The U.S. Forest Service has to consider making 70,000 acres off limits to firearm hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. That’s about seven percent of the Huron-Manistee.
It’s doing this because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Service to do so… and that’s because of a lawsuit brought by a guy named Kurt Meister.
Meister is an attorney, representing himself in the case. He’s trying to get areas that are already designated as non-motorized set aside for quiet recreation.
“There ought to be some place in the forest where you can go cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing or kayaking or hiking or ride your horse without having to listen to the noise of other people and the guns and machines they use.”
This week, the Michigan House and Senate are discussing three resolutions. Those resolutions express opposition to any potential ban on hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee. The resolutions couldn’t stop the federal agency – but it’s basically a show of hands against a ban.
Dave Nyberg is with Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He says his group encouraged lawmakers to draft the resolutions.
“Hunters are about quiet recreation as well and they enjoy quiet secluded parts of the forest for the purposes of hunting just as much as a non-hunter might enjoy them.”
Nyberg is worried the Court decision could set a precedent to limit hunters’ access to public land.
“There’s a surge of anti-hunting organizations and sentiment across the country that are just basically trying to eliminate our rights to hunt, fish and trap on public lands and it’s unacceptable.”
The Forest Service is now re-tooling its plan for the Huron-Manistee. They either have to include Kurt Meister’s suggestions or prove to the Court why his ideas won’t work.
Kurt Meister says he doesn’t want to ban gun hunting and snowmobiling altogether – but he doesn’t think they should be allowed in all parts of the National Forest.
“I have never advocated the ban of hunting, the ban of snowmobiles, the ban of ORVs throughout the forest because the forest is required to be managed for multiple use. And I firmly support that position because I think there ought to be a place for everyone to enjoy whatever it is they like to do somewhere in the forest.”
The Forest Service has been holding public hearings around the state on this issue. The public comment period closes tomorrow.
This is the Environment Report.
The City of Grand Rapids is working to revive its urban forest. This week, the committee in charge of the effort reported good progress on the city’s goals. Lindsey Smith reports:
Two years ago, Grand Rapids adopted a new plan to take better care of the city’s trees. They’re also hoping to add more trees.
The committee in charge of the effort values the 61,000 trees within the city’s boundaries at $71 million.
Dottie Clune is the committee chair. She says the numbers are based on all the benefits trees provide. They capture storm water runoff, increase property values, improve air quality, and reduce energy needs.
“We know that for every dollar we spent on the municipal urban forestry program we received $3.60 in benefits. That’s a pretty good return on investment.”
Clune argues the importance of trees is often overlooked – particularly these days when cities have such tight budgets.
In 2010, more than 1,500 trees were planted in Grand Rapids. This year they’re working to add a wider variety of native tress. The hope is to better protect their urban forest against pests and disease.
For The Environment Report, I’m Lindsey Smith.