On March 19, nearly 50 members of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus shared eggs and bacon along with their hunting stories with members of the Michigan sportsmen’s community and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) staff for the Caucus’s first breakfast briefing of 2015. The breakfast sponsor was Zero-Day, a Michigan-based non-profit committed to providing the necessary training and supportive services for Veterans to achieve a self-sufficient and independent lifestyle.
President and CEO of Zero-Day, Tim Hunnicutt, addressed the breakfast crowd and explained the innovative partnership that has developed in the state, known has Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors, in addition to presenting MDNR Director, Keith Creagh, and MDNR Chief of Wildlife, Russ Mason with plaques recognizing the efforts of the Department. This cooperative joins sportsmen, industry, and veteran support groups with the MDNR to provide improved outdoor recreation opportunities for wounded veterans and individuals with health challenges and to coordinate a support network that facilitates their recovery through connecting with nature.
While speaking about the program, Hunnicutt expressed, “Veterans working with Zero Day are blessed with the opportunity to obtain wildlife management skills and unique work experiences through Wildlife Apprenticeships which empower them to enter rewarding careers in wildlife management.” This collaborative model of putting veterans to work in the conservation field has gained the attention of a variety of supporters who have helped leverage a MDNR grant of $113,000 to generate an additional $139,000 of matched funding.
“There is something special about natural resources, and their ability to help create a commonality of purpose and place, and so it’s our job as natural resource stewards to make sure these resources remain open to all people of all walks of life at all times,” said Creagh.
Following the event, House Co-Chair of the Caucus, Representative Andrea LaFontaine (MI) said, “The Michigan Sportsmen’s Caucus is committed to being the conduit for the sportsmen’s conservation community and is supportive of innovative programs like Operation Freedom Outdoors. Sportsmen and women in this state should know that we are their voice in Lansing, and that our doors are always open to those wishing to advance our outdoor heritage.”
Senate Co-Chair, Senator Mike Green (MI) added, “The opportunity for sportsmen and women in Michigan is unparalleled. The Michigan Sportsmen’s Caucus is dedicated to supporting legislation that helps protect and enhance the opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts in our state. I think that programs like Operation Freedom Outdoors are an example of our state’s dedication to providing outdoor recreational activities to all of our citizens and I applaud the DNR’s willingness to partner with the private sector to help enhance that experience.”
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?