The U.S. Forest Service has to consider making 70,000 acres off limits to firearm hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. That’s about seven percent of the Huron-Manistee.
It’s doing this because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Service to do so... and that’s because of a lawsuit brought by a guy named Kurt Meister. Meister is an attorney, representing himself in the case. He’s trying to get areas that are already designated as non-motorized set aside for quiet recreation.
“There ought to be some place in the forest where you can go cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing or kayaking or hiking or ride your horse without having to listen to the noise of other people and the guns and machines they use.”
This week, the Michigan House and Senate are discussing three resolutions. Those resolutions express opposition to any potential ban on hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee. The resolutions couldn’t stop the federal agency – but it's basically a show of hands against a ban.
The resolutions are:
- House Concurrent Resolution 2: sponsored by State Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City) - Passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism on Tuesday
- House Resolution 17: sponsored by State Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Alpena) - Passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism on Tuesday
- Senate Resolution 6: sponsored by State Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart) - Being considered today in the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Dave Nyberg is with Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He says his group encouraged lawmakers to draft the resolutions.
“Hunters are about quiet recreation as well and they enjoy quiet secluded parts of the forest for the purposes of hunting just as much as a non-hunter might enjoy them.”
Nyberg is worried the Court decision could set a precedent to limit hunters’ access to public land.
“There’s a surge of anti-hunting organizations and sentiment across the country that are just basically trying to eliminate our rights to hunt, fish and trap on public lands and it’s unacceptable.”
The Forest Service is now re-tooling its plan for the Huron-Manistee. They either have to include Kurt Meister’s suggestions or prove to the Court why his ideas won’t work.
Kurt Meister says he doesn’t want to ban gun hunting and snowmobiling altogether – but he doesn’t think they should be allowed in all parts of the National Forest.
“I have never advocated the ban of hunting, the ban of snowmobiles, the ban of ORVs throughout the forest because the forest is required to be managed for multiple use. And I firmly support that position because I think there ought to be a place for everyone to enjoy whatever it is they like to do somewhere in the forest.”
The Forest Service has been holding public hearings around the state on this issue. The public comment period closes tomorrow.