More than 40 Michigan United Conservation Clubs members made the trip to Munising in the Upper Peninsula September 23 for MUCC’s Policy Board meeting.

Jim Hammill from the U.P. Habitat Workgroup opened the meeting with a presentation about the group’s success with reaching out to private landowners to address the declining deer herd issue in the U.P. Hammill said that 100 percent of the deer in the U.P, with the exception of Menominee County and the southern portions of Dickinson and Delta counties, yard up over the winter in 17 percent of the U.P. — most of which is private.

This is important because, as Hammill explained, deer herds have been severely affected by several hard winters the past decade, and wintering habitat is the No. 1 determinant of whether they survive the brutal U.P. winters.

Hammill showed a graph that depicted the direct relationship between timber harvest and deer population up until the last several years. Recently, deer herd numbers have declined as timber harvest has increased — the U.P. Habitat Workgroup is working to address that by providing the state and federal agencies and private landowners who own land within the 17 percent of winter yarding ground a plan to manage their property.

Natural Resources Commissioner J.R. Richardson, of Ontonagon, gave a short update on what the commission has been up to — which included proposed musky regulations (they will come before the commission for action next month), the antler point restriction debate in the Bovine-TB area (APRs were voted down as a proper management tool for the disease) and Richardson’s want for the state to continue its mutual partnership with groups like MUCC as it relates to habitat and habitat improvement.

Tim Kobasic, an individual member from Escanaba and on behalf of the Hiawathaland Trail Association and Straits Area Sportsmen’s Club, brought forward an emergency resolution requesting MUCC work with Congress to adequately fund the United States Forest Service, maintain National Forests, National Parks, and National Monuments and reduce tort liability.

The resolution was passed through the policy board and will be considered before the executive board at their next meeting October 18 as an interim resolution. Kobasic’s resolution will also be considered as permanent policy at the 2018 Annual Convention.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources U.P. Regional Supervisor Terry Minzey closed the meeting by presenting the success and expansion of the GEMS (grouse enhanced management sites) program throughout the state. GEMS was the brainchild of Minzey, and since its implementation in 2014, has brought bird hunters from across the nation to Michigan to experience our world-class grouse and woodcock hunting.

MUCC’s Conservation Policy meetings are open to all MUCC members. It is a place for members to dive into issues that are directly affecting them, learn about the process to influence those issues and receive help or direction with drafting a resolution to be voted on at MUCC’s Annual Convention.

As a grassroots organization, MUCC depends on engagement from its members. The quarterly policy meetings are a place for all members to engage. Only board members can vote, but anyone with a pressing issue or resolution topic is invited to present, discuss and defend that issue among the membership.

MUCC staff is also on hand at policy meetings — they are able to help members navigate the resolution process and even help with verbiage and historical context for a resolution.

The next MUCC Conservation Policy meeting will be on December 9 at the South Kent Sportsmen’s Club in Dorr, MI.