The Michigan Department of National Resources’ decision to restrict deer baiting in a portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula earned them a persistent critic in State Rep. Beau LaFave.
The National Resource Commission approved a series of regulations meant to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer in the Upper Peninsula. CWD is a fatal brain disease that affects deer, elk, and moose and has the potential to severely damage the ecosystem. These regulations included the infamous “bait ban.”
LaFave says the ban is ill-informed and will prove largely ineffective.
“We have only ever found one deer carrying CWD in the history of testing,” LaFave said. “We’ve tested over one-thousand deer since then, and we still have yet to find another positive.”
The DNR says Yoopers need the ban to prevent a potential ecological disaster.
“There is certainly evidence in other states about what can happen when CWD goes unchecked,” said DNR deer and elk manager Chad Stewert. “There is no cure, making it virtually impossible to eradicate. It has the potential to cause irreversible damage to the deer population.”
The regulations ban baiting in what the DNR calls the “Core CWD Surveillance Area,” over six-hundred square miles that includes Menominee, Delta, and Dickinson counties.
“The Core CWD Surveillance Area was developed last year in response to the first confirmed case of CWD,” Stewart said. “We defined it based on roads, which helped us to understand the scale and scope of the area. As we developed our regulations for this year we decided to use the more surgical scale of the Surveillance Area rather than regulate a large swath of land.”
Menominee, Delta, and Dickinson counties also happen to be the three counties in Michigan’s 108th state House district represented by LaFave, who is far from happy about the DNR’s regulations.
“Out of sheer convenience they decide there would be public hearings and no public comment in the UP,” LaFave said. “Even after receiving thousands of emails from my constituents they picked a highway line. It seems arbitrary that they didn’t limit it further.”
LaFave rocked the boat after saying Upper Peninsula residents were “going apesh*t” in the wake of the DNR’s announcement, and he continues to speak out against the ban whenever possible. He now plans to introduce an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would give the Upper Peninsula the authority to decide on their own hunting policies.
“I couldn’t be any more serious about this,” LaFave said. “The NRC has been very difficult to deal with. We spend a lot of money on hunting and fishing fees. It’s about time we manage ourselves. I’ve been working with my fellow representatives to make this happen, and the Yoopers are united on this.”
LaFave’s plan would create a separate National Resources Commission comprised entirely of Upper Peninsula residents. The amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House as well as approval from the electorate. The DNR declined to comment on this development.
A portion of LaFave’s criticism against the baiting ban comes from the potential impact the restrictions will have on hunters with disabilities.
“I think it’s really important everybody understands south of the bridge, that we need certain things,” LaFave said on the Steve Gruber Show. “We need to be able to bait deer for people with disabilities and the elderly to be able to hunt.”
Many hunters with disabilities find it difficult to hunt targets that are constantly on the move, and usually hunt using a high power rifle in a farmer’s field or using bait.
“We received quite a bit of public testimony about this issue,” Stewart said. “And hunters with disabilities are able to bait using single-bite bait during the Liberty and Independence hunt.”
The Liberty and Independence hunts are two special event hunts with a focus on provisions for disabled hunters. The Liberty hunt is two days in September and the Independence hunt is 4 days in October. LaFave views this provision as seriously inadequate.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act says there must be reasonable accommodation for the disabled,” LaFave said. “Six out of the 90 days of hunting season is not reasonable accommodation. Hunters with disabilities don’t want to be relegated to a few days when their friends and family are hunting whenever they please.”
In the meantime, able-bodied Yoopers in the 108th congressional district are totally restricted from using bait this hunting season.