Commentary

Michigan Lawmakers Propose Strict Hunting and Fishing Guide Regulations

A good way to make enjoying the great outdoors less enjoyable

Hunting and fishing is a popular way to enjoy Michigan’s great outdoors. But if some state lawmakers get their way, it might get a bit more expensive to experience the natural wonders of the Great Lakes State.

House Bill 4442 would impose licensing requirements on hunting and fishing guides — people who earn money providing assistance to others who want to hunt and fish in the wild. Currently, only people who are commercial guides on state lands are required to have a permit, but it only costs $50 and it appears its only purpose is to create a state registry of these businesses.

HB 4442 is sponsored by Rep. Gary Howell, with cosponsors Reps. Sara Cambensy, Douglas Wozniak, Daire Rendon, Kathy Crawford, Joseph Bellino, Rodney Wakeman, Laurie Pohutsky, William Sowerby, Julie Calley and John Cherry. The representatives make up most of the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee which is where the bill will be considered first before being considered by the full Legislature.

While some other states require hunting and fishing guides to get a state license, the requirements of HB 4442 appear to be far more stringent than most. In fact, among our Midwestern neighbors, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa require no license at all except if operating in specific locations. Wisconsin requires simply filling out a registration form and paying $40, and Indiana mandates a $100 fee and some reporting requirements for fishing guides but nothing for hunting guides. Only Illinois requires something similar to what HB 4442 would establish. Fishing guides there must pay a $50 fee for a passenger rental boat license, and hunting guides must pay $500, complete a hunter safety course, show proof of insurance and provide a map of the areas where they plan to work.

HB 4442 would put the requirements in our neighboring states to shame. Under the proposed law, a person wishing to operate a guiding business would need to pay a $500 fee every three years and prove that they have a valid driver’s license, CPR and first aid certification, $1 million liability insurance and have never have been convicted of a felony or certain other crimes specified in Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. This last requirement seems like common sense, but considering Michigan has more than 1,200 felonies on the books, and adds more every year, this blanket ban would disqualify many people who are not in any way a threat to public safety.

In addition to all of those requirements, licensed hunting guides would need to file an annual report that tells the state where they operated, what they hunted, how many clients they had, how many animals they killed and any other information the DNR decides it wants. Fishing guide reporting requirements are even more demanding: guides would have to file monthly reports with similar information and even have to file a report for months when they did not act as a commercial fishing guide. Failing to file these fishing reports would cost a $100 civil fine and eventually lead to having your license revoked. Anyone caught guiding without a license would be subject to a $2,000 fine for the first offense and a $4,000 fine thereafter. Guides must carry their license with them at all times.

Hunting and fishing guides are not new. They’ve been operating in Michigan for as long as anybody can remember. In light of that, the supporters of this new strict licensing regime should demonstrate, with supporting evidence, why imposing these costs on these businesses is necessary. Are consumers in danger or being mistreated? Are current guides damaging Michigan’s environment in some way? Further, they should offer evidence why these specific requirements will produce better outcomes for consumers, the public and the environment.

Sadly, this rarely happens when politicians decide to create new occupational licensing laws. Instead of working to protect public safety and consumers, these laws simply make doing business more expensive and prevent competition. They tend to be supported by the bureaucrats who administer them and the larger firms in an industry that can handle these extra costs. Unless the licensing regime created in HB 4442 can be proven to be both needed and effective, it’s not worth layering extra rules and regulations on Michiganders who want to make a living here doing something they love.