The founders of this forest had a vision that it would remain as the last truly wild place in the lower peninsula of Michigan, the BIG WILD. The Pigeon is the only state forest that has a Concept of Management and an Advisory Council. Despite this, over the last decade the BIG WILD has been severely compromised by special interest groups. This is unacceptable to us. It should be noted that just a few years ago there were probably more Wild Turkeys found throughout the Pigeon than any other state forest. That is not the case today.
In September-October, 2004 Bob Jacobson, president of the Michigan Conservation Foundation along with MWTHA sent letters to DNR Director Humphries outlining the many problems within the Pigeon. We asked for a meeting with the Director. To her credit she appointed a committee to study the Pigeon and come up with recommendations to update the Concept of Management. A meeting was never held. We asked to be represented on the committee and were excluded.
Among the problems that we addressed was the fact that horses and their riders had taken over the Pigeon. Horses flooded the Pigeon. Their national organization magazines were advertising the Pigeon as a must destination. Horses are not compatible with elk and many other wildlife species that call the Pigeon home. We addressed snowmobile problems and lack of enforcement. We protested the loss of wildlife openings and those not created according to the original plan. There is no control over commercial guides and outfitters.
In 2007 a draft of the update Concept of Management plan was submitted. As far back as 1982 the forest manager acknowledged a horse problem that he attempted to alleviative with a Directors Order. None came. Despite the fact that the problem of horses within the Pigeon has increased many times since then, the draft contained one small paragraph dealing with horses. It was a whitewash that did not deal with the issue.
In 1997 a letter was sent to Joe Jarecki, forest manager by the DNR district wildlife biologist advising of the many snowmobile violations. Snowmobilers were breaking up the wintering elk herds and were chasing them to get the bulls to drop their antlers, which then sold. A Directors Order was need to enforce the rules. None came.
The draft whitewashed the wildlife opening problem. It was full of SHOULD BE rather that SHALL BE. The plan update was not worth the paper that it was written on.
On 8/21/07 MWTHA submitted a 6 page letter to the DNR listing our concerns and the solutions to them. I have heard the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) state that they hear complaints but no solutions. This was 6 pages of solutions to bring the Pigeon back as the BIG WILD.
On 9/13/07 I, Bob Jacobson, president of the Michigan Conservation Foundation and Bob Strong, a retired DNR biologist appeared before the NRC. Bob spent a great deal of time on Pigeon and is outraged over what has happened to it. A committee meeting was held before the public appearances. The DNR employee that was dealing with the updated plan was going to categorize letters and comments. MWTHA stated that we wanted the 6 pages of solutions to be considered in it’s entirety. In the short time that is allowed to make a presentation we were able to outline our concerns with the update. We did point out to the NRC that “director after director, administration after administration the problems and issues within the Pigeon have never been resolved”. Members of the NRC took note , asked questions and had discussion.
The final draft of the plan was completed prior to the November 2007 meeting of the NRC. It should be noted that the horse people and the bikers appeared before the NRC to explain their god given right to pillage the Pigeon. Some highlights of the plan follows. It was acknowledged that staff and the Advisory Council in 1994 recommended that a horseback use plan implemented to address the dramatic increase in horseback riding in the Pigeon. Horseback use shall be restricted to county roads and forest roads identified as open on the vehicle access map, etc. All other trails will be closed to horses unless otherwise approved by the Director. Off road or off trail horseback use shall be prohibited.
Snowmobiles will be allowed only on county and forest roads identified as open. Off road use shall be prohibited. 27 percent of the Pigeon is classified as Aspen. The objective is to maintain at least 27 percent as Aspen. Currently 2.8 percent is classified as grass openings and 2.1 percent as upland brush. The recommendation is to increase this amount to between 6 and 7 percent. It acknowledges that enhanced openings maintained by fertilizing, seeding and mowing are an important component. Where are we right now? At the November NRC meeting Deputy Director Mindy Koch explained the “no changes can be made to the management of the PRCFS until Land Use Orders of the Director are issued. It is the intent of staff to delay issuing land use orders until additional discussions are held with user groups to discuss issues of recreational use and to address the wild nature of the PRCSF.” Obviously, our efforts have not been in vain. The recreational problems are still not resolved. The plan is still full of SHOULD BE’s. The updated plan does deal with many issues that went unresolved for years. A plan is only worth the action taken by those implementing it. You don’t suppose that we have recaptured the BIG WILD? Only time will tell and we will be watching.
Traverse Bay Chapter - Spring 2008 Update
Pere Marquette Chapter - Spring 2008 Update