Fair representation in U.P. conservation

ESCANABA — A developing deer hunter learns about the habits of the whitetail through their years afield. In time they realize if the buck (or doe) coming in to range has discovered their presence based on levels of alert. A deer may be looking in one direction but that may a bluff. The smell and hearing senses are the two strongest means of detection deer have.

A deer’s ears can rotate independently or together to pick up and locate foreign sounds. If they are looking away, a hunter needs to watch the ears. If they are cupped towards you, they’re waiting to see if the noise just heard reoccurs, which would then give them a sign that something is present out of the norm.

Their sense of smell can identify a potential predator from as far away as a quarter mile. When they want to enhance an already keen sense, they’ll swipe their tongue over the nostrils and if necessary, circle around the source to exactly pinpoint the location.

If unsure that a true threat exists, deer will use the tail in a side-to-side wag fashion as an alert, a signal picked up by other nearby deer. To challenge the intruder, deer will stomp their feet and ultimately blow. Finally, just before they hit the panic button deer will raise their tail high (flag) and bolt out of range to safety.

Deer don’t think about the process, it is habitual from having been ingrained from mentoring of adult deer and become an instinctive reflex in the effort of survival from predatoration.

Humans have the same process, not in sense response but instead in thinking through signs of alarm based on known historical success/failure through learning and reason, which then triggers their instinctive response.

If you’re an outdoors recreational enthusiast, anything you do can and sometimes does significantly impact our publicly-owned natural resources. As a special interest user, a privilege often covered by paying a fee to participate, most develop their respective use skills and head on out to enjoy. It is unfortunate that a good many do not monitor the management side, unless a change causes disruption to their routine.

I have had the opportunity to be in good standing with a broad range of conservationists, most of whom represent their constituents in leadership of a membership organization to monitor the administrative side of natural resources management.

History moves like a pendulum, back and forth through time. While trends and philosophies change, you’d have to think that at times we go back and forth in policies. What was used two decades ago may be a new idea in an evolving next generation situation. It is these situations that those of us that have been around for a long time sense potential problems beyond the horizon.

Such is the case regarding the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC).

Thirty plus years ago, what we did outdoors was pretty much taken for granted. There was ample game, lucrative hunting quotas, recreational time and opportunities, including broad public access. What we had was thought to have been simply granted by Lansing, the home of the MDNR administration. We weren’t aware of the impact local biologists had in providing input, much less how they reached out to end users in gathering information.

Through the years and as conditions changed, we discovered that what takes place in the Upper Peninsula is often times far removed from that experienced elsewhere in the state. When critical situations presented, it seemed that politics played as much — if not a more — significant role in the decision process based on popular influence. It meant the less sparsely populated areas had less of a voice in consideration of policy which grew into a great divide between the U.P. and the NRC.

In 1996, the pendulum swung in opposite direction and in the following years science was to be used as a baseline for change. We saw, for my first time, the appointment of a genuine Yooper to the NRC in the person of John Madigan (Munising). John teamed with other members of the NRC and was a key source of providing clear interpretation and intent from the U.P. Things started to improve.

During John’s tenure, a second voice was added from home when JR Richadson (Ontonagon) was appointed in 2007. He advanced to become chairman in 2013. Both gentlemen had a great reputation in the level of conservationists and joined in enhancing the needs of focus on natural resources management when it came to the U.P.

The third opportunity to have precedent setting third person representation of the U.P. on the NRC came with the appointment of John Matonich (native of Bessemer) who at the time resided in the Lower Peninsula (LP). John also advanced position on the NRC to become chairman.

After reappointment to the NRC, Governor Snyder moved Madigan from the NRC to the Michigan Tourism Council, a post he is more than qualified to represent. Matonich was not reappointed beyond his second term and was replaced by John W. Walters from Vanderbilt in the northern LP. JR Richardson, now in his third term of appointment, is due to expire Dec. 31, 2018.

The flags of concern have been waving to continue adequate representation from the U.P. on the NRC. The looming deadline to consider keeping the very influential JR Richardson, plus now having only one representative on the board, is cause to focus on adding at least one U.P. representative is a high priority. Considering that the final prevention and reaction plans are in process regarding Chronic Wasting Disease, the UP needs to be considered as a region and have exclusive considerations in the final outcome.

We have built a good working relationship between the U.P. and MDNR. The primary fear is that without continued representative strength, history will revert back to what was years ago in finding the decision-making process coming from a source potentially far removed from the issues at hand.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Trails & Tales Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.