DNR wants to enhance public hunting lands in southern Michigan
Help is on the way for the dozens of state game areas in southern Michigan.
It’s no secret that hunting on state land in southern Michigan can be, well, in a word, “tough.”
Overharvest of game animals, heavy hunting and recreation pressure and lack of habitat enhancement work has left some areas with limited game for sportsmen and sportswomen to pursue.
Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources is tasked with managing our state lands and much of that management in southern Michigan, over time, has fallen by the wayside.
An announcement at the state Natural Resources Commission meeting earlier this month in Lansing caught the attention of some southern Michigan hunters.
DNR’s Wildlife Division has set a goal of creating or updating a management master plan for each SGA in southern Michigan by no later than 2018.
There are 110 state game areas across the state and 87 percent of them have a master plan, according to Steve Chadwick, the DNR’s southwest Lower Peninsula regional manager. Some of the SGAs in southern Michigan have a master plan, but most plans are outdated or have never been implemented. In the past, management has been decided based on which biologist had jurisdiction over the area and what that biologist’s preference was. Chadwick referred to this as “management by the dog you hunt.” But when the managers changed, so did the management practices.
When master plans are developed – based on habitat conditions, landscape goals, wildlife populations and other considerations – they will hold the key to future management decisions. They will direct the local biologists and help them decide if habitat enhancement and protection projects should be implemented at that SGA, if food plots should be planted, if pheasant habitat should be restored, if rabbit habitat “rabbitat” should be created and a multitude of other possibilities.
With master plans in place, activities like the Michigan United Conservation Club’s “On the Ground” program, a volunteer program which seeks to enhance and create habitat on public lands in an effort to increase wild game populations, will be able to flourish. On the Ground has already completed many such projects in SGAs across the state.
These master plans will be available to the public on the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/dnr) and will be up for public comment for at least 30 days prior to being approved.