Gov OK's Two Step Plan for Statewide Hunt
Published June 19, 2004. By Chris
Christoff. Detroit Free Press.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm opened the door Friday to mourning dove hunting in Michigan, delighting hunters and infuriating bird-lovers and animal advocates who said she betrayed them.
Granholm signed a bill to lift a 99-year state ban on dove hunting and allow the Natural Resources Commission to set a dove season (to start) in six counties that border Indiana and Ohio.
After three years, the NRC is to decide whether to expand dove hunting, which is allowed in 40 other states. Friday's action is the culmination of at least 20 years of sporadic and often emotional debate over legalizing dove hunting.
NRC Chairman Keith Charters said the NRC will take public comment for 60 days before voting on a dove hunt plan Sept. 10. That's enough time to have a shortened inaugural dove season beginning in mid-September, the usual time for dove hunting, when the birds gather to begin their migration flights, he said.
Charters said dove hunting would be strictly prohibited within 450 feet of any occupied building to alleviate concerns "that people will shoot doves out of bird feeders."
Hunters say doves are sporty, tasty game birds, while opponents view them as docile, cooing backyard visitors that symbolize peace.
In 2001, a dove hunting bill failed by one vote in the Senate.
Granholm had negotiated a compromise, limited dove hunt proposal with Sam Washington, president of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, who told her dove hunting would not deplete a bird that hunting advocates claim numbers 400 million in the U.S.
A pleased Washington said Granholm "did the right thing for sportsmen," and said he suspects that Lt. Gov. John Cherry, an avid hunter, lobbied Granholm to sign the bill.
Also pleased was the bill's main sponsor, Rep. Susan Tabor, R-Delta Township.
"I would have liked to see a statewide hunting season as soon as possible, but this is a good start," Tabor said in a release.
Not so pleased were animal protection advocates who said Granholm reneged on her promise to veto dove hunting in Michigan.
She made the pledge during her 2002 gubernatorial campaign in response to a questionnaire from the Humane Society of the United States. Friday, society President Wayne Pacelle said he was "disgusted" that Granholm didn't honor an unambiguous pledge.
Pacelle said the NRC is dominated by hunting advocates who assuredly would expand dove hunting after three years.
"This is simply a two-step process for statewide dove hunting," he said. "Literally millions of birds will suffer and die as a consequence of her signing this bill."
Eileen Liska, spokeswoman for the Michigan Humane Society, said Granholm will lose support from many of her constituents who oppose dove hunting.
"People who donated to her campaign said they may end up voting for her but they certainly won't give her donations," Liska said. "Politically, she made the wrong decision. She alienated her core supporters to appease a voting faction that didn't vote for her and probably never would."
Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Granholm, said Granholm did not betray her supporters by signing the bill. She said dove hunting would still be prohibited in 90 percent of the state, at least for three years.
"Had the governor been asked in 2002 if she would sign a bill so there would be a 90-percent ban on dove hunting in Michigan, the governor more than likely would have said yes," Boyd said. "This is a conservative, reasonable approach to a long-standing, long-debated issue in Michigan."
- Songbird Protection Coalition