MARQUETTE - The Moose Hunting Advisory Council will hold two informational meetings next month, one each in Newberry and Alberta, to solicit public comment and provide information on issues surrounding whether state officials should develop a moose hunt in Michigan.
The council held an organizational three-hour session Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Marquette. The seven-member panel is charged under state law with drafting a report by Dec. 22 on impacts moose hunting would have on the moose population and the economic benefits of a hunt.
At Wednesday's meeting, the council laid out agenda topics for the next two meetings, which are expected to be identical presentations aimed at audiences in the eastern and western parts of the U.P.
"I think at the end of that second meeting, we'll be in a much better position to start laying out the agenda for other meetings," said council Chairman Jim Ekdahl, a retired Michigan Department of Natural Resources official who was appointed to the council. Ekdahl was made chairman Wednesday by consensus.
The meeting topics developed include the council's purpose and charge, a presentation on moose history, biology and hunting considerations in Michigan, tribal interests and participation, economic impacts of a hunt on the DNR and the local economy, a presentation on modeling scenarios which can loosely predict outcomes of a hunt, review of the penalties for moose poaching and information on how moose hunts are conducted in other states. Time wlll be designated for public comment.
The panel is expected to meet several times in the Upper Peninsula between now and the completion of its report. For those interested downstate, updates will be made during meetings of the Natural Resources Commission.
A website option for submitting public comments is being created.
Other council members include Jason Dinsmore of the National Wildlife Federation, who was absent from Wednesday's meeting; Jim Hammill, a former DNR wildlife biologist; George Lindquist from the West Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council and Regional Michigan United Conservation Clubs representative; Mick Jarvi of the Upper Peninsula Sportsmens' Alliance; DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason and an as-yet-unnamed tribal representative from the Michigan Intertribal Council.
But after reading more in a white paper on moose in Michigan, Jarvi said he wants more information before he'll make a final decision.
Hammill said he'd like to see a recommendation based on "the best science we have available," recognizing that science has its limits. He said the best outcome would be management that provides for all of the values people hold for moose.
Lindquist said critics say the moose hunt is being considered to supply money to a cash-strapped DNR.
"If we do have a hunt, it's money for the moose, money for managing the moose," Lindquist said.
Lindquist said he thinks habitat and predation affect moose populations more than impacts of global warming.
Ekdahl said he wants to preserve transparency and public input in the council's process. He also wants to eliminate any potential disconnects between hunting groups and the general public.
"I don't want that flavor out there that moose will never be hunted," Ekdahl said. "They are a game animal ... and I think it's important to keep that in mind."
Mason said, "We're looking at this as a very healthy discussion that's perhaps overdue regarding this species."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.