Commentary

Michigan Considering Excessive Hunting and Fishing Regulations

Lawmakers might make it more expensive to help others enjoy Michigan’s great outdoors

Last year, roughly a dozen Michigan lawmakers introduced bills to create perhaps the most stringent regime in the country when it comes to hunting and fishing guide licensure. They have since reworked the bills, but the proposals are still overly restrictive, and proponents have yet to explain exactly how these new regulations will do any good.

House bills 5559 and 5560 are part of a bill package from Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch; Rep. John Cherry, D-Flint; and Rep. Rodney Wakeman, R-Freeland. They would impose licensing and registration standards for hunting and fishing guides and give the Michigan Department of National Resources greater regulatory authority in this area.

The bills would not apply to people who guide customers only on private property, though most fishing happens in public waters. They would require guides to:

  • Be certified in CPR.
  • Have a Michigan driver’s license, or an alternative form of identification known as a DNR sportcard.
  • Be free of any felony conviction or one of several misdemeanor convictions related to poaching, fishing, hunting or boating.
  • Pay a fee of $150 if a state resident or $300 if not.
  • File annual hunting reports and monthly fishing reports that include information about the guide’s clients, where the guide took those customers, and the quantity and type of game taken. Fishing guides would have to file monthly, even if they did not guide anyone during a given month.
  • Obtain a license to guide, which would be valid for three years and could be renewed.

While these bills are better than what was originally proposed, they are still quite restrictive, especially in their reporting requirements. Michigan already has laws on the books about which species of fish and game may be kept and how many of each may be kept, depending on their size. Guides are a very small part of the hunting and inland fishing industry, so it is hard to see how these new reporting requirements would help state officials manage animal populations better.

Individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the bills said they were needed to help the DNR understand who was out there and what was being taken. The bills were, reportedly, a priority item for some outdoors organizations. As quoted by MIRS News:

“This is a package of bills that has been one of the main goals for many of our hunting and fishing organizations in this state for the last several years and that is to establish a basic licensing system for hunting and fishing guides. Michigan is one of the few states that really has no such regulation,” [Rep. Gary] Howell told the committee. “Virtually every other state in the Midwest has regulation in place and we will try to make this as minimalistic as possible. The fundamental goal is to identify people that are acting as guides, that are not unable to serve because of poaching violations or other DNR type violations, and to get reporting back to help us manage game species.”

But in fact, the proposed regulations in Michigan would put us well above and beyond what is typically required in the Midwest. Here’s what is required in other Midwestern states:

  • Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin either have no regulations at all or only ones that require outfitters to register if they wish to work in certain waters. There is no mandatory CPR certification or required training, testing or reporting.
  • Indiana requires a license for hunting and fishing guides. It costs $100 annually and monthly reports need to be filed. But there is no mandatory CPR certification and no restrictions on those with criminal backgrounds who want to work as a guide.
  • Illinois requires fishing guides to pay a $50 boat fee. Some hunting outfitters must pay $500 every four years, are required to have insurance, and must keep a log of who they hunted with and what they shot. But, again, no requirement for CPR certification and no restrictions based on a person’s background.

Michigan’s Legislative Services Bureau analyzed hunting and fishing guide regulations in 2016 for the following states: Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming. It found no regulations in Ohio or Wisconsin. The other states, it found, had mandatory training and exams, fees ranging from $40 to $1,800, and reporting requirements. But almost none of the above states – even those with big game hunts and much larger outfitting companies – required everything proposed in Michigan.

The bills are in the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee. The sponsor and committee head say they will be taken up soon and then sent on to be considered by the full Legislature.

Even if these proposed regulations were similar to those used in other states, their proponents should still be required to supply evidence that they will do more than just make it more expensive and burdensome to help others enjoy Michigan’s great outdoors. It’s not clear how these new licensing rules would give the public a benefit that outweighs the large costs it puts on would-be guiders.