I know that few people understand why paying more for recreational activities would be a cause for celebration, but then again, few understand the merit in walking through knee-deep snow before daylight or standing in a river waving a stick during a driving rain. It was for these same reasons that many of us struggled to understand why so many legislators who spend little or no time in the outdoors would object to allowing the rest of us to pay a little more in support of the management of our state’s fisheries and wildlife.
The good news is that yesterday (6/19/13) the State Senate finally got out of the way (mostly) and by a vote of 24 to 14 approved an amended version of House Bill-4668. These amendments result in the requirement that it go back to the House of Representatives for what we hope is merely technical reaffirmation. Rather than revisiting the negative aspects of a vote which required three attempts to finally get right, I would prefer to focus on the collective effort which resulted in its passage.
In a rare demonstration of bi-partisan support, those voting in favor of the amended bill crossed both sides of the aisle, as did the amendment process itself. However irritating to some, from a practical standpoint the amendments did little more than provide sufficient political cover for some Senators to reconsider their prior opposition. That’s fine, whatever works. The actual summary of the amendments can be viewed by clicking here.
Beyond the bi-partisan Senatorial show of support was that of the hunter, angler and conservation community. Some senatorial offices were said to have received more than 200 calls requesting a vote in support of HB-4668 over the Tuesday evening-Wednesday morning period,
Perhaps the most compelling part of the grassroots show of support was the breadth of the conservation partnership which led to the victory. Sure, the traditional hunting and angling voices found in Michigan United Conservation Clubs and its MUCC-led Conservation Coalition were heard, but so were those of organizations which may be seen by many as having largely an environmental focus. Specifically, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters deserve special recognition for their efforts. It was at least in part due to their effective working relationship with Senator Rebekah Warren that her original opposition was reshaped in the form of an amendment which allowed her to then lead others in support of the bill.
The only unfortunate part of Sen. Warren’s amendment was its singling out of the Fisheries Division. The amendment specifically requires that the “DNR must complete and post on its website by November 1, 2013 a strategic and tactical plan for the Fisheries Division which would include specific measures and metrics.” While I would concede that the recent Fisheries effort was light on specifics, an amendment essentially requiring a new strategic plan has to be a little uncomfortable for a Division that thought they just completed one.
Okay, back to the positive message. For those of us who are old enough to remember the days when hunters, anglers, conservationists and environmentalists were all under one tent, these events are very welcome news. Too good to be true? Probably, but for now let’s embrace it while we can.