HOUGHTON - A pair of important meetings in guiding the future of conservation in the western U.P. and Michigan in general will take place in the area in the coming weeks.
The DNR's Western U.P. Citizens Advisory Council, which consists of leading sportsmen from throughout the region, will gather Monday at Horizons Alternative High School in Mohawk from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission, which sets statewide policy for the DNR, will meet at the Ontonagon Theatre of Performing Arts in Ontonagon Oct. 8.
The NRC tries to schedule one of its monthly meetings in the U.P. each year. Last year, the commission met in Munising, the hometown of commissioner John Madigan. This year, commissioner J.R. Richardson of Ontonagon gets the benefit of a short commute, not to mention a chance to show off the place he's called home all his life.
"I'm looking forward to bringing everybody up here," he said.
The group will begin committee meetings at noon on Oct. 8, with items to continue into the early evening.
Richardson, who was appointed to his spot on the NRC by Gov. Jennifer Granholm about two years ago, said he's proud to bring the voice of Upper Peninsula residents down to Lansing and has enjoyed working with locally-based lawmakers during his tenure.
"I think we have a real unique opportunity to do something to affect the resources in a positive way in the long term," he said.
Among the major items on the NRC's October agenda include discussion on management of timber sales on state-owned land. The NRC is working to establish a balance between making renewable resources on state lands available to those that can use them and protecting habitat for fish and wildlife.
Another item of concern in this area is renewing authorization for supplemental deer feeding in the northern U.P. The Western U.P. CAC will be presenting a resolution on the subject and it will be discussed in Ontonagon before the NRC.
The DNR banned deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula when the state discovered a case of Chronic Wasting Disease on a farm in West Michigan. More than 50 tons of feed were distributed to area deer last winter and the groups that sponsor the local deer feeding program, which include U.P. Whitetails, Inc., the Calumet-Keweenaw Sportsmen's Club and the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club, are concerned that if feeding is banned as a means of CWD control, the winter could do more damage than CWD ever could.
"We feel it would be too devastating to our herd because of the harsh winters we have," said Fred Jarvi of the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club.
Among the fisheries issues up for discussion by the NRC are raising the state's salmon bag limit and amending regulations for lake trout fishing in Lake Superior.
The Western U.P. CAC was established in the spring of 2008 and is an advisory body made up of concerned sportsmen and conservationists representing a variety of interests throughout the region. Its intent is to serve as a conduit for information between the DNR and the public on outdoors management priorities.
Jarvi, who is on the CAC, said the council's work has made an impact, citing the recent approval of hunting with crossbows in some situations as an example of one time the CAC's support for the issue prodded lawmakers and policymakers to move in a particular direction.
"They're listening. They're willing to listen. I'm not saying that they're going to do everything we want them to do, but at least they're listening," he said.
Both meetings are open to the public. To download an agenda or find out more about either body, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the "Commissions, Boards and Committees" tab.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.