July 25, 2022

Michigan Bill Would Strip DNR of Important Wildlife Management Authority

Contact: Bob Matthews, Senior Coordinator, Upper Midwestern States

Why it Matters: The state agency charged with managing fish and wildlife populations is the most knowledgeable and well-equipped entity to make important wildlife management decisions. Without healthy, well-maintained populations, sportsmen and women cannot enjoy the waters and hunting grounds that have existed long before statehood. In Michigan, the power to actively manage open seasons or change regulations to accommodate the evolving health of fish and wildlife populations must belong to the Department of Natural Resources.

A bill proposed in the Michigan House of Representatives has made it through the House Oversight Committee and may now be brought to the floor for a vote. MI HB 6192 is part of a larger, 30-bill package that seeks to strip the authority of various agencies, including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) ability to suspend open seasons on fish and wildlife during times when the agency determines the population to be unhealthy or further harvest unsustainable. This effort raises several issues because the Michigan DNR’s ability to swiftly adopt regulations necessary to carry out science-based wildlife management is paramount to fulfilling its purpose.

Without this authority, the Michigan DNR will be unable to adjust regulations to accommodate for changing conditions among the state’s fish and wildlife populations. The bill only seeks to strip the authority and does not replace the power with any similar mechanism. This means that sportsmen and women would have to rely on the legislature to make quick, informed action to preserve unhealthy populations. The Michigan DNR has only used its power to suspend seasons once, when it adjusted limit and size regulations for lake trout in a portion of Lake Huron in 2012.

The rarity with which the DNR has invoked its authority to suspend open seasons of certain species does not indicate that the power is unneeded, but instead indicates that the DNR has responsibly wielded this power. The Michigan DNR continually monitors and evaluates the health of the state’s diverse fish and wildlife populations, and there is no entity better suited to make the necessary science-based decisions that will protect the health and sustainability of those populations. Eliminating this authority would threaten the time-honored traditions that so many Michiganders cherish. The state’s almost 2 million hunters and anglers understand that without healthy, well-managed populations, those resources cannot be enjoyed.

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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