Over the past six days, Michigan United Conservation Clubs has received hundreds of communications from members, the angling community and citizens throughout Michigan. These communications have conveyed concern over the recent Executive Order (EO) 2020-42 and its subsequent interpretation.
First and foremost, MUCC is very sensitive to the public health crisis facing Michiganders. We have received a number of communications from those within our MUCC family who are being directly affected by this novel virus. The decisions that follow were not taken lightly, and this has weighed heavily on those you have chosen to represent you.
Two overwhelming issues emerged from member communications:
- The interpretation, and subsequent enforcement, that motorboating is not allowed per the “Frequently Asked Questions” sections of the Michigan DNR and governor’s websites.
- The language surrounding shooting ranges and how that applies to sportsmen’s clubs throughout the state. It is unclear whether they are allowed to remain open, as most are volunteer-based and not staffed. In the governor’s FAQs, the shooting range issue is addressed, which does not take into account the vast majority of ranges owned and operated by MUCC-affiliated rod and gun clubs. We recommend taking this issue up with local law enforcement based on your individual facility’s operations to determine rules and procedures for safe outdoor recreation and will follow up directly with our affiliate club presidents and primary contacts with additional information.
On Tuesday, MUCC consulted with an attorney to discuss if legal action was appropriate. The MUCC Executive Board convened Wednesday night to receive and review all available options to represent our clubs and members. MUCC retained Aaron Phelps, a partner with Varnum LLP based in Grand Rapids, for legal representation as it relates to the application of the EO to motorized boating.
The MUCC Executive Board convened again on Thursday afternoon to make a final decision regarding the organization’s actions moving forward. The board heard summaries from MUCC’s lobbying firm, McAlvey, Merchant and Associates, and Phelps regarding political and legal options.
In a 14 to 1 vote, with one board member absent, the MUCC Executive Board voted to file a lawsuit challenging Executive Order 2020-42 as applied to motorized boating. The complaint is expected to be filed soon.
This morning, a letter was sent to Gov. Whitmer expressing our concerns with EO 2020-42. Included in that communication was DNR Director Dan Eichinger, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, House Minority Leader Christine Greig and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich.
MUCC and its members fully understand the risks that areas like the Detroit River, Tippy Dam and Saginaw Bay boat launches have posed. In the spring, these areas are flooded with anglers from all over Michigan and out of state. We support measures to mitigate risks in these highly-frequented locations. However, these are only a few small examples of the thousands of public and private accesses we have throughout Michigan that are infrequently visited by people with motorboats and could be vital to Michiganders’ mental health and wellbeing during this time.
We can not stress enough our empathy for those of you who have been impacted by the novel coronavirus. You are in our thoughts, and united we shall stand.
Since 1937, Michigan United Conservation Clubs has united citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage. It has, and always will be, our duty to provide hunters and anglers a voice in Michigan. We hope you understand that unanimous consensus is almost impossible.
MUCC staff and leadership have been faced with difficult decisions about how to represent you in the short-term while having long-term strategies in mind. Since our founding, we have worked through both strained and prosperous relationships with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Legislature, the governor’s office and the Natural Resources Commission. This issue will not be an exception.
Michigan anglers and recreational boaters are entitled to clear and unambiguous rules, and they should not be subject to criminal penalties based on arbitrary interpretations of a unilateral order in an FAQ.
MUCC recommends anglers abide by all social distancing protocols and health best-practices per the Center for Disease Control while recreating.
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