During February 1986 it was noted that our poaching bill H.B. 4977 has passed the House and Senate and is now waiting for the Governor’s signature. The Senate has increased the fine to $200 minimum and $1000 maximum on their own initiative (surprising what believable testimony might bring). The Wild Turkey will have big game status. Maturen and Tom Tighe had appeared before the House Natural Resources Committee earlier and had successfully passed the bill through the committee. A simple fact sheet had been prepared that documented the turkey population decline throughout the state and the poaching problem. It was distributed to members of both the House and Senate.
While testifying at the House Committee, the possibility of a restitution bill being introduced in the future was mentioned. We were asked if we considered a fee of $1000 restitution to be in order. We told them that we did and why. It was noted that “experts”, both within and out of the DNR, said the legislature would never pass our poaching bill (apparently they never had met dedicated turkey hunters before). Seriously, it takes a great deal of effort and resources to get a legislative bill passed.
On 2/8/86 a letter was sent to DNR director Skoog and the Natural Resources Commission in regard to an attempt by Wildlife Unlimited in the U.P. to hold a fall turkey season in Area M (Dickinson County). They have what they consider a surplus of 800 to 900 turkeys. We have a great need for trapping and transfer of birds in many counties where there are none presently. Locally we need the transfer of turkeys into Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana and Mason counties. There are huge gaps throughout the entire area between isolated flocks. Our simple message was – NO WAY!
On 2/17/86 a call was received from — of the DNR who asked for support of H.B. 4047, which increases the hunting license fees. There are two senators on the Natural Resources Committee in favor of passage, two against and Senator Connie Binsfield is undecided. A request was made that we contact Binsfield in support of the bill. Binsfield’s aid, Daryl Homes, was contacted who sent a copy of the bill. It was promised among other things that 40 additional conservation officers would be hired if the bill passed. Upon studying the bill it was found that the DNR was trying to trash the Wild Turkey hunting permit system by deleting the law that requires that a lottery be held. Telephoned all 5 senators of the committee (bill had passed the house) and a letter was sent to all 38 senators. A call was made to Representative Scott’s office (the bill’s sponsor) and the researcher for the House. Received a call from Daryl Holmes who advised that the Wildlife Division said that they expect the lottery law to be deleted and the bill to be passed.
On 2/25/86 attended the Senate Natural Resources committee meeting on H.B. 4047 with Art Cocklin and spoke to the committee. We are in a very precarious position of supporting the bill to increase the conservation officer force in regard to our anti-poaching efforts, only to be put in a situation of defeating any attempt to eliminate our lottery permit system. We were the only conservation organization there. Spoke first in support of the license increase and then spoke of past DNR management practices, a lack of written management policy and the lack of consistency in the management of turkeys and hunters. DNR threw in the towel and lottery language was reinstated back into the bill. Director Skoog, deputy director Jack Bails and assistant to the director Cleary, who all had the opportunity to hear our thoughts on their management of the turkey resource and hunt, represented DNR.
Note: In the end, we were out flanked – again. The 40 additional conservation officers promised to the conservation community if we supported the bill never happened.