ESCANABA - In the short time since Governor Snyder delivered his first State-Of-The-State Address, there have already been 24 pieces of legislation introduced that in some way effect natural resources and outdoor recreation.
I got the distinct impression the Governor was taking a pragmatic approach to resolving Michigan's economical woes. He has made key appointments and created deadlines for projects implemented to assure they accomplish what he intended them to do.
If not, they will be amended or trashed and he will start over.
I don't feel the same after reviewing a few of the two dozen bills introduced through the Michigan House. On top of the list is HB 4021(Agema).
It appears that while Michigan voters acted to protect the integrity of the restricted funds produced by natural resource users, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund may be set for re-distribution of revenue.
The original intent of the MNRTF, a fund established from the sale of non-renewable resources such as petroleum products, was to be used for conservation projects sponsored by non-profit conservation organizations and/or governmental units toward projects related to outdoor recreation.
To date all of the money made on the interest from investments, awarded through the MNRTF Board, has funded fishing piers, public access points, numerous habitat projects that include acquisition of public land for recreation, and public parks projects, just to name a few.
Those applying for grants via the MNRTF did so on a competitive level, being rewarded points toward qualifying for funding and awarded higher for outdoor public recreation projects that included hunting and wildlife habitat.
Inserted language of the new bill, HB 4021 will now allocate 20 percent toward aeronautics, 60 percent toward transportation and the remaining 20 percent for its original intent.
One piece of legislation that will address the crippled economy and how some public land projects are supported with labor, is HB 4111 (Rendon).
Backed by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the bill will allow the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to appoint volunteers to conduct work in areas where a lack of resources currently prevents the MDNR from fulfilling planned wildlife habitat projects or everyday management of Michigan's natural resources.
This is not precedent setting. The same process takes place in many different aspects of resource management.
For years conservation organizations have massed to provide volunteer labor in the Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions.
Representative volunteers from fishing clubs and others have gone to collect spawn for the hatcheries. They have also manned and funded fish planting in the lakes, rivers and steams.
Wildlife organizations have worked to restore fish habitat by creating structure in deep waters and repair of beds in creeks, performed deer research and goose banding projects.
Non-profit recreational clubs have teamed with MDNR for years in not only planning and funding the elaborate snowmobile and ORV/ATV trail and route system in Michigan, their donated man power has been utilized to create and maintain those same trails, saving the state countless precious dollars.
HB 4111, by intent, will enhance the MDNR's ability to not only keep the initial programs, if passed it will ease the burden of financing them and perhaps bring some needed paid personnel back for field oversight and see even further expansion.
Governor Snyder has related his belief that the future of our economic recovery will be at least partially enhanced with increased tourism.
Unlike a big part of our other government agencies, I think that what we have here in Michigan with the DNR is a secure, mostly self-funded market driven segment of government that has to have a different fiscal spin than other state departments.
The users mostly determine how advanced we are going to be. Revenues have to keep pace with inflation and at times will need fee increases.
The money will not only go toward advancement, it will also continue those programs already in place and in need of maintenance or replacement.
Our State Constitution protects the integrity of the restricted funds from diversion to other uses and the Natural Resources Commission has bolstered their commitment to assure it does not happen even in the slightest regard.
I believe it would also be of great benefit to the state if our Governor supports the MDNR as it continues the process of regionalization.
It will serve to bring more autonomy back to the local level and, again, help produce the best return on investment the State of Michigan could hope to achieve in the effort to grow our economic base.
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.