Senate Bill 412 is on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office in Michigan for a signature. The legislation would create more northern wild turkey habitat on state, national forest and private lands. It would also fund annual turkey hunter surveys, and provide for disease testing of sick birds that are brought in voluntarily by hunters.

Disgruntled hunters maintained that turkey numbers were dropping and that funds were not being spent in the northern regions of Michigan. Hunters were dissatisfied with how the DNR managed turkeys and how it spent its funding. Now, among the aforementioned items, the bill would also require the DNR to report annual expenditures to the legislature and how money is spent for the wild turkey program.

Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart introduced the bill in March 2011. Once the bill is signed, it will go into effect immediately. Booher said, “We need to get a better handle on how the money is being spent. If two-thirds of it is going to wages and benefits, I should be able to show you wildlife openings all around the state, but that’s not the case.” Booher is a turkey hunter himself.

Jim Maturen is part of the Pere Marquette Chapter of the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association. He fears that the decline in wild turkey populations may be due in part to bad weather, but also partially because of disease. But, Michigan Chapter President of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Tony Snyder does not say disease is a problem in Michigan and that turkey numbers are down all across the Midwest. This bill will work to test that hypothesis by making testing mandatory and setting aside more money to do so.

There were two provisions of the original bill that were dropped to meet the requirements of the NWTF and the DNR and Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Snyder said that the NWTF opposed to original legislation because of the amount of money it would take away from habitat projects, but eventually an agreement was met that is found within the current bill.

Photo: James Lee (jronaldlee, flickr)

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