity in the early days of the modern-day conservation movement when expansive restoration efforts were needed to re-establish wildlife populations and sustainable management practices. 

MUCC’s founding, and direct relationship with the state department, was predicated on the idea that the governor of Michigan should not have appointment power of the DNR director ––  the idea was that the power should be left to a bipartisan body with a vested interest in our natural resources, such as the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) or its predecessor. It’s an idea that existed for nearly 90 years.

Nonetheless, through good times and bad, MUCC has stood next to the DNR and Michigan’s natural resources –– often answering the call of stakeholder engagement, grassroots mobilization and direct advocacy, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter.

“MUCC’s relationship with the DNR illustrates a decades-old, mutually-beneficial relationship in which the betterment of our natural resources helps both organizations flourish,” Trotter said. “We are equally ready to call on them to act when needed as we are to defend them when justified.”

Major shared victories exist for both of the organizations; however, none compare to the single most iconic piece of legislation in each organization’s resume: the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

This required a coordinated effort with the state’s conservation department and leading conservation organization. MUCC and the DNR were able to effectively work together, with the Michigan legislature, to create a lasting piece of Michigan’s conservation heritage that benefits all Michiganders spanning generations. Thanks to the continuous efforts of MUCC and partner groups, this revenue stream is now also protected in the constitution in perpetuity.

DNR Director Daniel Eichinger said the last 100 years and the next 100 are only possible because of the foresight of past conservationists.

“One of the things that is really gratifying about this work – and I think why those who work in this space are so passionate about it – is that the resources that we enjoy today are in such good condition because of work that was done, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago,” Eichinger said. “There were people who came before us who had the long-term vision to say, ‘I might not necessarily see all the fruits of my efforts today, but I know future generations will be able to derive benefit from them.’”

There’s a reason MUCC is the organization policymakers, rulemakers and biologists turn to when they are contemplating changes that will affect the hunting, trapping, angling and conservation community, Trotter said.

“We’ve established credibility with the DNR and have proven our worth as a valuable stakeholder,” Trotter said. “It is no coincidence that when natural resources policy or rules change, MUCC is invited to those tables on the frontend to lend its expertise in coalition building and grassroots advocacy.”

Each year, in an effort to make sure MUCC members are well-informed and have the best available science, MUCC proposed resolutions are reviewed by DNR staff prior to the MUCC Annual Convention to ensure scientific and factual accuracies.

MUCC has worked on far more than just conservation policy with the department, though.

From MUCC’s award-winning On the Ground program, which is funded through a memorandum of agreement with the department, to Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp, which is housed in the state-owned Waterloo Recreation Area, MUCC is able to effectively and efficiently help foster in the next generation of conservation stewards because of the DNR’s partnership with MUCC.

Trotter said the list of joint accomplishments between the DNR and MUCC is long, but it’s a relationship that still takes work.

“MUCC has stood on its own for more than 80 years because we aren’t afraid to be the DNR’s watchdog and challenge ideas when necessary,” Trotter said. “It’s because of this give-and-take relationship that both entities have grown, flourished and learned from one another.”

So, on this 100-year anniversary, join MUCC in saying thank you to Michigan’s DNR, all of its present and former staff and all of the future employees who will help to make Michigan, its conservation successes and our freshwater resources the greatest in the union.

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