Cadillac, Mich. – Gun hunting and snowmobiling could be outlawed
in portions of the Huron-Manistee National Forests.
That’s one option being considered in a court-mandated review of
the Huron-Manistee Land and Resource Management Plan Revision of
2006. The plan was established to guide management of the forests
for the next 15 years.
After the Forest Service approved the plan in 2006, Novi
attorney Kurt Meister sued the Service claiming that it “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 in Northern Michigan,” according to court
documents. Meister’s principal complaint was that, in developing
the management plan, the Service disregarded certain processes in
its own regulations, “so as to favor gun hunters and snowmobile
users over other persons – for example, hikers and birdwatchers –
who use the Forests for quiet, solitary activities …”
Meister asked the Forest Service to close primitive and
semi-primitive areas of the Huron-Manistee National Forests to gun
hunting and snowmobile use. That’s about 66,000 acres of the
forests. He’s asking for the closure so other users of the forests
won’t be subject to the “loud noise” associated with gun hunting
and snowmobile riding.
On Sept. 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
ruled that there were problems with the analysis of data when the
Forest Service approved the management plan.
According to the Federal Register, the court found that:
n The Forest Service’s estimates of snowmobile and cross-country
visitors to the forests were arbitrary;
n The Service did not coordinate its recreation planning with
the state of Michigan, as required, to reduce duplication in
recreation demands with respect to gun hunting and
n The Service’s reasons for keeping certain trails open to
snowmobile use were arbitrary;
n The Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act
when it failed to consider closing primitive and semi-primitive
nonmotorized areas to gun hunting and snowmobile use.
“One of the options we had was to go back and review the
comments Mr. Meister presented to consider a hunting ban in certain
areas and to reroute some snowmobile trails,” Ken Arbogast, the
public affairs official for the Huron-Manistee National Forests
told Michigan Outdoor News. “So we’re going back to take a look at
that issue in a formal plan process.”
The Forest Service posted a Notice of Intent to prepare a
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on Dec. 28. It
is accepting public comments along those lines through Feb. 11.
Following the comment period, a draft proposal will be developed
and posted on the Federal Register, and another comment period will
ensue. The draft could propose no change to the management plan,
closure of some of the areas in question to gun hunting and
snowmobiling, or closure of all of the areas.
Arbogast said that after the regional forester makes a decision
on what actions, if any, will be taken, there will be a 60-day
appeal period in which more public comment will be accepted.
According to the Federal Register, the SEIS will examine the
environmental impacts of a proposed ban on firearms hunting and
snowmobile use in semi-primitive nonmotorized management areas and
a ban on firearms hunting in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
A series of eight public meetings to explain the SEIS process
and gather written comments will be held across the state, Jan.
Written comments may be submitted to the Forest Planner,
Huron-Manistee National Forests, 1755 S. Mitchell Street, Cadillac,
MI 49601 or faxed to (231) 775-5551. Comments may be submitted via
email to: email@example.com. Be sure to
include “Forest Plan SEIS” in the subject line.
“The Sixth Circuit’s ruling is yet another example of the lack
of understanding for how sportsmen and women and other use fee
payers like snowmobilers contribute to the conservation management
of our state’s natural resources and economy,” wrote the Michigan
United Conservation Clubs on its e-newsletter, Conservation
Insider. “… MUCC is particularly troubled with the precedent this
ruling may have on hunter access to public land.”