The Line in the Sand: SB 288 and Scientific Wildlife Management
So this is the line in the sand. This is where Michigan’s hunters, anglers and trappers will either stand up for their rights to hunt, fish and trap, for scientific wildlife management, and for the separation of conservation from politics, or where we will be silent and once again lose hunting rights to out-of-state anti-hunters.
Legislation called the Scientific Wildlife Management package (SB 288 & 289, HB 4552 & 4553) has been introduced to affirm and expand Michigan’s commitment to sound scientific wildlife management that will send the Humane Society of the United States packing back to D.C. It will also create a statutory right to hunt and fish, provide free licenses to members of the military, expand the Natural Resources Commission’s mandate to use sound science to fisheries orders and game species designation, and provide conservation funding for fish and wildlife research and management.
And this bill package is under attack by the same anti-hunters who took your right to hunt doves in 2006 and are trying to block the wolf hunt now – the Humane Society of the United States. They’ve even sent an email to their list telling them this would lead to “dog, cat and horse” hunting. Seriously – I can’t make this stuff up (though they don’t seem to have a problem with it). Like a wolf that’s lost its fear of humans, they’ll keep coming back into Michigan to attack your hunting rights one by one until we do something about it. The SB 288 and the rest of the Scientific Wildlife Management package will take care of real wolf depredations and the metaphorical ones, too.
I can’t overstate the significance of what passing the Scientific Wildlife Management package would mean for Michigan sportsmen and women. Since MUCC’s founding in 1937 we’ve fought to keep politics out of conservation by defending, promoting and enhancing the commission form of decision-making in conservation issues. It hasn’t been easy. Recent years have seen authority removed from the NRC, like when former Governor Granholm removed its authority to appoint the DNR Director, an issue that actually led to the formation of MUCC when a previous governor tried to do the same in 1937. SB 288 actually expands the NRC’s authority, and in the process implements the promise of Proposal G that fish and game decisions will be made by sound science.
Unfortunately, the anti-hunters fighting these bills ignore Michigan’s conservation history and have taken to calling the NRC, “political bureaucrats,” and “an unelected body of unpaid appointees.” They need to read up. The NRC was structured precisely to keep “political bureaucrats” out of the conservation decision-making process. They serve staggered terms – as they have since 1929 – so that no one governor could stack it. And in 1996, Michigan voters overwhelmingly voted for Proposal G, which mandated that the NRC use sound science in its wildlife management decisions and that it have exclusive authority over game management decisions.
There is no other decision-making body in Michigan that has this mandate to use sound science in conservation issues. Not a governor, not the legislature, not the courts, and certainly not a ballot committee funded by out-of-state special interests with a history of hyperbole. The only way to ensure that the decision of whether or not to designate wildlife as game species is done using sound science is to allow that decision to be made by the only body required to use sound science – the NRC.
The Sierra Club’s complaint about the original wolf bill was that the legislature didn’t use enough sound science to justify their passage of the bill, but the legislature isn’t required to use sound science – the Natural Resources Commission is. And when the DNR presented that science to the NRC, the anti-hunting crowd was nowhere to be found. SB 288 and HB 4552 extend that sound science mandate to naming a game species and provide the funding to make sure that science can be presented upon which to base that decision.
This bill package is about much more than wolf management, though, even though that’s all the media has covered thus far. I’ve already covered why it makes sense to have the NRC designate game species – they’re the only body that could make that decision that is mandated to use sound science. SB 288 and HB 4552 also extend the NRC’s authority to issue fisheries orders, using the same criteria.
How about a million dollars in conservation funding to make sure that the DNR can conduct the research necessary to make sound scientific recommendations to the NRC? Does anyone think that additional funding for fish and wildlife research and management and hunter/angler recruitment and outreach – like youth outdoor education – is a negative thing for fish and wildlife? The funding also helps assure that Michigan receives its full share of Pittman-Robertson funding due to federal match requirements and high firearm and ammunition sales this year. SB 288 also provides free licenses for active members of the military, which is the least we can do.
The companion bills, SB 289 and HB 4553, create a statutory right to hunt and fish subject to regulations and law, and makes the protection of those rights a purpose of NREPA, Michigan’s natural resources statute. We have the right to do those things at common law through the public trust doctrine, but expressly listing these rights puts any doubt to rest. It would also put to bed the anti-hunters’ nonsensical talking point that sound science somehow means that we must prove that science shows that a species must be hunted in order to do so.
A statutory right to hunt clarifies that the anti-hunters would have to present sound science that a species couldn’t be hunted without threatening its viability. And we know with the success of the North American Model of Conservation that we have never lost a species through modern regulated hunting. If you want to create a group of people who will truly champion a species, then make hunters, anglers or trappers for that species. Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association, Trout Unlimited, just to name a few: Camo is the original “green.”
The Scientific Wildlife Management package is the fulfillment of the promise of Proposal G. It’s a step forward in the struggle to free conservation from politics for which Michigan conservationists have been fighting for a century. This is it: Comprehensive conservation legislation that expands the authority of the NRC, expands the separation of conservation from politics, expands the mandate to use sound science, and protects the rights to hunt and fish.
This is the line in the sand. Pick up the phone call your legislators. In 1996, hunters and anglers banded together and passed Proposal G. In 2006, we lost the mourning dove hunt. What happens now is up to you.