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Tag Archive | "Michigan United Conservation Clubs"

MUCC suit requests immediate injunction against criminalization of motorized boating


from the Michigan United Conservation Clubs

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) filed a complaint in United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Sunday challenging the criminal prohibition against motorboat use recently announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The complaint alleges Whitmer and Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger’s application of EO 2020-42 to prohibit motorboat use is unconstitutional.

The order itself was enacted on April 9 by Whitmer and expressly allows “outdoor physical activity,” including activities similar to kayaking and canoeing. The order makes no mention of prohibiting the outdoor activity of boating. However, in response to “Frequently Asked Questions,” the Governor and DNR have opined that motorboat use is not an allowed form of “outdoor physical activity.”

In fact, the governor and DNR have taken the position that all motorboat use anywhere in the state, regardless of waterbody, number of boaters or adherence to social distancing protocols, is criminal. Law enforcement is now enforcing the FAQs, including issuing criminal charges.  

On April 16, after an overwhelming amount of member communications, the MUCC Executive Board voted to pursue legal action in the matter. Aaron Phelps, a partner with Varnum LLP in Grand Rapids, was retained.

“Decisions by the MUCC Executive Board and staff did not come easy and were not taken lightly. Countless hours of deliberations, sleepless nights, a member survey and consultations played a role in this decision,” said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter. “MUCC members, our friends and our families have been greatly impacted by this virus, and we mourn the losses to our great state.”

The complaint is requesting an immediate injunction of the blanket prohibition on motorized boating.

“Michigan anglers and recreational boaters have a constitutional right to clear and unambiguous rules, especially when violation of those rules can be criminally charged,” Phelps said. “Citizens cannot be subject to criminal penalties based on arbitrary interpretations of a unilateral order or, worse, vague responses to so-called frequently asked questions.”

Trotter said there have been attempts to label this as a partisan effort.

“This litigation would not be brought forward if it did not include a sound policy argument,” Trotter said. “Attempts to cast this as emotionally- or politically-driven are baseless.”

Whitmer’s office and the DNR have leaned heavily on the argument that motorboats require gasoline and further risk the spread of novel coronavirus. However, electric motors are also banned, and gas-powered, off-road recreational vehicles are still allowed on trails across the state. Kayakers and canoers, in many cases, also need gasoline to haul their crafts to a body of water and utilize the same boat access sites as motorboats.

Sailboats often require multiple people and motors but are allowed, according to the state’s interpretation. Out-of-state anglers can travel freely to Michigan to fish. Yet, a person living on a lake cannot walk out their back door and utilize their motorboat.

MUCC has been supportive of the administration’s legal closure of areas like Tippy Dam, where anglers continually were asked to social distance and conservation and law enforcement officers were met with resistance. The organization, if given a chance, will partner with the governor’s office to continue communicating and helping in any way possible to ensure anglers are recreating responsibly, Trotter said.

April provides some of the most diverse Great Lakes, river, stream and inland lake fishing opportunities. Walleye, steelhead and sucker runs are happening throughout the state, while bowfishing and catch-and-release bass fishing ramp up once ice melts. The state’s annual trout opener starts the last Saturday in April.

Many anglers rely on the high-quality, locally-sourced protein and mental health benefits that fishing provides. Whitmer has recognized and lauded these assets publicly throughout this crisis. Anglers need access to the waters and the fisheries, which sometimes requires a motor boat, in order to participate in this activity.

MUCC has received support from a variety of stakeholders, including professional, nationally-known Michigan anglers Mark Zona and Kevin VanDam.

“The lakes, rivers and streams of Michigan are usually buzzing with anglers this time of year and we know that we can’t do things like we always have,” Zona said. “But there are a lot of things that we should be able to continue to do, while also following the social distancing protocol that has been laid out. Fishing from a motorboat, at its core, is social distancing.”

Angling contributes $2.3 billion to Michigan’s economy annually, according to a study commissioned by MUCC through the Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business. See it at https://mucc.org/about-us/economic-impact-study-2019/.

For Yoopers, like MUCC Executive Board President George Lindquist, spring is the best time of year to troll

Lake Superior’s near-shore waters for coho and king salmon, steelhead and lake trout. As of Saturday, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had 60 reported cases of the novel virus.

“I fished out of Marquette two days before this rule went into effect and saw other anglers fishing alone or with their children and their dogs,” Lindquist said. “All were following best-practices for social distancing and taking this pandemic very seriously.”

Lake St. Clair Walleye Association President Tim Muir said this is one of his clubs’ busiest times.

“The walleye fishing this time of year is about as good as it gets,” Muir said. “Fishing is a great way for folks to get out of the house for some stress relief and also keep their distance from other anglers. This only works if anglers recreate responsibly, and we need to be mindful of that and stewards of this message moving forward.”

MUCC represents 40,000 members throughout Michigan and 200 affiliate clubs. Since 1937, MUCC has united citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage.

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Outdoor groups for you


Howard Christensen Nature Center on Red Pine Drive offers outdoor opportunities for both adults and children.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The New Year is bright with opportunities for being outdoors with nature organizations. Enjoy being in the natural world with others of common interests. 

There are organizations that address activity interests most important to you. Each takes a different approach and all offer enjoyable opportunities. Support some or all the organizations listed that serve your interests. It is not a complete list but hopefully adds new opportunities for you. Spend time enjoying the outdoors with groups to create connections with nature that will hopefully lead to its protection.

Select local conservation organizations that work to support fun outside in healthy and nature niche ecosystems. Some organizations providing outdoor enjoyment are:

Michigan Botanical Club White Pine Chapter (wild flower field trips and programs); Grand Rapids Audubon (birding field trips); a variety of hunting clubs with most being affiliated with National Wildlife Federation and Michigan United Conservation Clubs; River City Wild Ones (native plant group); Izaak Walton League (fishing and conservation); West Michigan Butterfly Association; Kent, Ottawa and other County Parks; township, city and village parks (Ada, Hudsonville, Grand Rapids, Wyoming and others); Sierra Club (outdoor adventure and conservation); local nature centers (Howard Christensen, Blandford, Calvin College’s Bunker Interpretive Center); Nature Preserves (Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Michigan Nature Association, Grand Rapids Audubon Maher Sanctuary, Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary); county Conservation Districts; MSU Extension agencies; and the Stewardship Network. 

Be thankful for efforts of The Stewardship Network that helps support multiple organizations by:

  • Empowering people to care for land and water by providing field based opportunities using best scientific based practices
  • Protecting biodiversity through activities, education and land management
  • Working to control invasive species that degrade ecosystem functions, our economy, health, and nature niches
  • Safeguarding water to keep nutrients on the land and out of creeks, rivers, lakes and groundwater
  • Caring for habitats that support threatened and endangered species
  • Defending local communities by promoting local ecosystem solutions to prevent flooding
  • Working to prevent human enhanced climate change
  • Supporting organizations with missions to protect land and water ecosystems to sustain our economy, social community structure, and environment.

Do an Internet search or better yet attend any or all of the organizations listed to learn more about them. Most state and national conservation organizations are not listed. This article focuses on local organizations where you can personally get together with others in the outdoors or attend entertaining educational programs.

Spend time outdoors with at least one of the listed organizations to enjoy local natural wonders. Learn from others how the natural world serves your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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