Opinion: Hunting, fishing still crucial for Michigan

Triston Cole
Matt Grassa, of St. Clair Shores, enjoys a day of ice fishing on Lake St. Clair near the Clinton River Cut-Off Boat Launch in Harrison Twp., January 21, 2019.

For the Cole family, Michigan’s stunning landscape isn’t just a backdrop for our day-to-day life – it’s an inseparable part of who we are. We farm on Michigan’s rich land, hunt in her lush forests, and fish on her fresh waters. It’s this heritage, passed down from my grandfathers and father, I am proud to pass down to the next generation and passionate about protecting for generations to come.

Sharing my love of Michigan’s natural resources and passion for conserving them with my own three daughters is among my most treasured activities. The most important lesson I have tried to share with my children is the privileged role hunters and anglers play in conservation efforts. Not only are hunters and anglers often the ones carrying out the actual work of conservation, they also help fund additional natural resource management activity through license fees and specific taxes on equipment.

Last year, hunting and fishing license sales paid for $83.5 million of game and fish protection activity carried out by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), making up 20 percent of the department’s entire annual budget. All year-round, the DNR conducts crucial forest management activities—from digging ponds and carrying out controlled burns to planting and harvesting trees—that restore and replenish natural habitats and contribute billions of dollars to our state economy.

Responsible hunters and anglers are a key part of the overall picture.

This fact was punctuated by a recent study published by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs showing that hunting and fishing activities bring billions of dollars to Michigan every year and support in excess of 170,000 Michigan jobs.

Furthermore, a separate study by our own Michigan Technological University shares with us a sobering fact: fishing licenses are on the decline in our state. In the last 10 years, fishing license sales have dropped by around 76,000— following the downward trend of deer hunting license sales in Michigan.

That means fewer dollars to the DNR which conducts majority of our forest, wildlife and water management activities. That means fewer young men and women who truly cherish our natural resources, know how to conserve them and have skin in the game.

This is a trend we must reverse if we want to keep our nationally acclaimed “Pure Michigan” landscape for generations to come. It’s this simple fact that drove my efforts last legislative term to expand access and often more land to the Mentored Youth Hunt, and cut red tape hampering charter fishing businesses (an issue brought to my attention by a constituent via Facebook). Both plans were signed into law and are now PA 399’18 and PA 642’18.

These changes are part of a much-needed and ongoing effort to encourage young people and families to take part in conservation activities like hunting, fishing and trapping.

Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, represents Michigan’s 105th District in the Michigan House of Representatives.