Michigan dove-hunting plan has feathers flying - again.

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Dove-hunting plan has feathers flying - again.

Bill would let state panel decide what's legal game
December 5, 2001

BY CHRIS CHRISTOFF, LANSING BUREAU CHIEF

LANSING -- Mourning doves are in the crosshairs of the Legislature once again.

A year after public outcry helped defeat a bill to legalize dove hunting in Michigan, the House has produced another bill that could make doves legal targets.

Animal rights groups call the bill a backdoor attempt to legalize dove hunting. Supporters of the plan say it would take politics out of putting doves -- or any other animal -- on the state's list of legal game.

Still, political feathers are flying in the capital.

The bill goes before the House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee today, where it is expected to pass. Opponents have launched an intense campaign to arouse public indignation over the prospects of killing a bird that is prized by hunters but beloved by backyard birdwatchers.

"This amounts to a blatant attempt to authorize a target shooting season on mourning doves, which have been protected in Michigan since 1905," said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States. "There's no compelling reason to shoot these gentle birds."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, would take away the Legislature's current authority to decide which animals are legal game. That power would shift to the Natural Resources Commission, a seven-member board appointed by the governor.

Brown said the NRC is better suited to decide game and hunting issues.

"I have a background in business. I do not have a background in wildlife biology," Brown said. "I think it's time we placed the decisions on determining game species in the hands of the experts, based on sound science."

Brown said dove hunting would help tourism by attracting hunters from inside and outside Michigan. Dove seasons in other states are typically set in September as a prelude to other bird-hunting seasons. Doves are migratory birds.

Last December, during the Legislature's lame duck session, a similar bill by Rep. Susan Tabor, R-Delta Township, passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. Tabor's bill unleashed a torrent of opposition that veteran lawmakers and their staffs called the loudest public outpouring they'd seen on a single issue.

Tabor said recently that she would attempt again to legalize dove hunting, saying it was high on the list of hunters. Brown's bill goes further by giving the NRC not only authority over doves, but all game.

Eileen Liska, spokeswoman for the Michigan Humane Society, said the broader scope of the new bill will make it easier to defeat.

"Today it's doves; will it be wolves next time?" Liska asked. "Next year is an election year. I've had legislators who remember what happened last year when they tried to ram this through, and they said they'll never do that again."

Unlike last year's dove-hunting bill, Brown's bill is not supported by the influential Michigan United Conservation Clubs. The MUCC is neutral on the issue.

MUCC spokeswoman Amanda Hathaway said: "We're not in a position to support any dove bill at this time."


Contact CHRIS CHRISTOFF at 517-372-8660 or christoff@freepress.com.
 

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