DNR wildlife head: Funding, partners critical to conservation

Jared Duquette, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division, speaks at Wednesday’s meeting of the Western Upper Peninsula Citizens’ Advisory Council at the Marquette Township Community Center. Other DNR staff provided reports as well. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Jared Duquette, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division chief, said at Wednesday’s Western Upper Peninsula Citizens’ Advisory Council meeting that funding and partnerships are key ways to enhance wildlife.

The purpose of the council, which met at the Marquette Township Community Center, is to represent a wide variety of natural resources and recreation interests.

The western and eastern Upper Peninsula citizens’ advisory councils are designed to provide local input to advise the DNR on regional issues and policies, identify areas where the DNR can be more effective and responsive, and offer insight and guidance from members’ experiences and constituencies.

Duquette called himself a “big deer hunter” who also hunts grouse and other species, but is active in nonhunting activities such as kayaking and birding.

“They just don’t do one thing. They do a lot of different things,” Duquette said of the state’s 10 million residents, as well as DNR staff.

He also said he is a big believer in adaptive management.

“What is the trend in society, not just in Michigan, but globally?” Duquette said. “We see the decrease in hunters. That’s very tough.”

He said the DNR needs to diversify its financial portfolio, too, and pull in other sources of funding besides Pittman-Robertson funds.

According to the DNR, the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act provides for the collection of excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, and provides federal aid to states for wildlife management and restoration.

“Certainly we’re seeing a big bump right now, and we can cheer about that, but that oscillates over time, as everybody’s probably full aware of,” Duquette said. “How do we fund wildlife conservation going forward?”

To him, it’s about “building a bigger table” to include people representing game and nongame species.

“If we don’t prepare, we’re going to be in dire straits,” Duquette said.

He said building partnerships on projects is a way to address the problem, acknowledging that animals other than white-tailed deer, such as saw-whet owls, rely on deer-wintering complexes.

The DNR’s wildlife action plan, he said, has hundreds of species of “greatest conservation need” whose populations are potentially declining.

“How do we do game management but also try to take species off that list and give them a place to live as well?” Duquette asked.

That, he stressed, needs funding and partners.

“That’s where our eyes are right now — trying to get a workforce structured to be able to do that, but also have those conversations to build that bigger table,” Duquette said.

The meeting also included reports from DNR division staff, such as Tom Seablom of the Forest Resources Division.

He said a new cedar research project, which has been awarded to Michigan Tech University, is underway, with the primary focus area being Delta and Menominee counties. The project will include research on water, soil and ecotypes in which the trees grow to see how the cedar resource can be better managed.

Seablom said the DNR this fall will start a statewide inventory project on road infrastructure. For the western U.P., the DNR has been contracting with Trout Unlimited, whose members have been driving on forest roads to identify bridges and culverts. Regarding the eastern U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula, the DNR will perform that work in-house, he said.

Bill Scullon of the Wildlife Division talked about projections for various game seasons.

With the small game season being open since Sept. 15, Scullon said hunters have reported seeing ruffed grouse, although the weather has been too warm to run dogs on hunting trips.

“We believe grouse numbers to be similar to last year,” he said. “We have not done a grouse survey in Michigan for quite a few years, so we get a lot of that information anecdotally from our sister states in Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, we are looking to restore that survey next spring, which is very helpful to us.”

Area updates given

Written DNR district supervisor reports were available at the meeting.

Here are a few local highlights:

≤ At Little Presque Isle, parking area improvements were completed, and the concrete pad was removed at the point by the Escanaba Field Office. Cabin use has been “through the roof” this fiscal year, although the lifesaving station at the point needs to be reinstalled by staff. That is expected to be finished this fall.

≤ The Cherry Creek stabilization project at the Marquette State Fish Hatchery has begun, but work within the stream will be delayed until late spring due to material supply problems. Staff is going to wait until after spring stocking is completed to resume this part of the project.

Also at this fish hatchery, the autumn portion of marking splake has been completed with 96,000 fin clips put on in late August. The marked fish are destined for stocking in Keweenaw Bay, and by Munising and Copper Harbor.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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