Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

State nears decision on deer management plan

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING –Hunting may soon have new guidance if the Department of Natural Reseources and Environment (DNRE) approves its draft deer management plan.

The DNRE plan would manage the 1.8 million deer and goes to the DNRE director, Rebecca Humphries, on April 8.

Final approval would come on May 6, and if it’s approved the DNRE would begin implementing parts of the plan immediately.

The plan was created to fill a perceived gap in overall guidance on deer management.

“It’s strategic in nature, so it helps identify the direction we want to go and set some boundaries for deer management in the future,” said John Niewoonder, a wildlife biologist for the DNRE.

Patrick Brown, a Northern Michigan University biology professor, said deer management is critical because hunting plays a large role economically, culturally and recreationally. Deer hunting is estimated to have about a $1.6 billion impact on the Michigan economy.

The draft plan outlines six major goals, including maintaining the deer population at appropriate levels, promoting hunting to maintain the population and for recreation, and maintaining habitat. The other goals are to control clashes between deer and people, reduce the threat and impact of disease on deer and educate the public about deer management.

According to Amy Spray, a resource policy specialist for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), the plan is meant to provide direction, but not operational details, for the DNRE “This is sort of the guiding document for the next 10 years, so when they’re putting out a regulation they’re going look at the plan to see if that regulation is implementing the goals and the ideas that are laid out in the plan,” Spray said.

The DNRE has held eight meetings to get public input. According to Niewoonder, attendees were concerned with more specific aspects of deer management such as hunting regulations that the plan isn’t meant to address.

“This plan sets the path for deer management in the future and will lead to more operational regulations in the future that are not in the plan, so some people are frustrated by that,” Niewoonder said.

Based on public comments, parts of the plan will be revised to reflect what people wanted, although there will be no major changes, according to Niewoonder.

Spray said MUCC is pleased overall with the plan and the process of creating it. She said her one concern is how proposed regional advisory teams and citizen advisory councils would interact.

“I would like to see those processes work together rather than have two separate paths,” Spray said. “They need to be working together, sharing information, having those conversations together.”

She said the last comprehensive statewide plan was about 20 years ago and the need to update it has become greater since then.

“It was a different time and a different world in terms of the deer management issues we’re facing so that’s why it was time to do this process and do it right,” Spray said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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