ESCANABA - The UP Sportsmen's Alliance convened in Escanaba Saturday. This was the annual re-organizational meeting with the election of officers.
It was also an intense work session involving representatives of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality.
All the elected officers in place retained their respective positions: Dale McNamee - President, Dave Westerberg - 1st Vice President, Tony Demboski - 2nd Vice President, Rory Mattson - Secretary and Dan Absolon - Treasurer.
Prior to the election, McNamee and Mattson said they do not want to represent a group that just wants to be negative or combative towards those in charge of resource management.
McNamee said "I don't want to be here if you just want to curse the DNR. You can't be negative. You must be positive to accomplish our goals."
Mattson agreed and added "We must work together and be organized. If you talk to 10 different sportsmen, you'll (usually) get 10 different opinions. What you are seeing is the direction of the UPSA leadership.
"We will represent positions voted on by the majority of the membership, even when it differs from our personal views on issues."
Another major topic was a progress report on developing a sound science formula for the winter feeding of deer in the Upper Peninsula.
Last October at the Natural Resources Commission meeting, the UPSA first introduced a proposal on the winter feeding of deer throughout the UP.
The model is not precedent-setting as it was a practice in place during the late 1980's and early 1990's and utilized by UP Whitetails Association during their deer migration study project.
Designed to aid stranded deer caught in yarding areas or forest cut sites during the winter, the program was essentially abandoned after a feeding ban was put into effect upon the discovery of increased prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in Deer Management Unit 452, located in the northern Lower Peninsula.
A coalition of sporting organizations did appear before the NRC in 2002 to reinstate "emergency feeding" as prescribed, but were only given a one year reprieve to come up with a science based formula.
The only change to the directive was an open policy for those areas adjacent to the deep snowfall zones along the Lake Superior watershed.
Titled as the UP and Associated Island Feeding Proposal, now to accommodate all of the Upper Peninsula and islands to the east, the UPSA hopes to incorporate trigger mechanisms to first start observations of existing deer yards for physical conditions of the animals, with action taken when the severity of winter begins to take its toll.
MDNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason, along with western UP Wildlife Supervisor Bob Doepker and eastern UP Wildlife Supervisor Terry Minzey, were present and added their perspectives as to what, if any, indicators they would prefer or see as most beneficial for triggers.
They didn't say they agreed with the concept, but did acknowledge what would be the most accurate system of measure.
A few years back, the MDNRE used a system that gave them a measure of severity, based on how much energy was required to maintain the water temperatur during diverse winter climate times.
That system has since been abandoned, now utilizing snowfall as the sole indicator as to winter severity.
Minzey explained how the measure of snowfall in the eastern UP has plotted out pretty accurately as to the outcome of the overall deer population come spring.
Doepker indicated he had some concerns for not using it in the western UP. While last year showed a lower aggregate snowfall, there was an extended period where temperatures and wind chill had (potentially) as much impact as the deepest snows might create.
Representatives of major feeding organizations gave their experience to date, including costs, distribution of feed, and effects seen regarding locating predators in the areas of feeding sights.
The most concerning issue, was feeding did increase the presence of coyotes and wolves, but they did not see it as a major impact on the herd.
Al Ettenhofer, UP Whitetails Central Committee Chairman and UPSA Wildlife Committee representative, explained how expensive these projects are, some in the tens of thousands of dollars, and that they cannot possibly feed all the deer and would not be appropriate for use in some areas.
Mason says this is not an absolute solution. It should serve a purpose for all concerned and will provide at least a measure of what, how, where and when feeding should be used.
It is also hoped to use the plan as a model in redoing the Chronic Wasting Disease plans currently in place. Under the current program, all feeding would cease should CWD be found within 50 miles of the UP border.
The UPSA is scheduled to appear before the NRC Feb. 4 to continue negotiations.
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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.