Grant program aims to improve deer habitat
A new grant program in Michigan takes extra money from hunting and fishing fees and distributes it to private landowners.
The state Department of Natural Resources recently announced 12 wildlife habitat grant winners for the "Deer PLAN" (Private Land Assistance Network). This grant is available to private landowners in six counties in northern Michigan ostensibly to improve deer habitat.
One hunter wasn't thrilled about the program. Tom Wills is an outdoorsman from Quinnesec in the Upper Peninsula.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that Michigan DNR is giving my license fees to a dozen private land owners, including five private hunt clubs," he said sarcastically.
The DNR believes it is. They argue that the 24 percent of land that is publically owned does not have enough impact on deer in the state and grants need to go to private groups.
According to Ashley Autenrieth, the deer program biologist, the money for the program comes from the Deer Range Improvement Program (DRIP) and the Fish and Games fund.
"The applicants themselves are also required to contribute 25 percent of the finances,” Autenrieth said.
The DNR chose the applicants based on the benefits to deer habitat, feasibility of the project, public accessibility, and cost sharing. The program spent $50,000.
When asked if these fees should benefit private landowners, Autenrieth said this helps all hunters and the state.
“Deer do not solely reside on public land and in fact the majority of deer are on private land," she said. "Therefore, working across public and private land boundaries would benefit the species and will invariably improve conditions for all hunters."