ESCANABA - The hunting, trapping, fishing ATV riding, boating and organized camping enthusiasts in Michigan have paid for the privileges they enjoy outdoors. The monies they've paid to the state for licensure and permits are the key source of revenue for the natural resources and public lands managers to do their respective jobs on our behalf.
Having been involved in conservation efforts as a volunteer for over two decades, I can tell you those who do this work as paid professionals continue to do so with the passion and fervor to what the most dedicated volunteer has done.
The natural resources and public land of the State of Michigan is just that, public land and resources available to everyone who resides and/or visits here. Unfortunately, it is the commerce that I first mentioned, plus the timber industry, that provide most if not all of the financial support to run the business of Michigan's outdoors.
The aggregate sum of money offered from the state General Fund to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources last year was only four percent of their budget. With the economic times being what they are, that well may also go dry.
A complaint I hear at meetings or among sportsmen and women is there is not enough effort (or money) "hitting the ground." That means some believe the MDNR should be doing more afield with the money they have.
If I have learned anything in these 20-plus years of involvement, it's that a good sum, if not most, of the field projects seen today are accomplished through additional financial sponsorship by these same membership organizations who already pay the assessments of licensure, permits and excise taxes on hunting equipment.
The money comes from fund raising, primarily banquets and raffles. All the help used to raise it is from volunteer workers.
I recently reported how we are seeing a transition of focus on wildlife habitat. There has always been a need for managing the land occupied by game species and all forms of wildlife.
Until recently, most of that focus has been on public land and private land held by timber producers. Those owning parcels for industrial use are given a property tax break under the Commercial Forest Act.
Owners are obligated to manage the land and allow public access for recreation.
In today's market, those same lands are following a sustainable forestry concept that is ecosystem driven. Unfortunately, the boon of logging witnessed years ago that gave us abundant game species, has changed dramatically.
Now these same conservation organizations are partnering up with the state and federal land managers to work habitat projects on non-timber producing private land.
Projects to enhance wildlife habitat are being funded by a special account through the MDNR and some cost shared with either the land owners themselves or the organizations that support specific projects.
I have also recently reported one such project, a fruit bearing tree planting program through the NWTF. They networked cooperatively for financing the project through the local Community Foundation - Sustainable Forest Fund, Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County and the Bay de Noc Gobblers Chapter of the NWTF.
The recommendations of the MDNR staff and biologists within the NWTF were used to formulate the plan and execute the project.
This is how almost all of these projects get done. It is where the time, effort and expense of natural resources management should stay without interruption or interference.
We have been and remain stewards of the natural resources of Michigan on behalf of the general public.
I received word Tuesday that legal action by HSUS and four other anti-hunting, anti-conservation organizations for an injunction to re-list the gray wolf as an endangered wildlife species appears to have received support of the court and once again derailed the Michigan Wolf Management Plan.
Now the MDNR will have to use staff and money to join the fight against the antis that would otherwise be placed into viable projects. They too remain very frustrated by the action, as MDNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason explained that "The Michigan Wolf Management Plan has adequate provisions to protect wolves.
"It is time for the state to take over management of this species based on the best scientific practices outlined in a very comprehensive wolf management plan that was developed by a broad range of stakeholders in Michigan."
I am additionally frustrated that HSUS and their tag-along anti-conservation groups did this without expense to themselves, utilizing the free service of a law firm, implying the work to file the injunction as coming pro bono.
We now learn the last time HSUS was able to gain an injunction, that not only stopped Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota's ability to manage wolves, a part of these suits is 'recovery of legal fees'.
The last time, the compensation request was for $450,000. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was ultimately forced to pay $250,000.
A quarter million dollars that could have and should have "hit the ground" for conservation projects is instead going to the deep pockets of those trying to shut down the sole source of help wildlife and natural resources have.
Make no mistake, bringing these suits is extremely lucrative and diverts funding, time, and effort from on the ground conservation, including work that directly benefits wolves.
The sporting community has done its share. Now it is time for the general public to get behind us and tell HSUS et al, enough! You're doing more harm than good!
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.