Hunters and Anglers Speak Out Against Land Cap Bill

Hunters and Anglers Pack the House to Oppose Unnecessary Land Cap Submitted by Michigan LCV on Fri, 01/13/2012 – 11:08am Share 29 On Tuesday, a Republican state senator presented his public land bill to a room full of hunters and anglers in northern Michigan. Slam dunk, right? Not quite. This town hall wasn’t about just any bill; it was about SB 248, the Land Cap Bill, which would restrict the amount of land available for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking. The citizens at this town hall proved that conservation is not a partisan issue, and that protecting and preserving land for public use transcends party politics. Rep. Peter Pettalia (R – Presque Isle) hosted bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Casperson (R – Escanaba) for the town hall in Alpena. Citizens from across Michigan attended, including a large group from Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) who arrived in force, in camo, and informed. Others represented Trout Unlimited, the Pigeon River Country Association, the Quality Deer Management Association, horseback riding groups, township administrators, and, of course, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Sen. Casperson first claimed that the Land Cap Bill was a solution to township budget problems due to the underpayment of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILTs) to local governments, which make up for property tax revenue on public land. However, Rep. Frank Foster (R – Pellston) introduced a bill passed this summer to ensure that all future lands purchased through the Natural Resources Trust Fund would have their PILTs paid in full. When I asked the Senator if he would exempt Trust Fund land from the cap for that very reason, he changed the subject to land use. Sen. Casperson spent most of the evening criticizing DNR land management policy, especially how much timber is cleared from state lands. Sen. Casperson ran his family’s log trucking business before running for office, and he introduced a resolution in the fall asking the federal government to allow more logging on federal lands in Michigan. He also criticized preservation land and lands designated for low-impact and non-motorized use. However, several citizens expressed to Sen. Casperson that his bill does nothing about DNR land management policies, but only caps the amount of land the DNR can manage. While many in the crowd agreed that the DNR could use a land management plan, few agreed that the Land Cap Bill was a solution. (Click Here for Video) The great thing about a town hall meeting is that you can learn more from the citizens than from the politicians. Since it was obvious that SB 248 was not about township revenue and would not solve any DNR policy issues, many wondered who would actually benefit from the bill. One member of the crowd supplied the answer when he pointed out that the bill removes language from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) that requires land sold by the DNR to receive fair market value by appraisal. The Land Cap Bill would require the state to sell land if it wanted to purchase more after it reached the cap. If a parcel became available in southern Michigan, where there is currently little public land, the DNR would have to sell off land somewhere else, likely in the Upper Peninsula, where timber, paper, and mining companies could acquire it cheaply. Sen. Casperson tried to deny it, but Rep. Pettalia confirmed that is was possible in one of those telling moments when a citizen publicly questions a politician’s assertions. Sen. Casperson did write some exceptions to the land cap, including one for current Commercial Forest Act (CFA) lands. Though he claimed this was because CFA lands are currently accessible to hunters, this creates another situation beneficial only to industrial landowners. Under this exception, the only way the DNR could exceed the cap is to purchase land from the timber and paper companies that currently own CFA lands. Do you think those purchases will be at fair market value? A land cap would also eliminate the primary purpose of the Natural Resources Trust Fund, which is to purchase state land for recreation. Several citizens voiced concern that politicians would try to dip into the Trust Fund for non-recreational uses. Sen. Casperson said that legislators might use it to maintain trail infrastructure, but not to worry because the Trust Fund was protected in the Michigan Constitution. He failed to mention that a constitutional amendment he proposed would use the Trust Fund to build logging and mining roads on state land. Dave Smethurst, a member of Trout Unlimited who helped negotiate the Trust Fund, stood up and told Sen. Casperson that citizens voted the Trust Fund into the Constitution to protect it from legislators! (Click Here for Video) The Land Cap Bill is not about township revenues; Sen. Casperson’s refusal to exempt Trust Fund land from the cap is evidence of that. It is not about DNR recreational use policy; more public land will create more places for horseback riders to ride, not less. This bill is about timber. It is about opening more land to logging, acquiring cheap land at the expense of Michigan citizens, selling that land back to the state because it will be the only land the state can purchase, and raiding the Trust Fund to build industry roads so that industry won’t have to pay for them. As Sen. Casperson said at the town hall, he’s been a timber man all his life. SB 248 has already passed the Senate and is now in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Recreation. If your representative is on this committee, please tell him or her today to scrap the Land Cap Bill! Committee Members: Frank Foster (R), Committee Chair, 107th District frankfoster@house.mi.gov Matt Huuki (R), Majority Vice-Chair, 110th District matthuuki@house.mi.gov Wayne A. Schmidt (R), 104th District wayneschmidt@house.mi.gov Kurt Damrow (R), 84th District kurtdamrow@house.mi.gov Holly Hughes (R), 91st District hollyhughes@house.mi.gov Joel Johnson (R), 97th District joeljohnson@house.mi.gov Peter Pettalia (R), 106th District peterpettalia@house.mi.gov Harold L. Haugh (D), Minority Vice-Chair, 42nd District haroldhaugh@house.mi.gov Maureen L. Stapleton (D), 4th District maureenstapleton@house.mi.gov Timothy Bledsoe (D), 1st District timbledsoe@house.mi.gov Dian Slavens (D), 21st District dianslavens@house.mi.gov By Drew YoungeDyke, Michigan LCV Project Associate

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The mission of the Northern Michigan Conservation Network is to "connect conservation-minded hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts to those issues affecting Michigan's forests, waters, and wildlife."

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