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DNR Proposes Administrative Rule Changes to Commercial Forest Land

October 1st, 2013

Due to recent statutory changes to the Commercial Forest Act (CFA), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is once again taking a look at the administrative rules promulgated under this act and asking for public input. This was last attempted in 2010, but in early 2011, the legislature began working on amendments to the Commercial Forest statute.  The DNR put the rules revision process on-hold until the legislative process was completed.

On June 6, 2013, Gov. Snyder signed the CFA amendments into law (House Bill 4069, enacted as 2013 PA 48) as part of a larger forestry bill package also updating the Qualified Forest Program.

Public hearings to receive comments on proposed amendments to commercial forest rules promulgated are currently being held. Information about the proposed rules will be provided at 7:00 p.m., followed by public hearing at 7:30 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Quality Inn & Suites
2603 N. Lincoln Road
Escanaba, Michigan
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Best Western Lakeside Inn
900 U.S. 41
Baraga, Michigan

A copy of the proposed rules (ORR 2010-039 NR) may be accessed from the Michigan Office of Regulatory Reinvention web site (see Commercial Forest)  or from klontl@michigan.gov.

All interested persons are invited to attend and present their views. Statements should be submitted in writing for the hearing record. For those unable to attend, written statements mayalso be submitted to: Regulatory Affairs Officer, Office of Legal Services, Michigan Department of
Natural Resources, PO Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909, or klontl@michigan.gov.

All statements must be received by 5:00 p.m., on October 25, 2013.

So why does MUCC care and why should you get involved?

Well, due to a previous Attorney General opinion, it has already been clarified that this statute mandates that CFA landowners only must provide walk in access for public hunting and fishing and that the use of motorized vehicles is subject to the landowners permission. Here to date, that has been working fine, however more recently we have seen CFA landowners gating or even fencing off certain portions of their property. How does a hunter, angler or trapper know that this land is still accessible (even by foot)to the public when clearly the typical standard for an ethical sportsmen is that if you cross a fence or gate, you are guilty of trespass. The DNR may ask that land be removed from CFA if the landowner’s action “HAS THE EFFECT OF DENYING OR INHIBITING ACCESS TO THE COMMERCIAL FORESTLAND FOR PUBLIC HUNTING AND FISHING“. We need to look at how the rules language could be strengthened to provide clarity for those that encounter a fence or gate to make it clear that they are allowed (at least by foot) to access the land beyond that fence.

Another issue that has recently cropped up is that some CF landowners have contested that leaving behind traps overnight goes beyond the original intent of the law and that those that leave their traps (or bait, hunting blinds etc) without the landowner permission are violating their private property rights and is therefore illegal. We feel that Michigan’s Compiled Laws plainly include “trap” in the definition of “hunt” and therefore any prohibition on overnight trapping (or requiring trappers to be in attendance to all their traps at all times) is essentially prohibiting trapping on this CF land, which would violate the terms of public access on CF lands. Legal trapping should not be subject to the landowners permission.

MUCC hopes that you will join us in communicating these points to the DNR through this rules process. As a reminder, you can submit comments even if you miss one of the public hearings this week, they will accept them until 5 PM on Oct. 25!

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