Rep. Glarden Hosts DNR Town Hall at Shiawassee Conservation Association
Beneath a portrait of James Oliver Curwood, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials answered questions from local hunters and anglers in a town hall meeting hosted by State Representative Ben Glarden (R – Owosso) at the Shiawassee Conservation Association on Monday night.
Douglas Reeves, Assistant Chief of the DNR Wildlife Division, and Dean Molnar, Assistant Chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division, answered questions for two hours on topics ranging from license fees and antler point restrictions to the upcoming wolf hunt. About 70 people were in attendance at the clubhouse, which served as the founding site of Michigan United Conservation Clubs in 1937. James Oliver Curwood, who helped purchase the land for the building, was a popular author and one of Michigan’s most outspoken conservationists in the early twentieth century.
Rep. Glarden gave the introduction, saying that he often receives questions about conservation issues from constituents that could be best answered directly by the DNR. He also said that it’s important to “protect and promote Michigan’s hunting and fishing heritage which is so vital to our state,” and stressed the importance of managing wildlife scientifically, rather than through special interests.
Douglas Reeves started off by letting the crowd know that there would be a wolf hunting season this year. He said it was a very carefully and well-thought-out season consisting of three zones that have had continuing issues with livestock and dog depredations. He also patiently responded to an upset citizen who thought that the zones should be larger and that the wolf population count was too low.
Reeves explained, though, that the wolf population count is conducted in the winter, when the population is at its lowest point before pups are born. He also said that the hunt is designed specifically to minimize future wolf depredation conflicts and that the zones could be expanded in future years in light of recent wolf attacks on hunting dogs and livestock outside of the current Wolf Management Units.
He also talked about EHD, saying that they were surprised at the abundance of deer in Shiawassee and Ionia Counties in areas away from the main watercourses home to the midges which spread the deadly disease to deer. The DNR changed southern Michigan Deer Management Unit boundaries to adjust more quickly to future EHD outbreaks.
Reeves also fielded several questions about proposed Antler Point Restrictions. He said that the Natural Resources Commission will send out surveys to a statistically valid sample of hunters in late November or early December. If the surveys are returned with 66% or more in favor, then the Natural Resources Commission would ask the Wildlife Division to draft a conservation order containing the APR proposal for their consideration. (The NRC has also asked for a comprehensive study of other states’ experiences with APR’s, as well as any relevant scientific literature, which could also inform their decision).
Dean Molnar started his law enforcement career with the DNR in 1989. He addressed the current shortage of conservation officers, saying that there were 172 field officers when he started as contrasted with 122 now. There are even four counties without an officer assigned to them.
However, thanks to general fund support, the DNR will hire 30 or more conservation officers. They are currently interviewing candidates and plan to start their training academy in January 2014. Additional revenue from the license fee reform will allow them to hire even more.
“We’re looking forward to building our ranks back up,” said Molner. He also said that with 54 retirements looming in the next five years, they expect to have more academies to train more conservation officers. Candidates have to go through extensive background checks.
“It’s a long process,” said Molner. “We hire nothing but the best.”
Perhaps the quote of the night came when a veteran stood up and said he didn’t mind paying his share of license fees for his opportunity to hunt. “Keep on hunting, brother,” replied Reeves.
The crowd was extremely interactive, showing their concern and interest in everything from APR’s and wolves to pheasant numbers and safe shooting distances from roads and buildings. Reeves and Molnar did a great job of explaining DNR policies, as did DNR Bear and Furbearer Specialist ( and 2013 MUCC Wildlife Conservationist of the Year) Adam Bump, who was pulled out of the crowd to help answer a few questions. And the crowd, like the portrait of Curwood above them, did a great job of looking over the DNR’s shoulder.