Dear Director Eichinger,
I as a lifelong hunter and conservationist. I, alongside thousands of Michigan hunters, care about and work diligently to conserve, enhance and protect the environment. But as hunting season approaches, the pall of the Natural Resource Commission’s (NRC) overreaching baiting ban hangs heavy over our heads. Thousands weighed into a recent poll I posted to Facebook, expressing their disapproval of the NRC’s all-out ban. More than 80 percent of respondents said they would like to see the ban reversed. The other 19 percent said they would at least like to see the NRC amend its rules to permit non-hunting feeding, such as bird feeding.
The NRC chose to use a machete instead of a scalpel to deal with the ongoing issue of chronic wasting disease (CWD). I am disappointed that the NRC—with the full support of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR)— has continued to take an extreme stance: banning the long-standing, historical practice of baiting and feeding of deer. This ban no only hurts our hunter tourism, but also makes it very difficult– if not illegal– to feed birds and other wildlife with your existing backyard bird feeder.
The NRC’s claim that banning deer baiting and feeding is somehow crucial to stopping the spread of disease is backward logic for three crystal-clear reasons:
- First, handicapping hunters’ ability and opportunity to successfully harvest, a baiting ban only allows deer populations to rise, exacerbating herd health issues of all kinds –including CWD.
- Second, it is simply false that banning baiting will halt deer from congregating around a food source and therefore reduce the risk of disease transmission. Deer are very social animals and have almost constant nose to nose, nose to body contact regardless of what kind of a food source or time of year it is.
- Third, we don’t know yet exactly how, why and when deer are susceptible to picking up or shedding prions and biologists are working on the science overtime to find answers.
Rather than helping our wildlife thrive, this new rule simply makes criminals out of thousands of people who enjoy feeding and viewing wildlife, as well as hunters who have relied on this practice for generations.
In response, I introduced a plan, House Bill 4439, to relax the feeding rules for those engaged in feeding activities, which the DNR has declined to support. We don’t need to make enemies of one another. Hunters and the DNR have been copilots of conservation for many years. Sales of hunting licenses are critical for funding DNR activities and aid the recovery of endangered and threatened species, including restoring thousands of acres of habitat and wetlands. Hunters aid in and are responsible for the management of wildlife and they do so with real actions, real money and with real results. It is my hope that we can hit the reset button on this important relationship between hunters and the DNR and move forward once more as partners.
I request you take a surgical approach to regulations on baiting and feeding that encourage – rather than discourage— the individuals all ages, wants, needs, desires and abilities to fully engage in conservation of our wildlife.
I ask for your support on HB 4439, which would protect non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts from unnecessary fear of penalty.
Majority Floor Leader
State Representative 105th District