Millions in Federal Sportsmen’s Dollars at Risk!November 8th, 2011
House Bill 4684 sponsored by Representative Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin) will be taken up in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation tomorrow despite warnings from federal officials that if the bill becomes enacted, the state would likely lose $25 million in annual federal wildlife funding. This is $10.5 million in wildlife funding, $2.3 million for hunters safety funding and $11.7 million for sport fish funding.
This bill prevents the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) from issuing orders to restrict one certain use, equestrian riding, on all “pack and saddle trailways…that currently are or at any time previously were used by pack and saddle animals.” This would give riders free rein over trails, regardless of conservation concerns or conflicts with other uses. This is where the problem lies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says the move would violate federal and state laws which allows Michigan to qualify for $25 million annually in federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration (WSFR) Funding, also known as Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funding. WSFR funds are generated by excise taxes on sporting equipment and qualifying states receive a distribution of the funds each year for wildlife and sportfish conservation programs. Basically, every time you purchase hunting or fishing equipment, you are contributing to these funds that come back directly to Michigan to support wildlife habitat and restoration. Consider it the sportsman’s circle of life.
The catch is, we only get that money back if we follow the law that says the use of hunter and angler dollars, whether it’s to buy land or maintain the habitat, should not be diverted to manage for other uses. Whether we like it or not, if the DNR can’t control the activities that are happening on game and fish purchased lands, we don’t receive our federal wildlife funding.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs believes that any bill that attempts to deny Michigan, regardless of the activity, these critical federal dollars – dollars that Michigan sportsmen and women have paid for through their purchasing of sporting goods and licenses – is not acceptable.
We ask that everyone call their State Representative and ask them to vote NO on HB 4684. It is unnecessary legislation that puts the conservation of Michigan’s fish and wildlife at risk.
House Bill 4684 is on the November 9, 2011 agenda of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation, which will meet at 307 House Office Building, in Lansing at 3:15 PM.