After 35 years of existence, the Pere Marquette Chapter will no longer exist. Quite simply no one has stepped forward to maintain our chapter. Bill Shinn had volunteered for the treasurer’s position and did an excellent job at that position. He also took care of obtaining the school and VFW and others for our fundraising events. Bill and his wife have moved out of the area and there is no one to take his position. Bill was the key to the continued operation of our chapter. A special THANK YOU goes out to him.
As I close out the chapter an exact accounting of the remaining funds will be kept. The criteria for dispensing the remaining money is that it has to be a nonprofit 501c3 conservation organization who is actually active in dealing with natural resources issues. A specific accounting will be available after the dispersal of funds.
Our chapter was founded in 1983 as the first local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). It was intended to be a full-fledged conservation organization free to deal with any issue. We were soon joined by the Traverse Bay and Ausable River Valley chapters. In 1996 the Pere Marquette Chapter received a letter from the NWTF terminating us. The NWTF had changed to a banquet funded organization where all the funds from a chapter’s banquet were turned over to them. We were told that local chapters were not allowed to have separate funds.
All of the money raised by the three chapters went directly back to our Wild Turkeys for a winter survival program and to support the expansion of new flocks into new areas and counties where there were none.
In 1996 the three chapters obtained nonprofit 501c3 status and formed the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association, again as a complete conservation organization free to deal with any issue we choose.
After disappearing from Michigan around 1900 Wild Turkeys had been planted in the Allegan State Forest and then in the Pere Marquette State Forest in Lake County. This plant was an experiment to see how they would fare outside of their traditional range within 1,000,000 acres of public forests. We were determined to ensure that they did succeed. It should be noted that to their the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) attempted to introduce at least two different game bird species into the state and they failed, however, Wild Turkeys now are found in just about every county in Michigan.
The MWTHA newsletter Michigan Turkey Tracks was first published on 10/15/96. It has been printed twice a year since and this is the 45th issue. Copies are sent to DNR management including the Natural Resources Commission, news media and others besides our members. Using a shotgun approach the following are some of the issues reported.
When conservation officers were reporting that because of rampant poaching was endangering restoration of the Wild Turkey we had legislation introduced in the Michigan legislature that would give the Wild Turkey big game status with the bear and deer.
We lobbied it through the process and attended the signing ceremony with Governor Blanchard. We were instrumental in the passage of a game restitution bill that collects $1000 for each turkey illegally killed. Put together the costs include a fine and costs, jail time, loss of hunting privileges and $1000 restitution. They also included every game bird and animal. From that time forward our Wild Turkey numbers increased.
As turkey hunting was new we obtained rules that provided for a high-quality hunting experience. The rules that were obtained are found in the turkey hunting application guide. An example is no hunting over bait and no roost shooting. A series on this subject appeared in Turkey Tracks.
It was realized that there were very few Wild Turkeys found within our public forests. From the beginning, we have been one of the few organizations that represent the public land hunter. We began a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and began working on habitat. We created a partnership with the Michigan Conservation Foundation and began documenting the lack of meaningful wildlife habitat within our state forest. We attended state forest compartment reviews in an effort to make meaningful changes. A series of articles appeared in Turkey Tracks. (Mostly ignored.)
A series was published in Turkey Tracks over the issue of access to our public forest. The U.S. Forest Service has been closing access to the public within the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Their actions on these cannot be appealed but we got congressmen involved for several meetings with the Forest Service.
A Citation For Professional Excellence was created. Several outstanding U.S. Forest Service and MDNR employees who went above and beyond in support for our natural resources and wildlife were honored.
A series was published on Wild Turkey habitat requirements and lack of required habitat on our state forest lands. In the September 2003 issue, an article appeared that warned of a severe decline in the Wild Turkey population throughout the 13 county Pere Marquette Chapter area. A meeting was held with the local MDNR and district wildlife biologists. A request was made to discontinue a fall season until Wild Turkey numbers had an opportunity to regain their numbers. A fall season has not been held in 10 of those counties since.
Since our very beginning, we realized that our Wild Turkeys would not be able to survive severe winter conditions of long periods of extremely cold weather in addition to deep snow that restricts movement. We advertised that anyone supporting turkeys in our area would receive a payment of $1.00 per bird. The money came out of our pockets. This helped us to determine what and the where of our population. Thereafter we were able to purchase and distribute shelled corn to turkey flocks free of charge. This is the only way of knowing the health, numbers and any problems in the scattered turkey flocks.
Michigan Turkey Tracks was a tool that was used to not only educate our fellow turkey hunters but the general public as well. We have always stressed that we are very fortunate to have Wild Turkeys present. It was thought at one time that we would never, ever see this amazing bird in Michigan again.
There came a time when the U.S. Forest Service announced that they were going to sell or trade 40,000 acres within the Huron-Manistee National Forest. A wildlife biologist was consulted who shook his head and advised that they were disposing of the very best wildlife habit. It turned out to be a long drawn out process. Opportunists were buying a piece of forest land that the forest service wanted, strip it of timber and trade it for a timbered piece of National Forest of the same size. We began a series of appealing the sale or trade of 40 acres or more and any body of water no matter the size. One classic example was Biglow Creek in Newaygo County, which is a recognized trout stream. It was an 80-acre parcel with 1/2 mile of a stream running through it that was listed for disposal. We appealed, raised as much hell as possible and recruited Trout Unlimited as an ally. At a meeting held on a high bank overlooking the stream, we watched as trout were raising for flies. Eventually, the forest supervisor withdrew the proposal. We appealed and won disposal of 40 acres on Sanborn Creek in Lake County, which is another Trout Stream. Eventually, the forest service withdrew the 40,000 acres for disposal.
A series of articles titled Of Public Forests and Wild Turkeys appeared in Turkey Tracks. Between us and the Michigan Conservation Foundation, a great deal of state forest compartments were reviewed. Detailed reports of the lack of wildlife habitat for many forest species was published.
The Pigeon River Country State Forest, located in the northeastern lower peninsula was created by visionaries who set aside the Pigeon as the last remaining wild place in the northern lower peninsula. It is a place of abundant forest wildlife. For several years each fall I hunted elk with a mouth call, grunt tube, and video camera. The numbers of deer and wild turkeys I observed was remarkable.
What I did find that horse riders had taken over the Pigeon and were having a very detrimental effect on the Pigeon. In the 1980s both the forest supervisor and the DNR fisheries biologist requested a director’s order to control the horse use. None came. Sound familiar? A partnership with Bob Jacobson, president of the Michigan Conservation Resource Foundation was created to regain the very soul of the Pigeon. A series of articles appeared in Turkey Tracks that documented the many problems in the Pigeon. MDNR director Rebecca Humphries established a committee to present recommendations to her. Eventually, she presented director orders that restrict- ed horse use in the Pigeon. Not to be undone the horse people found two state representatives who initiated legislation that would allow unrestricted horse use on every square inch of every stated forest. A problem arose for them when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified both the legislature and the DNR that the bill was in violation of the Pittman-Robertson Act and that if they passed the legislation $25,000,000 of annual PR funds would be withdrawn from Michigan. The legislation died. They did find a way to have a seat on the advisory council. Fast forward a few years and we find our businessman Governor Snyder placing the MDNR Parks Division into the Pigeon. The Parks Division stated they were going to create a recreation plan. Their goal was to turn the Big Wild into a state park. At the time that they introduced a plan, a campaign would be mounted to terminate those $25,000,000 in violation of the PR funds. They have withdrawn any recreational planning. Will future generations be able to see and enjoy this very remarkable forest? Time will tell.
During the 1980’s we developed a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service on the management of the 1,000,000 acre Huron-Manistee National Forest. A lot of crucial habitat was created during that time. As we learned over these many years is that what one administration gives the next one takes it away. Planning for the 2006 plan has begun. As it involves managing for threatened and endangered species and is going to be very detrimental to all other forest wildlife. Letters were written and sent to each proposal during the planning period. In the end a letter of appeal, that documented its many problems was sent. The Forest Service leadership in Washington dismissed all appeals and the plan went into effect. We had too much time, effort and money into the Huron-Manistee and have written them off.
The Pine River that runs through Osceola and Lake counties is a remarkable trout stream. It is the only trout stream in Michigan that has a self-sustaining population of Rainbow Trout. I spent many days on the river fishing and over time noticed that the aquatic habitat was being affected. When asked I served for 31/2 years on the board that was planning Natural Rivers designation for the Pine. During the process, it had reached a point that was supposed to go to public hearing. Opposition from developers and others had developed and had the ear of a key politician. Suddenly DNR director halted the process (gutless), and the designation was dead. A coalition of many of the planners was formed but soon to realize that nothing could be done. I figured out if we wait for term limits to eliminate the politician we again would have an opportunity. We would simply ask that the process move forward to public hearing. I and two representatives from Trout Unlimited and the Pine River Property Owners Association appeared before the Natural Resources Commission, explained who we were, our impact on the plan and made the simple request to move it forward. It did and eventually, it was completed. Those who were opposed found a state representative to introduce legislation that would allow townships and counties to withdraw from Natural Rivers Designation within their areas. A long drawn out battle occurred that in the end was defeated. The Pine and upper Manistee enjoy the crucial protection today.
The above are examples of conservation issues dealt with. The following are a few more in brief. After reviewing a listing of contaminated fish and wildlife by the Michigan Department of Health it became aware of a warning not to eat any game species from the floodplains of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, including Wild Turkey. This was because of Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals created by man and manufactured by Dow Chemical. An article was published in Turkey Tracks entitled Don’t Eat The Wild Turkeys. Amazingly the advisory appeared the following year in the Spring Turkey Digest.
An article appeared in Turkey Tracks that brought to light the disappearing hunters of Michigan, some of the reasons and solutions. We approached State Senator Darwin Booher who introduced Senate Bill 412 into the legislature. After years of being ignored in our quest to create Wild Turkey habitat on our state forests using the restricted Wild Turkey Fund. As the bill worked through the Senate leaders of the Michigan Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation opposed it at every turn. Eventually, the watered-down bill was passed and signed by the governor. It appears that the DNR is not following the requirements of the law.
The article Of Hares and Turkeys addressed the problem of the disappearance of our Snowshoe Hares from many traditional areas. It also addressed the decline in numbers of ground-nesting birds, some of the reasons why and solutions. When Economy as a consideration appeared with Biological and Social on the Natural Resources Commission agendas an article was published in Turkey Tracks titled For Sale-Michigan’s Natural Resources.
After decades of spending many early mornings scouting and hunting turkeys long time hunters have observed an annual decline in many bird species, including the Barred Owl, Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock, and Wild Turkeys. An article appeared titled The Sound of Silence that documented these findings.
A recent article addressed the issue of transforming deer habitat to a set aside for Rattle Snakes. In the ’60s and ’70s, DNR wildlife biologists created a series of very impressive openings on the edges of the very large Baldwin-Luther swamp. They were planted in a food source for deer that emerged from the winter deer yards. Under new management they are being lost to brush and weeds and being left in case a Rattle Snake is found there.
It came to our attention that orchard and Christmas Tree growers were throwing poison grain on the ground to kill rodents who were killing their trees. From songbirds to Geese, to Wild Turkeys to secondary poisoning of fox was happening. How many thousands of birds that died of the poison were unknown. We began a campaign to correct this problem with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Eventually, the use of T feeders was required. This appears to correct the problem.
These are just a few highlights of the many conservation issues that we have dealt with over these past 35 years. Most of the time we were the only organization to carry on these prolonged battles.
In closing, I wish a very sincere Thank You to those of you who stepped forward to make the operation of our chapter possible. Another sincere Thank You goes out to those longtime members who supported us and believed in us for these many years. My personal concern over the future of hunting and management of our natural resources is that the disease called AISI (apathy, ignorance, and self-interest) will continue to grow. What natural resources will future generations yet unborn find and be able to enjoy as we have?