UPDATE | How Will Future Generations Remember You?

Minnesota Conservation Federation –

This past week, the Department of Natural Resources gave a presentation to the new House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. It was a standard introductory presentation to the new committee, of which only one member returns from last session’s Natural Resources Committee (Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, who won MUCC’s Legislative Conservationist of the Year Award in 2016). In the presentation, DNR Director Keith Creagh rattled off some amazing facts about Michigan’s natural resources, for instance:

  • Michigan has 763,618 hunters, #3 in the nation, generating $2.5 billion annually and supported by 4.5 million acres of state public land.
  • Michigan has 1.1 million anglers, 11,000 lakes and 1,300 public boat access sites.
  • Michigan’s over 4 million acres of public land state forest generates $20 billion and 35,000 jobs each year.

Listening to these facts, I couldn’t help but reflect that some of these figures are a direct result of resolutions passed by Michigan United Conservation Clubs members over the years. For instance, in 1939 we campaigned for legislation to provide public access sites to Michigan lakes and streams using hunting and fishing license fees. And how many of those hunters would we have if MUCC didn’t support mandatory hunters’ safety in 1970, or the elimination of the minimum hunting age in 2011? How many acres of that public land would we have if MUCC didn’t stop the diversion of game and fish funds to non-conservation uses in 1940 or support legislation creating the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in 1976?

Each of these actions taken by MUCC in decades past helped conserve the natural resources we enjoy today. But what will be our legacy for generations to come? Each year, our members decide what actions we will take to conserve natural resources for future generations through our conservation policy process. Members propose resolutions at conservation policy meetings and vote on whether to advance those to our Annual Convention in June, where delegates representing our affiliated local sportsmen’s clubs and individual members vote whether those actions should be MUCC’s policy. In recent years, successful resolutions have led to the elimination of the 150-yard “no hunting” zone for bowhunters and trappers, the year-round coyote and bass seasons, our efforts to protect fisheries from net-pen aquaculture, and increases in poaching fines, among many other things.

Any MUCC member or member club can introduce a resolution, but the last chance to do so this year is less than a month away. The last Conservation Policy meeting before our Annual Convention will be held on March 11 at the Munising Township Hall in Wetmore, Michigan, just outside of Munising. If there is a conservation action or position you believe strongly that Michigan United Conservation Clubs should take, now is the time to make your voice heard. You can complain all you want about what MUCC should or shouldn’t do, but unless you introduce a resolution stating why and convince our members that you’re right, we cannot take action.

This is the last chance to participate in the democratic grassroots process which determines MUCC’s conservation policies. Since 1937, this process has helped to provide the hunters, anglers, trappers, conservationists, public land, fishing access, fish and wildlife we enjoy today. Sign up here to register for the March 11 Conservation Policy Meeting to pass it on to the next generation.

Have an idea but can’t make the meeting? Email Amy Trotter, MUCC Deputy Director, at atrotter@mucc.org.

Help Michigan United Conservation Clubs conserve our natural resources for future generations by making a donation at www.mucc.org/donate! Or, stop by the MUCC booth at Outdoorama Feb. 23-26 and purchase a 50/50 Conservation Jackpot ticket!

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MUCC Supports Kildee Legislation to Protect Wild Fisheries from Aquaculture

For the past few years, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and our partners have led the fight to protect the Great Lakes wild fisheries from net-pen aquaculture. Yesterday, Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-5) introduced federal legislation that will protect both Great Lakes fisheries and designated wild and scenic rivers, which Michigan United Conservation Clubs supports. However, it’s important to note that this legislation only affects certain types of aquaculture which threaten wild fisheries through the release of effluent and the risk of disease transmission and escapement. There are some very promising forms of closed-loop aquaculture which we support. Here is the full press release issued yesterday by Congressman Kildee’s office:

FENTON – Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), flanked by sports fishermen and conservationists at Red Fox Outfitters in Fenton, today announced that he has introduced new legislation in Congress to ban harmful aquaculture practices in both the Great Lakes and federally designated “Wild and Scenic Rivers,” which includes the Au Sable River. The new bills are part of Congressman Kildee’s continued efforts to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s rivers from pollution, disease and invasive species.

Aquaculture is the commercial raising of fish in ponds, rivers or lakes. If not done correctly, it has been shown to increase pollution, destroy sensitive fish habitats, spread disease and introduce non-native species. Sadly, other states have seen polluted waterways that have crippled local economies as a result of bad aquaculture practices. A commercial fish farm facility in Pennsylvania on Big Spring Creek – once a famous trout stream – collapsed the region’s fishing industry in the 1970s.

“Like many Michiganders, I have fond memories spending time up north on the lakes or fishing in the river with my family. For everyone in our state, our water is precious, and that’s why we have to always protect it from harm. Whether it is invasive species like Asian Carp, Canada’s plan to store nuclear waste on the shore of the Great Lakes or commercial fish farming, I will always fight to protect Michigan’s freshwater and the vital jobs that depend on it,” said Congressman Kildee.

Currently, a commercial aquaculture facility near Grayling has a state-issued permit, through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, to expand its fish farming operation by 15 times its current size. The expansion will pollute the “Holy Waters” of the Au Sable River, one of Michigan’s 16 rivers designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by the federal government based on its unique ecosystems and pristine scenery.

Congressman Kildee’s two bills include:

• The Ban Aquaculture in the Great Lakes Act, which would ban aquaculture facilities in the Great Lakes, ending the current patchwork of state laws that attempt to regulate such commercial fishing.

• The Preserving Fishing on Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which would ban aquaculture facilities on Wild and Scenic Rivers and its tributaries, such as the Au Sable River, unless such facilities are shown not to discharge pollutants into the river.

Banning aquaculture has support from a vast majority of Michiganders, as well as lawmakers and conservation groups. According to a recent poll, 68 percent of Michiganders oppose aquaculture in the Great Lakes. Additionally, this issue is not a partisan one; Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have previously introduced legislation to ban aquaculture in the Great Lakes and in Michigan waterways.

Congressman Kildee’s legislation also has support from the Anglers of the Au Sable, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Salmon and Steelhead Association and For the Love of Water (FLOW).

“Anglers of the Au Sable applauds Congressman Kildee for addressing an overlooked Great Lakes water issue, the introduction of pollutants by fish farms into the Lakes and connecting waterways,” said Tom Baird, president of the organization that focuses on improving fishing on the Au Sable River. “It is vital that fish farms be operated in a way that protects the cleanliness of our rivers and lakes, which are in a delicate balance easily tipped by addition of wastes from aquaculture done improperly. Flow through systems that use rivers as virtually open sewers are of particular concern to those of us who fish for trout, which need clean, cold water to thrive. This legislation would ensure only properly regulated fish farms which don’t pollute are allowed on designated rivers.”

“The Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association is one of the largest sport fishing organizations in the Great Lakes Basin. Our mission is to protect, promote and enhance sport fishing in the Great Lakes and connecting water ways. We are proud to support legislation to prohibit aquaculture in the Great Lakes and to prohibit aquaculture operations that contribute to pollution of wild and scenic rivers,” said Dennis Eade, Executive Director of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association.

“We appreciate Congressman Kildee’s leadership on this very important sportsmen’s issue. Aquaculture facilities across the globe that are connected to public water bodies have proven to be disastrous for water quality and fish health. Our $4 billion fishery in Michigan drives local economies, creates jobs, and connects millions of Michigan citizens to our long and storied heritage as the premier fishing destination in North America,” said Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

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Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates’

In 2015/2016 the MN DNR  made up a budget shortfall by lowering the funding levels for aquatic invasive species grants. This year the MN DNR awarded these reduced grants on a first-come, first-served basis until potential funding was used up. They were gone in a few day’s time.

This is unacceptable.

These grants are critical to local efforts to keep the public waterways usable for everyone in the state.  Lake Associations already contribute millions of dollars to fund AIS education, inspection and management projects to protect the public waters. This work is having an impact and benefits everyone in Minnesota be they direct users of our lakes and rivers, businesses dependent on healthy lake and river ecosystems, or even people who drink water or pay property taxes. Zebra mussels can damage water plant infrastructure and drive up costs for everyone. Studies have shown that aquatic invasive species can lower property tax base, raising costs for everyone in the taxing district.

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