My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

One selfish jerk is all it takes

I don’t know how many people are aware of it, but the United States Forest Service is being forced by the Sixth Court of Appeals to re-examine the plan in place for hunting and snowmobiling in some sections of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. If you would like to read an article from the Grand Rapids Press about this story, here’s the link. http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/01/hunting_snowmobiling_could_be.html#incart_mrt

If you don’t read the article, here’s my summary. A lawyer from Novi, Michigan filed suit in Federal Court because he was out walking with his daughters, and they were scared by the gunfire of some hunters while in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. With in the 987,000 acres that make up the Huron-Manistee National Forests, there are several smaller areas known as semi-primitive non-motorized areas where some types of outdoor activities, such as riding trail bikes, are banned. These smaller semi-primitive non-motorized areas are the point of contention in the lawsuit filed by Kurt Meister, the lawyer from Novi. The Forest Service has always allowed hunting and snowmobiling in these smaller areas, on the grounds that they were more or less grandfathered in, since they had been allowed before the smaller semi-primitive non-motorized areas were created.

“The district court judges found we didn’t do a sufficient analysis of what Mr. Meister requested in the 2006 forest (plan) revision,” Arbogast said. “He asked for more semi-primitive non-motorized areas and to consider a ban on gun hunting because of the noise and snowmobiles. We did increase the acreage, but it was not as much as he wanted and didn’t ban hunting or snowmobiles.”

Arbogast said forest officials opted to leave snowmobiles alone because the trails were there before the plan was developed. Hunting, he explained, had never been challenged before. Forest officials have historically deferred to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources which has the authority to manage wildlife in the state.

These stories always tick me off. You have one selfish jerk that wants to impose his way on every one else and uses the court to do so. The problem is that he doesn’t want to share the outdoors with others, and is teaching his daughters to be just as selfish. I prefer quiet in the woods, that’s why this blog is named “Quiet Solo Pursuits”. But it hasn’t always been that way. I used to ride dirt bikes and would go 4 wheeling off-road. I used to have one of those shiny bass boats with the way oversized motors and could blast across a lake at 70+ MPH. That’s where the “Solo” comes in, I do things my way, and every one else is free to do their own thing.

Michigan is a big state, there are lots of places he could introduce his daughters to nature with out the sounds of gunfire or snowmobiles, it is just that he choses not to go to those places. I am in the woods almost every weekend, either walking or kayaking, and other than the two weeks of gun deer season, I seldom hear gunfire. I have no problem finding places to hike or kayak during gun season, most state parks are off-limits to hunting, as are many nature preserves owned by land conservancies.

At a time when the state is losing hunters and the money from license sales, putting more land off-limits to hunters is not the answer. In case you don’t know, nearly all the money for State and Federal wildlife management, even non-game species, comes from two sources, hunting and fishing license fees, and an 11% Federal Excise Tax on hunting and fishing gear. Without that money, almost all wildlife programs would come to an end. Besides, even if the Feds put more land off-limits to hunting, guys like Mr. Meister would probably go somewhere right on the edge of the hunting ban, then complain that he is still hearing gunfire on the other side of the boundary, and file another suit to expand the no hunting areas.

The Huron-Manistee National Forest is not one contiguous piece of land. There are families that purchased property decades ago with in the over all boundaries of the forest, specifically for hunting purposes. Now some of them will no longer be able to hunt the property their families have hunted for generations. It makes no sense for some one to have to drive far from their home to find new places to hunt, when their father, grandfather, or maybe even great-grandfather, bought the home with hunting in mind.

I am no fan of snowmobiles, I see no reason to own one, and if I had my way, they would have all been banned everywhere a long time ago. But, I am not going to tell those people who enjoy the sport that they are not allowed to ride them while I am out on a nature walk. The snowmobilers pay for those trails, they have to register their machines with the state, just like a car. The money from the registration fees pay to build the snowmobile trails, which are open to every one, whether they snowmobile or not. Maybe the snowmobilers should file suit to prevent people like myself who often walk their trails in the summer from doing so. Then there is the question of the money already spent to build the trails, are the Feds and the State going to reimburse the snowmobilers for paying for trails they are no longer allowed to use? There are many businesses that stay open in the winter just to cater to the snowmobilers, some of which will be forced to close if that revenue is lost. As much as I dislike snowmobiles, I don’t want to put an end to other’s enjoyment, close down more businesses, or put more people out of work. I find many places to go in the winter where the only time I see snowmobiles is on the road to and from those places, and I never hear one at all. Mr. Meister could do the same if he chose to, since he doesn’t, why should others suffer?

And that brings up something that really irks me, to no end. Snowmobilers have paid their own way, and hunters and fishermen have paid far more than their fair share to protect wilderness areas in this country. Now there is a new generation of outdoor “enthusiast” who want to come along and say ” I don’t like your outdoor activities, I am going to have them banned! I don’t like what you do, therefore you shouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.” But they don’t want their equipment taxed, like cross-country skis, backpacks, and such. This new generation is all for using lands and facilities paid for by some one else, but don’t want to pay a cent themselves.

I say keep the rules just as they are, and send Mr. Meister a list of alternative places he could go where he wouldn’t hear gunfire or snowmobiles. I would think that he already knows about such places, but some people seem to like to be offended, just so they can complain about being offended, and maybe even file a law suit or two to put an end to what offends them.

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