By Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
The Michigan Wildlife Council launched a campaign in 2016 to educate the public about the important role of hunters and anglers, and has since achieved impressive milestones, including engaging Michigananders about wildlife management practices and conservation funding.
The Council was established by Michigan Public Act No. 246 of 2013, and formally organized in 2014. The nine-member public body is governor-appointed with the task of implementing and overseeing a public education campaign about the important role hunters and anglers play in keeping Michigan’s wildlife and natural resources healthy through the American System of Conservation Funding. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Upper Midwestern States Manager Nick Buggia serves on the Council.
The campaign formally launched in April 2016. Since then, the Council has reached some impressive milestones:
- Over 816 million campaign views in their core geographic locations of southeast and western Michigan
- 17 million online engagements (website visits, video views, social shares/likes)
- 82 media interviews in Detroit and in Grand Rapids
- 84 custom articles in the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, MLive and The Grand Rapids Press
Given that the target audience does not hunt or fish, it can be a challenge to present the message in a way that non-sportsmen and women understand. It requires consistent messaging over time to create an informed opinion on issues that otherwise may not be personally relevant. This campaign is described as a marathon and the council is into for the long haul.
One of the Council’s most impressive achievements is increasing public knowledge and understanding of key measures. Comparing baseline data from 2015 to new statewide survey results from 2018, there has been a 45% statewide increase in the meaningfulness of statements about hunting and fishing licenses dollars from sportsmen paying for wildlife management and habitat preservation.
There has also been a 33% increase in the belief that wildlife management by humans is necessary statewide, and a 47% increase in those respondents who moderately approve of hunting. In the three counties that make up the southeast region: there has been a 70% increase in the understanding wildlife management by humans is necessary among residents of Macomb County, 41% increase in Oakland County and 38% increase in understanding among residents of Wayne County.
In a time when the sale of hunting and fishing licenses is on the decline, it is encouraging to know that there is growth in the general public’s understanding of the importance of wildlife management and where that funding comes from.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (12.80%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (10.40%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (61.60%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (15.20%)