On Hold for Time BeingThere has been one issue hanging like a dark cloud over the members of MUCC and the conservation community since the beginning of summer. That issue reached a big moment recently, but the outcome became even less clear in the process.
The issue I am referring to is Senate Bill 248, the bill that would cap the amount of public land the Department of Natural Resources can own and manage. The bill was recently up for a hearing in the House Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committee where both proponents and opponents were allowed to make their case.
This hearing came after two workgroup meetings that were held at the request of Rep. Frank Foster, chair of the committee. MUCC was one participant in the workgroup along with other interested stakeholders. While, in my opinion, not much actual work was done to the bills from these meetings, some interesting and common sense solutions were put on the table. No decisions were made, but there are now some viable options out there for lawmakers to consider. It is MUCC’s desire that they strongly consider some outdoor-minded suggestions.
In the next few weeks, MUCC should know more about the direction SB 248 is heading. One thing is certain, it will be moving forward. The question now is what this bill will look like as it does move forward.
MUCC remains opposed to the bill as it is currently written for three main reasons:
- The bill still lacks a transparent and accountable process for getting to a public land acquisition strategy. Without a process in place, there is no guarantee that the status quo will not continue and in MUCC’s view, a long-term strategy that is open and accountable is needed.
- The bill does not take into account regional and geographic differences for public land desires. Some locations, take the Upper Peninsula for example, may have legitimate claims that they have enough. But in the southern Lower Peninsula, where the majority of the state's recreating population resides, the desire for public recreational land is much greater.
- This bill really has no benefit for sportsmen and women. As outdoor groups continue to advocate for increasing access for people to get outdoors, putting a cap on what public lands can be available without guiding the department to make strategic choices is not a good step for the hunting, angling, and trapping communities.
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