Opinion: This opening day of deer season, thank a hunter for funding conservation
This Sunday is opening day of deer season, marking an unofficial holiday for sportsmen and sportswomen across our great state. Although I’ve only hunted a few times, I try to get out and appreciate our state’s natural beauty as often as I can.
As an avid hiker and backpacker, I’ve enjoyed hiking hundreds of miles of the North Country Trail, backpacking along the Lake Superior shoreline in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, camping near Lake Michigan in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, and going for a trail run near my home at Yankee Springs Recreation Area. I’ve been able to experience and appreciate Michigan’s outdoors without breaking the bank, just like millions of other local residents, thanks to our hunters.
Hikers and backpackers in Michigan pay little to nothing to enjoy our natural resources. Instead, our state’s hunting and fishing community is the main source of funding for the preservation and management of our natural resources. Michigan’s hunting and fishing licenses provide more than $60 million in wildlife habitat restoration, with roughly two-thirds of that coming from hunting licenses. That funding keeps lakeshores pristine and trails well-maintained for everyone’s enjoyment.
Not only do hunters pay at the state level, but they also pay a federal excise tax on guns and ammunition that get sent back to the states through a formula based off land area and the number of licensed hunters in the state. In 2019, that accounted for just over $25 million. A similar excise tax on fishing equipment sent back over $12 million for wildlife habitat restoration as well. When Michigan experiences a decrease in licensed hunters, our natural resources suffer with less funds available for habitat restoration.
We all enjoy the wonderful beauty of Michigan thanks to our friends, family and neighbors who join the hunt each year. So, even those who choose not to hunt but enjoy seeing an elk at Pigeon River Country State Forest, watching a whitetail buck at Huron-Manistee National Forest or spotting a moose at the Newberry State Forest Area should make sure to thank the hunters and anglers who made that possible.
If you are a hunter, thank you for preserving the great natural beauty Michigan has to offer and good luck on opening day!
Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, represents the 72nd district in Michigan's House of Representatives.