The following is an Op-Ed written by Kyle Burleson. Kyle Burleson is the education committee chair of the Michigan Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, formed to promote access to public lands and to protect them.
Michigan has more than 4.5 million acres of state lands open to hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, equestrian activities, mountain biking and other forms of outdoor recreation. Michigan sportsmen are invested in ensuring that the state is able to responsibly manage those areas.
Our state forest system provides the nation's largest single-ownership public lands base for outdoor recreation east of the Mississippi River. The state is required by law to integrate recreation into the state forest system in cooperation with lumber, energy and environmental activities. That balance exists to allow this great public resource to most effectively serve us, members of the public.
In recent years, however, Michigan's public lands heritage has come under attack. In 2012, a law passed limiting how much land the state can own. Despite widespread public support for state lands and the public recreational access they provide, there appears to be little support in the Michigan Legislature for removing this cap.
To make matters worse, two bills currently before the Senate Natural Resources Committee" Senate Bills 39 and 40 would make it harder for Michigan to acquire public lands and easier for private entities to force the sale of public lands" and would diminish the quality of the public hunting lands we have left.
Michigan's hunters and anglers generate close to $5 billion in economic benefits every year — just one component of our robust and expanding outdoor recreation-based economy. This economy depends in large part on the opportunities provided by unfettered access to public lands and waters. Restricting our state's ability to provide access and opportunity to the outdoors and backcountry is shortsighted and anathema to Michigan's outdoors heritage.
The Michigan chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers was formed to sustain and promote access to and opportunity on public lands and to protect the backcountry as well as other wild and special places. We ask you to join us in contacting your state senators and urging them to oppose Senate Bills 39 and 40 and uphold Michigan's hunting, angling and outdoor recreation traditions.