What's happening with Michigan's HAP
Michigan hunters – especially those who live in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula – should weigh in during the comment period for the Department of Natural Resources' Hunting Access Program (HAP) before the June 8 deadline. The DNR is seeking to increase the program from its current 8,000 acres.
The program was created to increase hunting opportunities, particularly in the southern part of the state, where big blocks of public land are hard to find. It includes 53 farms right now and the department wants to come close to doubling that with 100 farms and 15,000 acres.
If you travel to a state such as North Dakota, you can quickly see how these access programs are so valuable to hunters and how successful and popular they can become. NoDak has Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) and in some areas of the state, the bright triangular signs seem to be visible as far as the eye can see. It was started in 1997 with about 42,000 acres and grew to more than 1 million acres in 10 years. Of course, there are many fewer people and a lot more room to roam in the prairie states, but Michigan's program, 20 years older, would be incredible if it were only half as big as NoDak's.
Michigan received a federal Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program grant to expand its HAP. That's where the public comment comes into play. To proceed with the grant, the DNR and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development must complete a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (quite a mouthful for just a PEA) to determine the impacts the program may have on the environment.
There's more to it than can be adequately described in this blog, so go to Michigan.gov/hunting to read more about it.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you know has land you are interested in enrolling in the Hunter Access Program, contact Mike Parker of the DNR Rose Lake Field Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-641-4903, ext. 228.
Here's hoping that Michigan's HAP can continue to grow.