This article was published in the Fall 2022 Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine. To subscribe to the 100-page print edition of the magazine, please visit our member/subscriber page.
By Nick Green
There should be no question as to what Proposal G means to the conservation community: It has kept politics, ballot-box biology and unilateral decision-making from being able to degrade, or even remove altogether, your right to hunt and trap. (To learn more about what it is and why it needs to remain protected, click here.)
Since early in 2022 when MUCC learned of the DNR’s departure from this view (click here), I have been contacted by those who poured sweat, blood and tears into the 1996 campaign.
A legislatively referred referendum, Proposal G was the conservation community’s response to Proposal D — an HSUS and anti-hunting backed attempt to disallow dogs and bait during bear hunting. Proposal D failed with 38.26% of the popular vote, while Proposal G passed with 68.71%.
Former NRC commissioners, a Conservation Hall of Fame inductee and numerous present and past DNR staff, spanning the technician level to deputy director, have asserted that the DNR’s interpretation of the law does not align with what was intended, communicated and sold to the conservation community in 1996.
The wheel starts to squeak when we look at the memo sent to commissioners by the DNR director. That memo, slapping Proposal G in the face, was not shared with MUCC or the public for at least one year (likely more than two years) — by either the director or the commission. Because of their newness to being inside the decision-making arena, some commissioners simply accepted it at face value.
What’s more unsettling is that the DNR director spent about five years leading this very organization (MUCC), using Proposal G as a platform to talk about why it is important to keep politics out of natural resources management. The next DNR director may further exploit the gray areas of authority and seek to shut down sustainable forms of hunting and trapping unilaterally, ignoring public input altogether.
Instead of looking toward MUCC to help fix the issue and codify science-based management, the department dug in deeper, keeping its interpretation quiet and working behind the scenes to ensure it had control over a second and subsequent wolf season — not the NRC — should we ever have one again.
My biggest fear now is that the NRC agrees: A recent Bridge article paraphrased NRC Chair Tom Baird on the issue. It read, “Under state law, the NRC establishes the first hunting and trapping season as well as the manners and methods the animals are killed. Following the first season, Baird said the DNR director decides the next season.”
Regardless of how the law is interpreted, for the chair to so brazenly give away the farm in a media interview without thinking about the implications is upsetting. Has the commission decided the DNR is right? Do they intend to fight for the power the citizens of Michigan voted them to have? Will the DNR and NRC work with us to clarify this intent in state law?
Proposal G and a commission-based decision process is a legacy issue for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, and it is a hill we have been instructed to die on by our membership. But we admit that we can still make some improvements to the system as well and we have been very clear we are open to that discussion.
When I look back at Michigan Out-of-Doors issues from 1995 and 1996, I am in awe of the giants who championed and fought the anti-hunting rhetoric to cement science-based management in Michigan. We owe them more than we could ever repay.
I am in awe that the intentions surrounding Proposal G are so well documented yet so misconstrued by our Department of Natural Resources.
In 20 or 30 years, at the very least, I will have this installment of ‘One Last Cast’ to reflect on. I will be able to comfortably and honestly tell my children and grandchildren the importance of Proposal G and what role the conservation community played in protecting it from political, power-hungry foes then and now.
Looking back at our old MOOD magazines, I am reminded that history is recorded and those with the gumption to do the right thing are remembered.
I hope we can ALL stand on the right side of history and this issue — TOGETHER.
Protect Proposal G: You can take several actions to ensure that unilateral decision-making will not stain Michigan’s natural resources and that science-based management guides habitat and wildlife priorities — not political whims.
First, sign up for Michigan United Conservation Clubs’ text alerts so we can quickly and effectively call you to action when the time comes to protect Proposal G. Directions: Fill out the form with your cell phone number, make sure both boxes are checked at the bottom, click submit. After that you will get an automated text, respond with YES, and that is it.
Second, please let us know your thoughts about the current NRC and DNR regulation process related to Proposal G and rulemaking. Should the commission have more authority? Should they have less authority? Should the director have more authority? What could be changed to make our commission process better?