Michigan Department of Natural Resources Files Suit Against Hunting Ranch
On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources filed a civil complaint against Ronald McKendrick and Charlene McKendrick, who own and operate the Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve in Cheboygan County. The McKendricks are being sued for violations of Michigan’s Invasive Species Act, which outlaws certain types of swine.
The complaint, brought in Cheboygan County Circuit Court, asks the court to require the McKendricks to comply with the state’s Invasive Species Act and to remove prohibited swine from their property.
The court action is part of the DNR’s enforcement of a December 2010 Invasive Species Order that declares certain types of swine illegal. The order addresses the significant threat posed by invasive swine to agriculture and the environment in Michigan. The prohibited animals carry diseases that can devastate domestic livestock. Also, the swine engage in behaviors – rooting and wallowing – that damage soils, crops and waters.
The Invasive Species Order applies to wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). The order does not apply to domestic swine, Sus domestica, in domestic hog production. A December 2011 declaratory ruling from the DNR defines the physical characteristics used to identify prohibited swine.
The Invasive Species Order went into effect Oct. 8, 2011. However, to give those in possession of prohibited swine every opportunity to come into compliance with the law, the DNR delayed enforcement of the order for an additional six months, until April 1, 2012. Last year, the DNR contacted people believed to have prohibited swine to inform them about the timeline for enforcement.
Those facilities, farms or individuals still in possession of prohibited swine are in violation of the law and could face criminal or civil penalties under Part 413 of the state’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. Part 413, a section titled “Transgenic and Non-Native Organisms,” is commonly known as the Invasive Species Act.
“In implementing this order for the protection of Michigan’s environment and economy, the department has sought to work cooperatively with property owners wherever it can,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “For that reason, enforcement actions thus far have involved voluntary compliance inspections. Where prohibited swine continue to be held, property owners must come into compliance with the law.”
Pursuant to enforcement of the Invasive Species Order, DNR officials on April 3, 2012, visited the Renegade Ranch. The ranch has in the past been known to possess swine that are prohibited under the order. DNR officials asked permission to inspect the facility for prohibited animals. Ronald McKendrick denied the DNR access.
In conjunction with the visit, DNR officials received information to suggest there are prohibited swine on the McKendricks’ property.
The complaint against the McKendricks seeks court-imposed fines for possession of a prohibited species and the sale or offering for sale of a prohibited species. The complaint asks the court to compel the McKendricks to depopulate remaining prohibited swine. In addition, the complaint seeks recovery of costs to the state for preventing or minimizing damages to natural resources caused by the prohibited species. Civil fines for violating the cited sections of the Invasive Species Act range from $1,000 to $20,000 per violation.