We found out that the turkey fund was in fact used as a slush fund. As an example funded were gates, parking lots, annual leave. Over $800,000 was spend on land purchases in southern Michigan. The word Wild Turkey could not be found within any purchase, nor could we find the turkey fund funding the purchase but hidden under another name. The bill will require the DNR to SHALL PRIOR TO JANUARY 1 OF EACH YEAR PROVIDE TO THE STANDING COMMITTEES IN THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THAT PRIMARILY CONSIDER ISSUES RELATING TO NATURAL RESOURCES A REPORT DETAILING THE EXPENDITURES FOR THE PRIOR YEAR UNDER SUBSECTION (3). This section will insure that the law is being adhered to and this will finally give us the opportunity to find out in detail, not in general terms how our restricted Wild Turkey fund is being used.
About March 31, 2011, Senate Bill 412 was introduced in the legislature. The bill was scheduled to be heard on June 16 before the senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee. Bill Shinn and I traveled to the capitol where I was scheduled to testify at 12:30pm. The hearing was postponed until later in the day. I had asked for one half hour to testify. With time constraints could I do it in 15 minutes? Obviously I did not have a choice, in the time allowed I gave the reasons for the bill. On conclusion of my testimony a person (name not important) appeared before the committee, identified himself as a representative of the Michigan Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). He proceeded to contradict every point of my testimony. The problem was that what I had said was based entirely on fact and his was not. I don’t believe that there was malicious intent, just that he didn’t have any idea of what I was saying. The committee then wanted to know if the two organizations could compromise on the bill and postponed a vote.
I contacted the state chapter president of the NWTF and we held a lengthy telephone conversation. I explained why the bill had been introduced. The final compromise was change the bill to read public land, harvest surveys and then to eliminate the rest of the language of the bill. For the record at that time the NWTF was opposed to creation and management of turkey habitat on state land on a per acre basis, opposed to annual wild turkey population surveys and random disease testing across the wild turkey range in the state. In addition they were opposed to the requirement of the DNR to report the use of the turkey fund to the legislature. Apparently they were under the impression that we should have consulted with them. Since our very beginning we always did what was necessary to support the expansion of wild turkeys into new counties and areas, combat poaching by introducing and passing laws for stiff penalties for poaching, which also affected all game animals. We never asked permission from some other organization.
The board of directors of the NWTF state chapter met at Cadillac on July 16, I attended their meeting. Towards the end of their meeting they addressed Senate Bill 412. I found that many directors favored the bill and had no problem with it. There was lengthy discussion. After the meeting there was further discussion between the NWTF and MWTHA. Finally, an agreement was reached. The original language of the bill remained intact Except for per acre basis.
It was changed to read:
- THE DEPARTMENT SHALL TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE USE THE MONEY FROM SUBSECTION (3) TO CREATE AND MANAGE WILD TURKEY HABITAT ON STATE FOREST LANDS, STATE GAME AREAS, NATIONAL FOREST LAND AND PRIVATE PROPERTY WHERE APPROPRIATE.
Our emphasis has been and will be that the turkey fund be used to create and manage turkey Habitat on state forest lands.
On October 26 Senate Bill 412 passed the Senate by 38-0. We have asked Michigan United Conservation Clubs for their support of the bill as it progresses to the House of Representatives. Their answer was that they won’t oppose it.
In meeting with Senator Booher’s staff, the DNR is in opposition to population surveys and random disease testing citing the cost involved. Cost Involved? That is exactly what the $1,500,000 that the turkey fund generates each year is for!
As this is being written in February 2012 the deadline for publishing the next issue of Michigan Turkey Tracks has arrived. Senate Bill 412 is pending a hearing in a House of Representatives committee. It is gratifying that our organization and the Michigan Chapter of NWTF were able to set down and come up with an agreement that is agreeable to both organizations.
Follow along with the progress of the bill by returning to our site, or read the bill at this link.