Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Sportsmen bristle at bear proposal

Bill Parker

Editor

Lansing – Post-meeting changes to a bear regulation proposal
that was presented for public comment for 30 days at the March 4
NRC meeting, have raised the ire of conservation organizations
across the state.

The majority of the concern is regarding a state-wide, private
land option for bear tag allocation. The number of tags available
to hunters also is raising concerns, as is the fact that the
changes were proposed after the March NRC meeting had taken place,
and the original proposal had been presented to the public (as
reported in the March 12 edition of MON).

“We’re opposed to preferential treatment for private landowners,
and we’re opposed to liberalizing the nuisance bear protocol,” said
Bill Walker, a board member of the Michigan Bear Hunters
Association and a member of th DNRE’s Bear Consultation Team. “Our
position is that both of those topics were discussed at length at
the Bear Consultation Team meetings. We deliberated over five days
in discussing these topics. We came to a consensus and those
recommendations were put into a proposal that was signed into the
new bear management plan by (DNRE director) Becky Humphries last
year.

“Here we are, less than a year later, and the NRC wants to
revamp two areas that were major points of the discussion.

“I think it’s just (wrong) for the state to drag all these
people (18 members of the Bear Consultation Team) to these meetings
under the pretense that they are going to make a difference. It’s a
slap in the face.”

In a memo to the commission dated March 8, the DNRE lays out two
options for bear regulations.

Option 1 would create general (public and private land) and
private-land-only bear licenses. According to the memo, two
different types of licenses would be available for each hunt period
in each bear management unit (BMU). One license would be valid on
private land only. The second license would be a general license,
valid on both public and private lands. Commercial Forest lands
would be considered public lands for this purpose. The preference
point system would remain intact and hunters would compete with
other hunters applying for the same license type in their hunt
period of choice.

The main reason for this option stems from a “perceived” high
bear density in the area of the Red Oak Bear Management Unit,
commonly known as “club country.” NRC chairman Keith Charters has
stated that he’s received complaints about nuisance bears and an
overabundance of bears from landowners in club country.

Option 2 calls for no changes in the current bear management
structure.

In a memorandum to the commission dated Feb. 8, following
surveys on hunter success and landowner social values in club
country, also known as the White Oak study area, the DNRE_wrote:
“At this time, survey results do not suggest a strong reason to
change hunting regulations for the Red Oak BMU.”

However, following the March 4 meeting, the DNRE produced the
additional option to develop private-land only bear permits.

“After the meeting, we were requested to put together another
proposal for the commission to consider to create a private-land
license,” DNRE Bear Specialist Adam Bump told MON.

Mike Thorman, another member of the BCT and a director of the
Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, is also opposed to privatizing any
bear permits.

“Members of the bear consultation team that I talk to on a daily
basis were supportive and satisfied with the way they (DNRE)
implemented our recommendations,” into the state’s bear management
plan, _Thorman said. “There were 18 members on the BCT and all of
our recommendations had to be a consensus (unanimous). We spent
hours and hours and hours on the nuisance bear and private land
issues. Eighteen people voted unanimously that the regulations in
place were adequate, but maybe we needed to follow them more
uniformally across the state. On a private landowner preference, we
all opposed it.”

Tony Hanson, the deputy director of the Michigan United
Conservation Clubs, said his group also opposes the private land
permits.

“We always want science to be at the forefront of what they (the
DNRE) do,” Hanson said. “We definitely like Option 2 better. Option
1 doesn’t seem to have a lot of science behind it.

“We have to trust the biologists. If they recommend no change,
we should believe them.”

George Lindquist, a director of Whitetails Unlimited of
Marquette County, has concerns about the number of tags being made
available to hunters.

“Up here, we’re concerned with the deer herd,” Lindquist told
MON. “The deer herd has been declining for several years and now
they want to reduce the number of permits they issue and let the
bear population grow by 4 percent each year (at the west end of the
U.P.).

“That’s a predator we can control and they want to create more
of them,” he said. “We’d like to see more bears harvested up here.
They are a major predator. I just think it’s plain wrong. It
doesn’t make sense.”

Bump said his phone has been ringing since the private-land
option was made public.

“A lot of people have been calling me with concerns,” he
said.

The NRC was taking public comments on the bear regulation issues
through its April 8 meeting in Lansing and was expected to vote on
the proposal at that time.

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