Those who cherish Outdoor Michigan — including the impact of the Great Lakes on the state's economy and recreation — found much to applaud in Gov. Rick Snyder's budget message last week.
While much of the media coverage highlighted what Snyder proposed on education, Medicaid, and roads, there's a buzz in the conservation world on such steps as these:
n A base hunting license fee of $10 for Michigan residents and $150 for nonresidents. It would cover small game and migratory birds and water fowl, but licenses for deer and some other game would be needed beyond the base fee.
n Fishing licenses would be simplified as the Department of Natural Resources shifts from a system base on species to one based on one price for all. Cost of a one-day license would go from $7 to $15 while the seasonal cost for all species would go from $28 to $25 from for residents, and increase from $42 to $75 for non-residents.
n What this adds up to is a 38 percent increase in revenue for hunting and fishing licenses from $48.2 million to $66.6 million. It would enable the DNR to increase the number of conservation officers from 173 to 214. (Snyder's budget also wisely provides for more state troopers.)
n In reaction, Executive Director Erin McDonough of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs said: "We are in favor of simplifying regulations and in having an easy-to-understand licensing system so long as it means the end result is a better system and better on-the-ground investments for sportsmen and women.
"We are currently evaluating the proposal and taking a hard look at current DNR spending. For the last year, at the request of our members, we've worked with the Department to improve transparency and to get the information we need to be able to understand how our licenses fees are spent and where they should be focused in the future. We appreciate the Snyder administration's commitment to measurable results and openness to helping us answer the question: 'Where are our license fees spent?' We look forward to working with the Governor, the DNR and our members in this process."
n A highly commendable Snyder proposal is to spend $25.5 million for dredging harbors around the Great Lakes to cope with record-low water levels that threaten to make many of Michigan's boating accesses unusable this summer. The MUCC's McDonough said:
"Ensuring access to our lakes is not only important to our members and those who love to fish and boat, it's also vital to the state's economy. Without access to the Great Lakes, Michigan's $3 billion sport fishing industry would take a big hit."