What do you get when you make it harder for the DNR to acquire public land and easer for the DNR to sell public land? Less public land. And in a death of a thousand small cuts, that’s exactly what Senate Bills 302 & 303 propose.
As the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is committed to keeping Michigan’s public lands in public hands. That’s why we oppose these bills, which passed the Senate last year and are scheduled for a House Natural Resources committee hearing tomorrow. Here’s why:
- B. 302 and S.B. 303 will reduce the ability of the DNR to acquire lands.
- While the bill purports to lift the current public land cap in northern Michigan, it would actually reinstate it if PILT (payments in lieu of taxes) are not made in full and on time. This is unnecessary, as legislation already is in place requiring the legislature to make PILT payments on time, thus punishing hunters and anglers for the legislature failing to do its job and ignoring its own laws. Further, it requires legislative approval of an updated DNR public land management plan every 5 years, when it has almost been 5 years since the DNR completed its 2013 public land plan – and the legislature still hasn’t voted on it!
- Local municipalities would have veto power over land acquisitions if more than 40 percent of the municipalities consist of public lands and commercial forest areas. This could prevent the DNR from acquiring critical habitat such as deer yarding areas in the Upper Peninsula. It also prevents willing seller/willing buyer sales and private individuals from protecting their property in perpetuity by selling it to the state.
- B. 303 unnecessarily rewrites the Land Exchange Facilitation Fund by opening it to uses other than its original intent – as a way to purchase land to replace land that was sold. S.B. 303 would allow the proceeds deposited into the fund from a public land sale to be used for day to day public lands management, thus providing a financial mechanism to sell off state lands. The legislature has been attempting to rob this funding source for years, and this is its latest attempt.
- B. 302 will reduce the value of our public lands to hunters and anglers.
- The bill limits the type of habitat work that is able to be done by requiring that work cannot be done expressly for non-game species on lands acquired through the game and fish protection account. This threatens of the greatest conservation benefits of hunting and angling, which is that hunting is conservation and that our dollars go to protect all habitats and species, not just the ones we want to hunt. Consequently, habitat in the areas we hunt and fish will be degraded, and public approval of hunting and fishing will be diminished.
- While more outdoor recreationists – including hunters and anglers - are looking for backcountry, non-motorized experiences than ever, this bill would allow any group to force a public hearing on individual gates and berms protecting backcountry habitat, forcing the DNR to expend unnecessary time and sportsmen’s dollars on routine decisions which should be made by biologists. With the enactment of Public Act 288 and the DNR’s forest road inventory and ORV access plan, this provision is needless, arbitrary and expensive.
These bills are wide ranging, and these are but a few of the ways they will greatly affect our ability to enjoy our public lands and waters.
Please call your State Representative today and tell him or her that you and your fellow hunters and anglers oppose Senate Bills 302 and 303!