Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Public education at heart of new Michigan bill

Lansing — It’s no secret – to hunters and anglers – that hunters and anglers foot most of the bills for conservation of natural resources used by nearly all Michiganders.

But many outside of the traditional outdoor sports are in the dark about the role hunters and anglers play in conservation. A proposed new program aims to spread the word.

The Legislature in mid-December passed and sent to Gov. Snyder H.B. 4993, sponsored by Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, which would establish the Wildlife Management Public Education Fund and a nine-member Michigan Wildlife Council to oversee it.

The program’s goal, according to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency, would be to “develop a comprehensive media-based public information program about the benefits of wildlife and wildlife management.”

Which means, in a big way, telling the positive story of hunting and fishing.

Funding for the program, at one dollar per base hunting license, combination hunting/fishing license, and basic fishing license, was part of the package enacted earlier this year and establishing those licenses and others on a shortened list. It would raise, the agency’s analysis said, about $1.6 million per year.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a supporter of the bill, had said earlier it “has the potential to be a future game changer for sportsmen and women in Michigan.” It also was supported by the Michigan DNR, the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association, National Rifle Association, and Safari Club International.

Michigan’s proposed new program is modeled on one developed in Colorado; spokespeople from that state explained their program at the March meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission in Saginaw.

Like it, the Michigan program’s council would include a variety of members: the DNR director or designee; four hunters and anglers from a list drawn up by sportsmen’s groups; a person representing local businesses impacted by hunting and fishing, a person representing agricultural producers, a person from outside the DNR with a media or marketing background, and a person representing rural areas with economies impacted by hunting and fishing. At least one member would be from the Upper Peninsula. Council members’ expenses would be reimbursed, but otherwise they wouldn’t be paid.

One member of the group explaining the Colorado program pointed out to the Michigan NRC that, while anti-hunting groups spend their funds taking their case to the public, state fish and game agencies and citizen backers of hunting and angling typically spend their money on conservation.

Coloradan Bob Radocy said his state lost spring bear hunting in 1992, and a few years later, trapping, when citizen initiatives blocked the state’s game management agency from lobbying on behalf of scientific management.

“The public had very little knowledge about who pays for wildlife management in Colorado,” said Alan Taylor, of Sparta, “and it’s probably the same in Michigan.”

The Colorado Wildlife Council, launched in 2005 and built on a 75-cent-per-license add-on, aimed at telling the conservation story of hunting and angling. In its ad campaigns, anglers were featured first, then hunters, and later yet backpackers and mountain bikers pausing in their recreation to thank the hunters and anglers who made it possible. “Hug a Hunter,” one advised, “Hug an Angler,” another, and that’s just what happened onscreen.

The advertisements explained that no general tax money paid for wildlife management, even though it benefits everyone who enjoys the outdoors. Non-hunters and non-anglers weren’t asked to chip in – just respect what hunters and anglers do.

MUCC said a survey of Colorado citizens after the campaign was established there found that 70 percent said they’d vote against restrictions on hunting, 80 percent said they’d vote against restrictions on fishing, and 30 percent said they had become more supportive of sportsmen after the campaign.

Michigan’s bill, according to the House Fiscal Agency, would support messages that hunting, fishing, and taking game are:

  • necessary for the conservation, preservation, and management of Michigan’s natural resources;
  • valued and integral parts of the cultural heritage of Michigan that should be preserved forever;
  • important parts of Michigan’s economy.

“As Michigan sportsmen and women continue to stare down anti-hunting interests in this state, there is perhaps no greater way we could invest some of our hunting and fishing license fee dollars than on a public education campaign aimed at the general public,” MUCC said in a news release in late September.

Since Gov. Snyder signed the package that calls for the new education fund, it appeared likely he’d sign its founding legislation, as well.

“We hope he will sign it right away,” said MUCC’s Amy Trotter, in an email to Michigan Outdoor News. “The DNR has been supportive of the bill all along, as well as the entire hunting, fishing, and trapping community.”

Trotter said swift appointments to the council would help it “get started on developing a marketing plan/communications strategy in advance of the funding coming in through the new license structure.”

Share on Social

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Hand-Picked For You

Related Articles