Recreation Passport Opt-Out Proposal Highlighted in Budget Considerations

The recreation passport opt-out proposal was the focus of the budget considerations for the state’s natural resources department.

Throughout the last two weeks, Scott Bowen, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), presented the department’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2024-25 to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development and Natural Resources, as well as the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

The recreation passport opt-out proposal would flip Michigan’s current recreation passport application structure from opt-in to opt-out.

The “opt-out” proposal would require Michiganders to check a box on their registration form indicating they don’t want to participate in buying the Recreation Passport. Currently, about 38% of Michiganders opt-in. 

Increasing participation in recreation passports would provide parks with critical funding that they are currently lacking. 

The estimated $21 M increase would fund general park operations and necessary maintenance of recreation areas and boating access sites.

Some have voiced concerns about the nature of the opt-out, saying that it could be too burdensome for residents to understand and follow the system change. 

When asked, Bowen said, “It’s not too much of a burden.” He then emphasized the proposal’s importance as a mechanism to fund future projects and repairs in our world-class parks.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) supports the proposal said Justin Tomei, MUCC policy and Government affairs manager.

“Director Bowen placed needed emphasis shoring up park funding in his budget presentations to lawmakers,” Tomei said. “MUCC stands with the department in supporting the recreation passport opt-out. Our parks need this long-term sustainable funding structure.”

Wetlands are also on the priority list, and $1 million in restricted funds (RF) is being proposed for acquiring and expanding new wetland properties, specifically in Southwest Michigan. This money would also be used to restore and enhance existing wetlands in the state. 

The proposed budget would also give the department a technology update, with nearly $880,000 in general funds (GF) going towards a Radio and Modem Lifecycle Investment Plan. This plan would enable the DNR to replace and update important communication technologies on a life-cycle basis. Additionally, $700,000 would be put toward replacing the department’s incident and records management system, which their Law Enforcement Division uses.

The proposed budget also included the following: 

  • Funding for one new full-time equivalent (FTE) to assist the Land and Water Conservation Fund and aid communities in accessing funding for outdoor recreation projects.
  • An increase in FTEs to enhance the department’s cultural resource management abilities. 
  • $890,000 (gross) in response to increased costs and mileage rates for the department’s vehicle fleet. 
  • $177,500 to assist local harbors and boating access sites through the waterways funding program.
  • $147,500 to align state boating infrastructure maintenance with federal funding. 
  • $300,000 for state parks repair and maintenance. 

The budget proposal does not include funding for the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program or cormorant control funding. 

Both of these items are top budget priorities for MUCC, and discussions with legislators are ongoing, said Tomei.

“With budgets largely flatlined for fiscal year 2025, some important conservation priorities got left on the cutting room floor,” said Tomei. “MUCC has engaged legislators to ensure these important conservation priorities are properly funded in the budget. These funding priorities provide meaningful real-world impacts to Michigan’s hunters, trappers, and anglers.”

MUCC will continue to monitor the proposed DNR budget as it goes through the appropriations process. 

To ensure our natural resources remain protected and managed thoughtfully in perpetuity, join Michigan United Conservation Clubs today:

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