2023 has been an eventful year for the Michigan Chapter of BHA! This year, we've been deeply engaged in vital policy work that is shaping the future of our precious public lands and waters in the great state of Michigan. From our active involvement with Department of Natural Resources' land management decisions, rallying opposition to the expansion of Camp Grayling, and fighting for the protection of sport fish, Michigan BHA has been at the forefront of advocating for new and continued protections of our public lands and waters. We'll also take you through our exciting events, where our BHA community came together to serve, learn, partner with, and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals. As we soon turn the page to the 2024, we're poised for even greater achievements in defending, conserving, and celebrating Michigan's public lands and waters. Join us as we look back on a year filled with action, camaraderie, and unwavering commitment to our shared mission!
2023 Michigan BHA Recap:
**Michigan BHA Engages in DNR's Land Management Decisions**
Michigan's Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (MI BHA) has been actively involved in the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) land management decisions. MI BHA sent a letter supporting the Wildlife Division's request for $4.8 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to acquire four land parcels in southern Michigan. These parcels, located within three State Game Areas, are part of the DNR’s ongoing land ownership review process.
Additionally, MI BHA addressed concerns raised by a member about the DNR's auction of public land parcels. The member highlighted a specific parcel, recently used for hunting, that might be sold. This situation underscores the complexity of the DNR’s review process, which involves both acquiring and potentially selling land.
***Opposition to Camp Grayling Expansion***
Last summer the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) petitioned the DNR to more than double the current Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center footprint of 230 square miles. MIBHA joined with many other conservation groups, tribal governments, and municipalities surrounding Camp Grayling to oppose the expansion request. The DNR ultimately rejected the proposal!
***BHA Opposition to Commercial Targeting Sport Fish***
The bill, titled “The Protect Michigan Fishing Act,” paves the way for commercial fishing operations to take and profit from game fish species, including lake trout, smallmouth, panfish, walleye, and perch. Michigan BHA opposes HB 5108 and is urging lawmakers to protect our state’s incredible heritage of recreational angling for public wildlife in some of the world’s best public waters.
***Cornwall Dam Drawdown and Removal***
Surrounded by the Pigeon River Country State Forest (PRC), the Cornwall Dam impoundment was created in 1966 to provide a high quality, publicly accessible fishery. As with so many dams constructed across this country, they are approaching or exceeding their intended design life - and the Cornwall Creek Dam is no different. The condition of the dam has prompted EGLE to recommend the owner of the dam, the Michigan DNR, to draw down the water to maintain safety, which was slated for late summer of 2023. This drawdown would have resulted in the loss of the fishery and a loss of a recreational resource to the hunting and fishing public.
The drawdown was averted, for now, as funding for improvements and reconstruction efforts have been successful. The Michigan DNR is now actively working with multiple organizations on next steps. More updates to come!
While we celebrate the policy wins that came in part from the BHA community actively engaging elected officials and offering public input on important issues, the lifeblood of our organization is gathering in person to serve, learn, and laugh together.
In 2023 we were able to gather for two different work days. One was in support of the 20th anniversary Mayor’s Grand River Cleanup in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The chapter joined hundreds of other conservationists as one of the few groups representing hunters and anglers. It’s always fun to see what conversations get stirred by a Public Land Owner shirt in a crowd that’s never seen one!
Our other work day was in support of Anglers of the Au Sable in their effort to plant cedar trees to reinforce riparian zones and help address the long term trend of warming water in one of the best trout fisheries in the world. As Michigan BHA continues to grow and evolve, we want to be known as good partners with the many conservation groups in our state who do fantastic work in specific areas and ecosystems. Anglers of the Au Sable is one such group and we’re glad to support their efforts.
The highlight of the summer was once again the Michigan Rendezvous, held this year at the Looking Glass River Sportsman’s Club. This new location, close to the Lansing metro area, allowed many people to drop in for an evening around the campfire or part of the Saturday presentations even if they couldn’t come camp for the weekend. Rendezvous always provides a great space to make new friendships and reconnect with existing ones. Another fantastic lineup of presenters made it another great event. You can read the full write up here (https://www.backcountryhunters.org/2023_michigan_bha_rendezvous_recap). Next year we will be back at Looking Glass in July, so stay tuned for dates to be posted early in 2024!!
And as always, pint nights around the lower peninsula provided opportunities to gather with other BHA members and those interested in learning more. This year we tried to ensure that pint nights provided more than just beer by hosting nights that educated and advocated for action on the proposed Camp Grayling expansion and the preservation of Cornwall Dam. 2023 pint nights ended with a bang as our friends at MeatEater asked us to host qualifying trivia events for their MeatEater Live stops in Michigan. These nights were an absolute blast, and the winner of our pint night qualifier at Bell’s Brewery went on to win MeatEater Live trivia at the State Theater! (Way to represent the chapter, Brandon Helms!)
As we turn the calendar to a new year, MI BHA is set up for our best year yet of defending, conserving, and celebrating public lands and waters in the Mitten State! You will continue to see action alerts as the chapter stays up to date on issues related to our mission. You’ll also be hearing more about some exciting projects we’re a part of, including the Michigamme Highlands project in the UP (https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/managing-resources/forestry/private/legacy/michigamme-highlands) where MI BHA is advocating for the creation of designated “remote recreation” areas where hunting and fishing opportunities will only be accessible by foot.
Part of the feedback the chapter members continue to provide is a desire for more “boots on the ground” opportunities to invest directly in conservation work. These will be a priority in the coming years, and if you have a project you are passionate about and would be willing to help organize, please reach out to chapter leadership! (Chapter email address?)
Because of the hundreds of committed members throughout Michigan, BHA continues to gain visibility and influence on issues related to public land, conservations, and our hunting and angling traditions. You can do your part by passing along action alerts, sharing social media posts, writing to elected officials, or bringing along a friend or family member to a pint night, conservation work day, or rendezvous. We look forward to seeing the MI BHA family grow in 2024. Thanks for being a part of making this community the leading voice for public land and water in the Great Lakes State!