Deer say: Action needed on "Land Cap" bill!

The topic of the week here at MUCC has been the 2011 deer season, and rightly so.
What were the reports from the field? What is the DNR saying? What are the initial counts? Was it bad for some? Good for others? What do we need to do to produce quality deer hunt experiences?
These are important questions about the quality of our deer hunt that need to be discussed in the near future, and MUCC and its members should help take a lead role in those discussions.
But did you know that our deer hunting is not only affected by policies such as length of the season, what equipment can be used, or what size buck you should take? It’s true.
Deer hunting, or a hunt of any species for that matter, are also affected by the kind of laws passed by our legislature. Sometimes they can be tricky to spot, but their effects can impact important deer hunting issues such as habitat, land access, available land, and how you can hunt in a big way.
There are a number of issues out there right now that could have big time consequences for how we hunt in Michigan that are not related to number of deer.
One such issue, Senate Bill 248 – also known as the “land cap bill” - is coming up for a vote in the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, December 13th. As its name implies, the bill would “cap” the amount of land the DNR can own and manage into perpetuity at 4.65 million acres, which is a mere 17,000 acres over what the department currently manages.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who hasn’t felt at some point that the DNR has over-stepped their bounds, and this is a great way to control their power, is it not?
Not so fast. Think for a minute about what is happening here.
Say, for instance, part of our solution for a better deer hunt is to purchase more tracts of accessible public land in southern Michigan, or some quality winter deer yard becomes available in the more northern reaches of our state – which has had its fair share of low deer years. Once we get close to or reach that cap, the department would have two choices: 1.) forget the land and keep things the way they were, or 2.) purchase the land and sell off land someplace else. Sounds reasonable, right? Except that most land to be sold off would be tax reverted land the department has been trying to sell off but can’t – mostly because it is poor quality land. And if not, the department would have to start looking and similar sized parcels of quality land they could sell off.
Imagine if you are a community or user group of the land chosen for sale. If it were part of the Traverse City State Forest or Rose Lake State Wildlife area near Lansing where this writer typically likes to go, I would have flames coming out of my nostrils. You would too if it was your favorite place to hunt. And so will other communities and user groups.
The problem with SB 248 is this: it identifies an issue – that the state has a lackluster plan for acquiring public access land – and then does a lackluster job of trying to solve that problem.
That is why MUCC cannot support this bill the way it is currently written. And that is why we need your help to take action. Call or email your Representative today to get it on their radar. In addition, you can also contact the members of the House Natural Resources committee, who will be voting on this bill Tuesday, December 13th.
Sportsmen and women in this state have too much stake in our natural resources to let legislation that could have large consequences slip by. Take action by calling or writing today.
Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, & Outdoor Recreation
Rep. Frank Foster, Chair      517-373-2629 Rep. Matt Huuki      517-373-0850 Rep. Holly Hughes      517-373-3436 Rep. Joel Johnson      517-373-8962 Rep. Kurt Damrow      517-373-0476 Rep. Peter Pettalia      517-373-0833 Rep. Wayne Schmidt      517-373-1766 Rep. Harold Haugh      517-373-0854 Rep. Tim Bledsoe      517-373-0154 Rep. Maureen Stapleton      517-373-1008 Rep. Dian Slavens      517-373-2575

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