ESCANABA - The UP Sportsmen's Alliance touts being the front representation of 40,000 affiliate members. They hold quarterly meetings and try to rotate the location to allow those who have to travel, an opportunity to share distance.
I have seen the gallery of members reach upwards to 100 at meetings, but that is not the average. Most in attendance represent other conservation organizations as officers.
The Michigan United Conservation Club is saturated throughout the state but currently takes a back seat to representing UP residents, behind the UPSA. One difference between the two entities is how they conduct business.
MUCC has a set policy of establishing how many and what policies they will support on behalf of their members. The state is divided by regions and each region holds meetings prior to the general statewide convention held each summer.
Anyone wanting to propose a change in any conservation policy, be it hunting, fishing, trapping, snowmobiling or ATV riding, etc., must present a formal resolution that is voted upon.
During debate on the floor of the regional meeting, amendments are also proposed and challenged. Robert's Rules of Order is evoked to keep discussion in line. If passed at the regional level, the final product goes to the statewide convention and runs the same gauntlet and scrutiny.
At the Jan. 22 meeting of UPSA it was decided to maintain a proactive posture and collectively establish wanted policy changes. A survey conducted in 2010 is being used as the premise of current sentiment, and while there were nearly 90 points of interest discussed in the five forums, the top six issues are on the table for review and resolution in March so they can be presented to the NRC in a timely manner.
Hunting and Trapping regulations must be in place by July of each year so the MDNR can meet its' legal obligation to have it in print for the general public by Aug. 1 each year.
At this point, the UPSA is not necessarily using the resolution format to determine direction of the organization, but instead is taking a straw vote on six questions that are open for viewing on their website. Respondents are required to put their name on each response.
Rory Mattson, UPSA secretary who leads discussion related to this subject, indicated he will accept all responses at his home address and will tabulate the results. The questionnaire also welcomes comment from the general public and it is not clear if there will be any differentiation between club representatives versus individual responses.
The six items up for response are as follows:
1) "It seems that almost all agree that there is too much hunting pressure currently on antlered bucks. What do you want to do about that ?" Examples include returning to a one buck license, "most popular from public meetings"; shorten or close seasons, etc.
Other input provided during the UPSA Wildlife Committee meetings that lead up to the survey questionnaire included having the single license (one buck per hunter per year) exclusive to the UP. It was also considered to increase the fee for such a license to equal that of a combination license so revenue doesn't take a hit, and it could also be used as a deterrent from those hunters who'd cheat the system and utilize tags purchased for others to continue hunting after one buck was taken.
2) "What do you want done with the Youth Hunt? Please keep in mind that we need to encourage our youth to hunt and support their progress."
While the primary emphasis is on reducing the pressure on buck deer, the current youth hunting program allows hunter choice in all Deer Management Units, enabling the taking of a doe even in those DMUs currently closed to an antlerless season. There was also concern over the span of years youth can participate in the extra assigned hunt that currently allows each young hunter to take a deer for six years.
3) "Should button bucks be tagged with a buck tag only?"
Current regulations do not allow the use of a buck tag on a button (fawn) buck as the minimum restriction is for at least one antler of at least three inches in length to be considered for tagging as a legal buck.
4) "What regulations, if any, should be enacted for crossbows? Examples include age restrictions, no late season use, etc."
5) "Should opening day of the firearm deer hunting season remain Nov. 15 or be changed to a Saturday?"
This seems to have always been a 50/50 proposition as far as results.
6) "Should other users of state (public recreation) land pay for their activities or should hunters and trappers continue to pay the bill?"
While this topic does not site specific uses, all the fee driven funds utilized within the MDNR are now constitutionally protected and recent action taken by the NRC further assures manipulation of the funds will not be tolerated. However, it is a legitimate concern by the fee paying public that those who utilize the resources and are not supporting the cost of maintenance have an unfair advantage outdoors.
What is very important here is that if you sign on to anything contained within this group of policy questions, as a representative of a conservation organization, it is highly recommended that like the format followed by MUCC, you had best go to your respective membership for resolve so no one is blindsided with changes come this fall.
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Tim Kobasic is 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 Saturday mornings.