In 1977 the Michigan DNR promised turkey hunters that if they were willing to purchase a special license that the license fee would be used to manage Wild Turkeys throughout the state. In 1977 the turkey license was established by the legislature. The law stated: The fee collected for wildlife turkey licenses to be used for scientific research, biological survey work on wild turkeys and overall wild turkey management in the state.
Over the years DNR management attempted to eliminate the turkey fund and roll it into the general fish and game fund. The first time we were alerted by Glen Sheppard who published the North Woods Call. We were able to testify at the DNR appropriations hearing before the Senate Appropriation Committee and were able to retain the turkey fund. Several years later DNR management attempted to do the same thing and this time we were able to appear before the House Appropriations Committee and were able to retain the turkey fund. A third attempt was made by DNR management who introduced a bill that eventually passed that places into the fund $9.50 resident, $1.00 senior resident and $50 non-resident which raises about $1,500,000 each year. The original language still applies.
Starting in the late 1960’s and continuing to this day while scouting for turkeys we found them absent from large blocks of mast-producing hardwood forests both on state and national forests. Missing were grassy forest openings, a key habitat component. A very small percentage of Wild Turkeys killed occurs in Michigan’s public forests.
We began a partnership with the Michigan Conservation Foundation and began examining state forest compartments throughout the northern lower peninsula. We found that almost entirely they did not contain the habitat necessary for Wild Turkeys and many other wildlife species as well. These were documented by a series of articles in Michigan Turkey Tracks titled OF PUBLIC FORESTS AND TURKEYS.
The number one requirement to manage Wild Turkeys is to provide the necessary habitat (home) that they require. The legal requirement of the turkey fund is to manage Wild Turkeys. As we challenged DNR management to create and manage habitat in our state forests we heard a continuing excuse that there was not any money. No Money? There are about 1.5 million dollars each year. Where does it go?
During 2011 after years of trying to get the DNR to manage turkeys on our state forests, Senator Darwin Booher introduced Senate Bill 412 which would require the DNR to actually use the turkey fund to manage Wild Turkeys on our state forests. Officers of the Michigan Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation opposed the bill and even after we came to an agreement on the language they opposed the bill in a committee hearing. Eventually, the bill passed to become Act 81 of 2012. The act still requires them to manage Wild Turkeys on state forest lands, among others but are required to provide to the senate and house committees that consider issues relating to natural resources a report DETAILING the expenditures for the prior year. If such a report has been actually provided we have been unable to obtain one.
Among the legitimate expenses are wages for actually managing turkeys, the expenses for providing the spring and fall hunting seasons. Do you think that $1,500,000 of the turkey fund is being spent directly to benefit Wild Turkeys? After reading the following report on the expenditures for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 do you think that these comply with the requirements of the law that established the turkey fund?