Michigan's Department of Natural Resources has had a rocky year. In October, director Becky Humphries announced "It's gonna be bodies out the door," in reference to budget shortfalls.
Now, the DNR says that for one particular fund they have made a spectacular "find." The Game and Fish Fund will have a $10 million fund balance because of an unexpected increase in license sales, operational savings and higher-than-expected returns on investments. Huh?
With the appearance of this money fishing and hunting license fees will not take the huge leaps which had been predicted for 2008. In most cases, license fees were set to double in cost. Naturally there has been a huge protest from anglers and hunters.
Other DNR programs and resources are still without a stable source of funding, but for now the hunters and anglers should be happy.
There has been more than one DNR decision this year that brings the agency's common sense into question. Just in time for the summer hiking season they closed Pinney Bridge Campground, north of Mancelona in Antrim County. This is a primitive campsite on the Jordan River Pathway. 14.6 miles of that trail are also part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, and by closing the campsite the DNR effectively closed that section of the 4600-mile NCT to long-distance hikers. Camping is allowed only in designated sites in that section, so there is no longer any way to hike through with an overnight stay. The distances to legal camping or lodging options on either side of the area are too long to cover in one day.
The DNR said that closing this site, and 19 others, would save them a lot of money. However, they also promised that violators would be ticketed. Huh? Such semi-primitive sites require mostly a yearly pumping of the latrine, some seasonal maintenance of picnic tables and fire rings, and occasionally emptying the self-pay registration tube. Now the DNR proposes to save money by paying for enforcement personnel to visit the sites often enough to catch people who are camped either in the sites or within a mile of their borders?
Foot trail users can't even get the DNR to wave an enforcement dollar at controlling illegal ATV use which damages resources much more than the occasional primitive camper.
On the one hand, Michigan has embarked on serious marketing of its natural resources for tourism. But on the other hand, the state can't seem to protect or even continue to provide those resources.
by Joan H. Young
see "Mich.: DNR Funds Higher Than Expected" Dec 13, 2007, AP News- The Motley Fool
see "DNR Announces Closure of 20 State Forest Campgrounds" July 6, 2007, Michigan DNR
see "DNR Makes Incredible Find" by Russ Harding, Dec 13, 2007, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
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