Legal ruling concerns sportsmen

Lake Orion, Mich. — Last month’s decision by the U.S. 6th
Circuit Court of Appeals directing the U.S. Forest Service to
readdress the 15-year management plan for the Huron-Manistee
National Forest is creating concern among hunters.

At issue is whether the Forest Service should restrict firearms
hunting and snowmobiling in primitive and semiprimitive areas of
the Huron-Manistee, which accounts for some 65,470 acres of the
forest. The management plan, which was approved in 2006, does not
call for such restrictions.

“We are very concerned about this ruling,” Dave Nyberg, the
legislative affairs manager for the Michigan United Conservation
Clubs, told Michigan Outdoor News. “We have been in contact with
the U.S. Forest Service and at this time they are still weighing
their options…

“To cut off areas to hunting is completely unacceptable.”

In its ruling, the court wrote, “Those areas… are supposed to
bring an ‘extremely high probability’ and a ‘high
(i)improbability,’ respectively, ‘of experiencing isolation from
the sights and sounds of humans.’“

The court’s suggestion that the sound of a firearm or snowmobile is
detrimental to other users of the forests has many sportsmen up in

“The potential ramifications to hunting of this unfortunate court
decision are huge,” Mike Zagata, president and CEO of the Ruffed
Grouse Society, said in a release. “The court is suggesting that
the mere sound of a gunshot is incompatible with other public uses
of our public lands. In addition, the court fails to recognize that
with the exception of spring turkey hunting, the vast majority of
hunters are afield in the fall well after the prime period for
birdwatching has passed and well before cross-country ski and
snowshoe enthusiasts take to the woods.”

The ruling states that the Forest Service consider a request by
Novi attorney Kurt Meister to close primitive and semiprimitive
areas  of the Huron-Manistee to firearms hunting and snowmobiling.
Meister sued the U.S. Forest Service claiming, “that the Service
failed to comply with several of its own regulations and one
federal statute in developing its 2006 management plan for the
Huron-Manistee National Forests,” according to court

“The real concern is that there   are people out there who will go
to this length to eliminate hunting. That’s very
concerning,” Nyberg said.

RGS argues that the court’s rationale for the ruling is based on
hunting and snowmobiling activities on other public lands and could
impact other areas of national forests.

The Forest Service “failed to consider land management direction
(banning gun hunting on the Semiprimitive areas) that would
minimize the duplication of recreational opportunity when
considering state lands in Michigan,” RGS wrote. “Because gun
hunting is allowed on virtually all state lands the court suggests
that the Forest (Service) should have considered banning gun
hunting on the Semiprimitive areas.  This portion of the ruling
could force federal agencies to consider restricting gun hunting to
accommodate quiet pursuits in regions where other public lands open
to hunting are abundant.”

“This decision could well be the single greatest threat to hunting
on our federal public lands in recent memory, and RGS plans to
enlist the support of its members and volunteers to oppose
it,” Zagata said.

The court gave the Forest Service 90 days to respond to its

The agency is reviewing its options. It could appeal the decision
to the state Supreme Court,   ask for a rehearing by the Circuit
Court, or look at revisiting the management plan.

“MUCC is taking an active role in this issue,” Nyburg said. “We
want to make sure our voice is heard in the process.”

Phil Hewitt, president of the Michigan Bear Hunters Association,
said his group, “is opposed to any restrictions on hunting.” He
said MBHA’s leadership is meeting next week and will discuss the
court ruling then.

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