April 6, 2020

Michigan: An In-Depth look at the Great Lakes State 2020 Legislative Session

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper-Midwestern States Manager

Michigan’s 2020 legislative session has been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, there are still many important pieces of legislation that sportsmen and women should be aware of in the Great Lakes State. Once the legislative session resumes, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to track and engage on legislation to protect and advance our sporting heritage. Until then, an update of the 2020 legislative session is below.

Pheasant Stamp (HB 4313)

This bill would require anyone 16-years-of-age or older to purchase a $25.00 pheasant stamp. This stamp would be required in addition to the base license that Michigan requires all hunters to possess in order to hunt small game species. Revenues generated from the stamp would be used to benefit pheasant hunting in the state, with 75% dedicated to support the Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative and 25% dedicated to maintaining and expanding pheasant habitat. Established in 2019 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Pheasant Hunting Initiative releases pheasants on a weekly basis at several game areas across the state during the months of October, November and December. The DNR’s Pheasant Hunting Initiative also hosted two released-pheasant youth/novice hunts, one on each of the east and west sides of the state.  The creation of the pheasant stamp would ensure the program is self-funded by pheasant hunters and would not interfere with funding for the Pheasant Restoration Initiative, a successful program that creates pheasant habitat across the state. HB 4313 was expected to pass out of the House before the legislative session was suspended.   

Commercial Fishing Regulations (HB 4567-4569)

This package of bills addresses commercial fishing regulations in Michigan’s Great Lakes. The current laws have not been updated in decades and are in need of modernization. This legislation would protect gamefish from commercial harvest, increase the fines for commercial fishing operations to help pay for the administrative oversight costs, and require better net marking to protect both commercial equipment and to keep recreational anglers safer on the Great Lakes. Late last year, CSF and partners were successful in amending this legislation to remove crappie from the list of commercially eligible species and ensure this popular game fish would not be targeted by commercial fishing activities. The package of bills passed the House on February 6. They are currently in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and were scheduled for a hearing before the legislative session was suspended.

Youth All Species Fishing License (HB 5003)

Currently, anyone under the age of 17-years-old is not required to purchase a fishing license in the state of Michigan. This bill would allow those under the age of 17 to purchase an all species fishing license for $2.00. This license would not be a requirement but would be a way for young anglers to contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding if they chose to do so. The license would be available to both resident and non-resident anglers. This bill passed out of the House and is currently on its second reading in the Senate.      

Commercial Guiding Package (HB 5558-5560) 

This package of bills creates both a hunting and sport fishing guide license. It was meant to establish a minimum standard for what qualifications a guide should possess, including CPR, first aid training, and a valid Michigan ID or Sportsmen’s Card. In addition to the guide license, guides would be required to possess a base hunting license to be a hunting guide or a fishing license to be a fishing guide. It also lists disqualifying wildlife violations and felonies. The package would also create a monthly reporting requirement that would allow the Department of Natural Resources to more accurately assess wildlife populations and harvest rates across the state. These bills were introduced on February 27, and are before the House Committee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation  

Civil Infraction Wildlife Violation (HB 5694 & 5697)

These bills would institute a civil fine that may be up to $150.00 for state civil infractions that include, failing to produce a hunting, fishing, or fur harvester’s license; failing to properly label a ground blind or tree stand; and knowingly purchasing a license or discounted license for which the licensee was not qualified to purchase. These changes are intended to act as a further deterrent to wildlife violators. Both of these bills were introduced on March 17 and are currently before the House Judiciary Committee.       

CSF staff are in contact with legislators, the Governor’s office, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, monitoring these and other policy issues that face sportsmen and women in Michigan. When the legislative session resumes, CSF will be well-placed to continue its work.  

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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