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MI: Conservation groups hail bill

Casperson measure supported

MARQUETTE — Conservation groups are applauding the legislative passage of Senate Bill 1187, which will restore Michigan’s natural resources management process for making fish and wildlife conservation decisions with science.

After passing the state Senate 27-10 last week, the House of Representatives then later in the week passed it by a vote of 69-39, with support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Bill 1187, introduced by state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, restores the authority of the Natural Resources Commission to designate game species and issue fisheries orders with a requirement that they consider sound science, including a $1 million appropriation to protect Michigan fisheries from aquatic invasive species like Asian carp, and the addition of wolves to the game species list.

“While opponents and media have focused solely on wolves, SB 1187, like the citizens’ initiative it restores, focuses much more broadly on the process by which fish and game decisions are made,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, in a news release. “Placing that authority with the Natural Resources Commission ensures that DNR biologists’ recommendations are considered, rather than having vital conservation decisions about our fish and wildlife resources politicized.”

The bill reauthorizes sections of the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a citizen-initiated law which the Legislature passed in 2014 after grassroots conservation groups collected over 370,000 citizen signatures in support of it.

The SFWCA had also included another section related to the funding of fish and wildlife management that allowed active duty military members to receive free hunting and fishing licenses.

In November, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that this provision was not closely enough related to the rest of the initiated law to be included in it, and invalidated the entire law, failing to apply Michigan’s severability rule.

Senate Bill 1187 simply reinstates the portions of the initiated law passed by the Legislature which the Court of Appeals did find were sufficiently related to be included in the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Without passage of Senate Bill 1187, the state would find itself in the position of having already spent money on aquatic invasive species prevention it is not authorized to have spent, as the Court of Appeals decision removed the statutory appropriation, which originally authorized the spending.

Additionally, the court had removed the authority of the Natural Resources Commission to issue orders related to fisheries management and to use the recommendations of professional biologists to determine whether wildlife species should be classified as game. The bill now heads to the Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for signing.

A letter to legislators urging passage of SB 1187 was endorsed by Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan chapters of Safari Club International, the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, Michigan Bear Hunters Association, U.P. Bear Houndsmen, Michigan Fox Hunters Association, Michigan State United Coon Hunters Association, Michigan Salmon and Steelhead Fishermen’s Association, Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, U.P. Whitetails Inc. of Marquette County, the Straits Area Sportsmen’s Club, Hammond Bay Area Anglers Association and the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Founded in 1937, Michigan United Conservation Clubs is the largest nonprofit conservation organization in Michigan.