Wilderness designation coming for Sleeping Bear Dunes

Photo Courtesy of National Park Service

Photo Courtesy of National Park Service

I imagine everyone who’s spent time in Michigan as a youngster has a lasting memory from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Sand, amazing topography, water, forested islands, history (lighthouses and shipwrecks), and memories await all who venture there.

Whether it was traversing the dunes and running (mostly falling, rolling, and laughing) crazily down what seems to be hundreds of feet in elevation to the bottom of the “dune climb” or backpacking the Manitous and enjoying the serenity of the forested Lake Michigan islands, Sleeping Bear Dunes seems to have something for everyone.  And now, Lawmakers are looking to make sure it remains a pristine wilderness for our children and successive generations to enjoy.

Sponsored by Senators Levin (D, MI) and Stabenow (D, MI) in the Senate and Representatives Benisheck (R, Crystal Falls) , and Huizenga (R, Zeeland) in the House, the measure would bring wilderness designation to Sleeping Bear Dunes, placing extra protections on the fragile dune ecosystem and safeguarding the park for future generations to enjoy.

Officially designated S.23, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act will ensure that the beaches, dunes, and forests along the shore of Lake Michigan will be protected in perpetuity.  The legislation’s protections also extend to sportsmen, specifically adding that recreational pursuits such as hunting and fishing will also be preserved for future generations seeking to visit the park.  Along with being an important recreational destination for Michigan hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts, the designation will also protect the habitat of several threatened and endangered wildlife species.

Passage of the legislation will be an important step in ensuring that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will continue to be a destination for recreation and wildlife enthusiasts for generations to come.  National Wildlife Federation, along with bipartisan support of Michigan’s congressional delegation, is pushing for passage of the bill.

The bill has already passed the Senate and is set to be brought to the floor in house this week.

For more information on S. 23, click here.

For more information on what National Wildlife Federation is doing for sportsmen, click here.

For more information on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, click here.

For OUR Future…Take a Kid Hunting

Author's son with a successfully harvested doe he helped track

Author’s son with a successfully harvested doe he helped track

This year’s Deer hunting season is nearing its end, having sent the largest army in the free-world into the woods across the Midwest.  While our numbers are staggering, they belie a greater problem; our numbers are also stagnating, and have actually seen a downward trend over the past 30 years.  Part of the problem is that we’re recruiting less hunters, and keeping even fewer (see what Michigan is facing here).

This year will mark the first year I wasn’t able to get to my family’s hunting camp for opening day in nearly 20 years.  A remarkable run considering that period includes high-school, college, marriage and children; but its passing has me reminiscing on my beginnings in the tradition of hunting.

My passion for everything out-of-doors can be traced back to my parents and grandparents and their willingness to include me in their passion for the great outdoors.  Learning how to track a rabbit, cast a fly, or field-dress a successfully harvested deer can’t be learned from a book.  My parents and grandparents both instilled my outdoor ethic as well as nurtured it by continually getting my outdoors with them.

My earliest hunting memory is of me sitting on my grandfather’s lap in his hunting blind.  I had a bag of chips, a coke, and a handful of other things that would never find their way into a normal hunter’s blind.  At the time, I was too young to officially hunt, but it didn’t matter.  I was “hunting” with grandpa.  I don’t remember ever seeing anything on my hunts with grandpa…but that wasn’t the point.  Yes, he had his trusty 30-06 (which has since been handed down to me) with him, but he knew that his mission that day wasn’t to harvest a deer; it was to bring the next generation of hunters into the family.

My grandfather hasn’t been to camp for a number of years now…but his tradition lives on in my father and me, and my mission couldn’t be clearer; to pass OUR tradition on.  It is this mission that I implore my fellow hunters/outdoorsmen/conservationists joins me in.

As hunters/conservationists and stewards of OUR natural resources, it is our duty to not only protect those resources, but the outdoor heritage that has been passed down to us from previous generations.  Take a kid hunting, invite your friends, neighbors, and others new to the out-of-doors into the field and introduce them to what drives each and every one of us…the protection of both our natural resources and outdoor recreation heritage.

More information on getting kids and others into the hunting can be found at:

Michigan DNR Mentored Youth Hunting Program

Wisconsin Mentored Hunting Program

Minnesota Hunter Recruitment and Retention Program

Pheasants Forever Ringnecks Program

Michigan United Conservation Clubs Youth Outreach

Score one for science

MI DNR

MI DNR

Score one for the good guys. This week, Michigan’s Governor signed into law Senate Bills 288 and 289. Widely misunderstood and mischaracterized as the wolf hunting bills, the measures extend the Natural Resources Commission’s (NRC) authority and sound science mandate to list game species (the legislature retains this authority as well) and reiterates the legislature’s exclusive authority to remove them. The bill also provides for free licenses for active-duty members of the military.

Score one for the good guys.  Not because this means that a season can move forward for wolves, but because we will be reaffirming the need to have science be the key consideration when managing our states natural resources, not the ballot box (or $$$ brought to bear by outside groups).  And of course, there’s the welcome change that our active-duty military heroes will now be able to hunt for free.

Since 1996 and the passage of Proposal G, the Natural Resources Commission has had the exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game in Michigan. As part of that authority, they are mandated to use principles of sound scientific management in making decisions regarding the taking of such game. SB 288 is a logical extension of that authority. Rather than leaving game decisions up to the political powers that be or to the political winds within the non-profit community, the voters decided (by an overwhelming 2/3 majority) that these decisions should be left up to science.

Some may not like the thought that their “vote” may not be heard on the issue…but the process is stronger rooted in science. Peer reviews, scientific integrity (when’s the last time you heard the words “political” and “integrity” in the same sentence), adaptive management, and collaborations between research institutions, management authorities, and citizen groups are all safeguards and stabilizers that mold the process of game management. The ballot box has no place in that world.

Score one for the good guys.

More information can be found at http://www.mucc.org and http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf