At a recent Ann Arbor City Council meeting, I witnessed dozens of animal rights activists wearing red shirts to protest the city council's approval of a deer cull. There were numerous references to the "blood on the hands" of the city council members, and, predictably, even a Cecil the Lion reference. The people who want to take away our rights to hunt, fish and trap are loud and visible, so on September 9, we have to be loud and visible too.
We spend much of our time wearing camouflage, being quiet and scent-free to remain invisible. But if we want to keep our rights to hunt, fish and trap, we have to get loud every now and then. And September 9 is the time to do so. We are hosting the third Camo at the Capitol rally at the State Capitol in Lansing, where we're encouraging every hunter, angler and trapper who can to make it to do so.
We're not just demonstrating for the heck of it, though. We're affecting policy as its being made.
Senate Bills 245-246, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Monroe), increase penalties for poachers and, after passing the Senate unanimously in May, will be discussed in the House Committee on Natural Resources on September 9. These bills are critically important not just for their content - increasing poaching restitution fees and penalties for elk, bear, moose, turkeys, waterfowl and eagles - but for the message they send about hunting and conservation, because these bills came from hunters.
Especially in the wake of the reaction to that Cecil the Lion incident, the general public doesn't always understand the distinction between poachers and hunters. It's a fairly simple distinction: hunters follow the rules and regulations set out by biologists to make sure that game populations are sustainable and buy licenses to fund the enforcement of those rules, management of wildlife populations and habitat improvements for them. Poachers don't.
Anti-hunters would have you believe that all hunters are poachers and that only they stand between wildlife and poachers. Except that they've never done a thing to earn that claim. Since the conservation movement began at the end of the nineteenth century, it has always been hunters who have led the way to enact game laws and hire game wardens to enforce them. Those efforts grew into the modern conservation departments, like our Department of Natural Resources, and the regulatory structure informed by biologists which have helped game and non-game species alike recover and thrive.
At Camo at the Capitol, we want to pack that room with hunters wearing blaze orange hats to send that clear message that it is hunters who are leading the crackdown on poaching in Michigan, just as we have always done. Because I guarantee that anti-hunters will try to take credit for it if we let them, despite the fact that they have contributed absolutely nothing to it. By making a clear statement that poachers are not hunters and that hunters are the ones looking out for, paying for and advocating for wildlife conservation, we can start to turn the tide of public sentiment back to reality about what we do.
Leading up to Camo at the Capitol, we'll be diving into the other priorities we'll be highlighting at the rally:
- Public Lands in Public Hands
- Protecting Great Lakes Fisheries
- Enhancing Private Land Hunting and Trapping Access