Day 3, 10:45 a.m. | Michigan DNR Director Meets State ATA Members
If Michigan were to approve its first increase in hunting license fees since 1997, the Michigan DNR would work to provide grant money for state conservation groups to do habitat-improvement projects on state-owned hunting properties.That's one idea proposed Tuesday afternoon by Rodney Stokes, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, when meeting with ATA-member dealers and manufacturers at the 2012 ATA Trade Show. In a Q& A session arranged by Mitch King, ATA's director of government affairs, Stokes spoke with manufacturers such as Greg Sesselmann, founder and president of ScentLok; Larry Griffith, president and owner of Bohning Inc., and several archery dealers from across the state.
Sesselmann encouraged Stokes to look into ways to make Michigan a destination for deer hunters, instead of a source of hunters who travel to hunt Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and other states. Sesselmann believes Michigan has the potential to produce far more quality deer if hunters realize all it takes is better habitat and self-restraint on shooting young bucks.
Stokes agreed Michigan has that potential, but worries that the DNR no longer has the funding to do necessary habitat work on many of its public lands. "I don't know any household anywhere that can get by today on an income level that hasn't changed in 15 years," he said. "We are not preserving the quality of habitat on state properties the way we'd like."
Griffith said he thinks the Michigan DNR has a poor reputation in his area, sometimes because conservation wardens are rude and disrespectful to citizens. Stokes agreed that could be a problem if wardens make law-enforcement their No. 1 priority, not customer service. "I want our wardens to understand that hunters, anglers and campers provide 96 percent of the DNR's operating funds," Stokes said. "If our customers go elsewhere to hunt and fish, or quit visiting our parks to camp because they feel harassed, our people could find themselves out of a job."
No matter what the challenge, however, Stokes said the Michigan DNR's responsibility is to manage the state's resources for the long-term interests of its citizens, not just those enjoying those resources today. He said that won't happen unless the Michigan DNR stays engaged with as many hunting, fishing and outdoor groups as possible.
Michigan DNR director Rodney Stokes
Mitch King, right, ATA director of government relations, moderates a meeting Tuesday between Michigan DNR director Rodney Stokes and several Michigan-based manufacturers and retailers.
Did You Know?
The ATA estimates that in 2004, the average shop size was 4,000 square feet with 1,600 square feet of retail and 2,000 square feet of shooting range.