ESCANABA - Tuesday night set the stage for further advancement of the regionalization of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) as new appointed UP Wildlife Supervisor Terry Minzey opened the first Conservation Coalition meeting for Delta and Menominee Counties.
Regionalization of the MDNR has been on the books for over two years, and the UP Region has formulated a new Strategic Plan that covers over fifty key points of interest in natural resources and wildlife management and in this case, key to the UP
It should be noted that former western UP Wildlife Supervisor, Bob Doepker, has also been re-appointed to cover special assignments including management planning programs - an essential part of the region.
The concept of the Conservation Coalitions is to break down the UP into as many as 8 sub-units, sometimes combining as many as three similar counties, where organizations and individuals can bring up issues and ideas to the local biologists and create a plan that, if feasible, will be brought through the chain of command for implementation. In many cases, the decision will be made here and not passed onto Lansing. Some feel that it has been less likely to see success from local projects when the decision maker is far removed from the area of concern.
Take for instance deer management.
Years ago, the MDNR wanted to use a statewide plan to manage whitetail deer. Very few believed the philosophy applied to southern Lower Michigan was related to the herds of the UP in the slightest way.
That mindset has changed, due to the leadership of Minzey and the 17 wildlife biologists and technicians that cover the Upper Peninsula.
Minzey also indicated that his own philosophy about eco-systems and biodiversity have been altered. While he admits they will not disappear, as a member of the Michigan Forest Certification Program, Terry feels more emphasis needs to go to special interest projects - those that are funded through partnerships with the public, and detailed to specific needs.
There was a suggestion that instead of creating a coalition, the MDNR should consider utilizing the UP Sportsmen's Alliance (UPSA) as the main vehicle for the program.
Joe Hudson, representative of the UP Bear Houndsmen, member and supporter of UPSA disagreed.
"You can't bring an issue from the south and try to get consensus by clubs or organizations from the north as they too have issues that they want addressed." It seems that if you put a bunch of hunters in the same room, the only thing they can agree to is that they don't agree.
Another benefit of the localized conservation coalition concept is utilization of volunteers to do field work on projects. There is limited staffing to do specialized projects for the MDNR. A newly created law (HB4111) which was primarily pushed through by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) will allow the public to legally use MDNR equipment to perform these tasks, as volunteers and funding sources.
It is a win-win deal for not only the natural resources, but all who live and recreate in the great outdoors of the Upper Peninsula. Another plus is the education of what it takes to perform natural resources management will place young and old working side-by-side on projects - a key part of recruitment and retention of conservationists and hunters.
Both Terry Minzey and biologist Craig Albright, who will be represent the Delta-Menominee County Coalition, will use field data indicators that best suit the U.P. for making recommendations that go before the Natural Resources Commission.
The Deer Camp Survey is turning out to be one of the most detailed and expanding reports the UP MDNR has to analyze deer hunting seasons. They have a strong historical following, come back months before the statewide mail survey and provide a larger amount of first hand detail not seen anywhere else in the state.
Some of the coalition participants already have a history of working field projects, most of which deal with varying species of wildlife.
UP Whitetails Association, Inc., has been at the forefront of either funding or manning wildlife and habitat projects for years, working toward natural sustainability.
The National Wild Turkey Federation organizations, local pheasant clubs, Wildlife Unlimited, UP Trappers and others have teamed with the MDNR to work local projects for years. They can and will network their knowledge with the upcoming organizations to transition them and reduce the time necessary to really get something on the ground.
These same groups were invited to inaugurate the coalition idea. If you or your organization was not invited, don't feel slighted. Get involved.
Contact your local MDNR office to enroll. They'll know which coalition you should be involved with and then start coming up with ideas or issues you think should be addressed. Don't use it for fantasy ideals. instead, take what you see or are concerned about and seek proper answers for your questions. Then work with the coalition leaders to initiate a plan and implement a project. Many won't happen overnight, it will still take time and perseverance to accomplish.
That won't seem like much once the positive results of what Yoopers can do when working together is realized.
Tim Kobasic is 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 Saturday mornings.