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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 23, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

A week ago Sunday I flew to Green Bay to attend the GLTPA spring meeting.  I had an opportunity to hear Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch speak.  The Lt. Governor commented that Wisconsin is open for business and that the state is enhancing vocational education needs.  I especially enjoyed her comment that "Tree branches represent the future".  Other topics for the Monday event included an update on the Long Eared Bat, the forestry marketing program, the Load a Log program and much more.  Senator Tom Tiffany was presented the Wisconsin Legislator of the Year Award.

Later in the week I attended the MAT spring meeting and was honored to join Glen
Tolsksdorf in presenting the Michigan Legislator of the Year award to Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.  Other legislators attending the event included Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart, Senator Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, Rep. Ken Goike, Ray Township, Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township, Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake city.  Legislative staff included Joe Undersood (Rep. Rendon), Jamie Callahan (Rep. Potvin) and Joy Brewer, House Natural Resources Committee clerk.  The membership enjoyed the location so much that the board has decided to return to the Bavarian Inn, Frankenmuth next year.

This week an on going debate on ways to reform the way Michigan purchases and maintains public land caused sparks on the Senate floor when Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba struck out against a Michigan Out of Doors Magazine article.  The article was penned by MUCC Executive Director Dan Eichinger.  The article questioned the increased focus on divesting from public lands, particularly when license fees paid by hunters, anglers and trappers recently increased to better pay for the upkeep of public land.  "We cannot simultaneously support the expansion of our outdoor heritage through investment in recruitment and retention efforts and hold a fire sale on the very land upon which we depend to practice it", the article argued.

Senator Casperson expressed surprise and frustration that the MUCC would come out swinging on the issue without bringing their concerns to his attention first.  He said he has worked for months to come up with a reasonable compromise by talking to as many interested groups as possible.  "I 'm really disturbed by what I see in this thing", he said.  "We are trying to work in good faith with everybody."  Casperson commented that he has been open with people to tell them we do not have all the answers and said he was offended by the article's allegation that his recent efforts to modify how the state uses, maintains and divests from its publicly owned land "feels like a fraud". Casperson said "We are not trying to be unreasonable, we are trying to take care of the land we already own. 

The MUCC was surprised by Casperson's reaction, but sticks by its defense of public lands.  The spokesperson stated "We encourage Casperson to read the article a little more closely." Hmmmmmm.

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