Conservation brought to fore at the Capitol

By Bill

Lansing – Blaze orange was the color of the day on Sept. 13 at
the state Capitol when sporting groups and legislators celebrated
the first-ever Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol.

The event, sponsored by state Rep. David Farhat, co-chair of the
Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, was held
to promote Michigan’s multi-billion dollar outdoors industry and to
educate legislators on the important issues in conservation.

‘I’d like to see this as an annual event here in Lansing,’ Sen.
Michelle McManus told Michigan Outdoor News. ‘I think we shed some
light on conservation issues and educated some legislators. I think
it was a positive event, and I would like to see sportsmen continue
to stay energized and continue to work with legislators.’

The event featured more than 30 groups representing different
aspects of the sporting community.

‘This was a great day for Michigan sportsmen and women in which
we were able to both educate people about the issues as well as
promote the various sportsmen’s activities,’ Hildenbrand said.
‘Hunting and fishing not only benefit the economy, they are
traditions that so many Michigan families have enjoyed for
generations, and we want to ensure families can continue to enjoy
Michigan’s great outdoors.’

Added Farhat: ‘I am thrilled to see the interest that Michigan’s
sportsmen have generated with this event and the turnout
today. There are so many issues currently facing our state, and
this event gave us the opportunity to highlight the importance of
sportsmen’s activities, not just for recreation, but for the
economy as well.’

According to the Sportsmen’s Legislative Caucus, Michigan ranks
third in the nation in licensed hunters who contribute $1.3 billion
annually to the state economy. The total number of licensed anglers
in the state ranks eighth nationally, and they contribute an
estimated $2 billion annually to the economy. 

‘I think it was well worth it. I’ll come back again,’ said Mike
LeMasters, of the Ruffed Grouse Society. ‘I think the contact we
had with the legislators was enlightening for everyone. In talking
with some of the other (groups) it really shows that we have to
band together as sportsmen and put our petty differences

Not all of the attendees were hunters.

‘I’m not a hunter, but I support hunting and scientific wild
game management,’ said Cindy Cooke, the legislative specialist for
the United Kennel Club. ‘The same people who want to end hunting
want to end breeding of purebred dogs.’

Some of the groups attending the event include Michigan United
Conservation Club, the National Wildlife Turkey Federation,
Citizens for Wildlife Conservation, Safari Club International, the
National Rifle Association, the Michigan Coalition of Responsible
Gun Owners, Pheasants Forever, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the
Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, the United Kennel Club, Ducks
Unlimited, and the DNR.

‘This was the first such event and meeting with legislators,
fellow sportsmen, and other people interested in the outdoors was
great. The conversation was exceptional,’ said George Bench, of the
National Wild Turkey Federation.

Following the Sportsmen’s Day, attendees adjourned to a meeting
room for a rally in support of dove hunting.

Sen. McManus, NRC commissioner Bob Garner, Lt. Gov. John Cherry,
former state Rep. Sue Tabor – the author of the dove bill – and
MUCC Executive Director Sam Washington all stepped to the podium
and spoke in support of dove hunting in Michigan.

‘Hunting is a great Michigan tradition,’ Cherry told the
standing-room-only crowd. ‘Š The outcome (of the dove vote) is
important in long-term (wildlife management) in this state. I
support your position and am going to work hard with you.’

Garner was more adamant about the dove battle and called out a
handful of anti-dove hunting protesters who showed up at the

‘You may think you have us over a barrel because we don’t have a
dove-hunting tradition in Michigan. I think you have awakened a
sleeping giant,’ Garner said. ‘The same thing happened in ‘96 and
we whipped them. We whipped them good, just like we’re going to do
again in November.’

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