Articles appeared in the March 2006 and March 2008 issues of Michigan Turkey Tracks that told of our efforts and actions to defend and recapture the BIG WILD. The updated Concept of Management was initiated in 2004 with letters from MWTHA and the Michigan Conservation Foundation (MCF) being sent to DNR director Rebecca Humphries.
A committee was formed to update the Concept, which eventually published a draft of the update. We took exception to the draft and issued a 6 page reply that listed problems and solutions to the plan. It should be noted that the forest manager and a member of the Pigeon advisory council were named to the committee, yet they were the cause of the many problems confronting the Pigeon. This all came to a head at the April Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting. The plan had been changed to meet many of our concerns. Horseback use and camping was being limited as was mountain bikes. Director Humphries has issued a land use order that prohibited snowmobile use in the Pigeon to only forest roads that are posted open.
The updated plan was listed at the April 08 meeting for information only, to be adopted at the May meeting. It was reported that over 40 horse people showed up. It appears that it is their God given right to go anywhere, with unlimited numbers within the Pigeon regardless of the consequences. For them it is all about me, me, me. If they are not allowed to flood the Pigeon all of the communities that surround the Pigeon will all dry up and blow away.
The May 8, 2008 meeting was an interesting one. Bob Jacobson representing MCF and I for MWTHA traveled to the Lansing Center for the NRC meeting to spend the day attending the various committee meetings and to testify in support of the Land Use Order for the Pigeon before the Director. As afternoon approached a large number of horse people appeared.
During a committee meeting Mindy Koch, DNR deputy director explained the pending land use order and the reason for it, which among other things limit the horses and mountain bikes to certain trails only.
After the committee meeting, horse people surrounded Ms. Koch in the hallway. One woman was shaking her finger in Koch’s face. How joyful it must be to wallow in their self-interest and ignorance.
The majority of the Pigeon was purchased with hunter and angler dollars. It is a publicly owned forest that is unmatched by any other in the variety and numbers of wildlife found there. So in the end who stood up to defend and preserve the Pigeon? Those who testified at the May NRC meeting in support of the land use order and urged the director to sign the order were the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association, the Michigan Conservation Foundation, the Michigan Resource Stewards, Bob Strong, retired DNR wildlife biologist and the current and past chairmen of the Pigeon River Country State Forest advisory council.
Where were all of deer hunting organizations? They are probably too busy arguing over early, late and extended seasons or how many points on an antler. The grouse hunters have a vested interest so where was the Ruffed Grouse Society? They were probably too busy planning rather meaningless 5-acre cleacuts, with their logo on them. The DNR fisheries biologist cited stream bank damage causing silt problems. So where was Trout Unlimited? How many so-called conservation organizations were too busy planning banquets to get involved? Thank the Michigan Outdoor News for bringing the problems confronting the Pigeon to the public. Where were the other news media and all of those outdoor writers?
Following the May meeting, Director Humphries signed the Land Use Order. Even before she had made her decision, the horse people had lobbied a state representative. A hearing was scheduled for May 13 at the capitol before the House Tourism, Outdoor Recreation & Natural Resources Committee regarding access restrictions in the Pigeon River State Forest. Horse people filled the room. A DNR representative testified on the action taken by the DNR. He took a lot of heat from pandering committee members and did an excellent job of answering their questions in a professional and factual manner. MWTHA and MCF testified in support of the Land Use Order. The Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) (where have they been for 3 years? ) had a staff member present who testified in support of the Land Use Order. Perhaps this will put this issue to rest.
We have some serious issues still unresolved with the DNR but this time around a loud and resounding round of applause to Director Rebecca Humphries and Deputy Director Mindy Koch. In the end they stood firm in the face of loud and vocal criticism to take the correct and necessary action on behalf of our natural resources and that very special place that we call the Pigeon.