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E-M:/ Nongame Matters

Hi Enviro-Mich List recipients --

A couple of comments about Nongame matters.

1.  There will be a meeting of the Heritage Program Citizen's Committee (formerly the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee) next Wednesday, 10 March, at Kellogg Center on the MSU Campus, beginning at 8:30 AM.  You are very welcome to attend the meeting.  Remember that Natural Resource Days are ongoing, on campus, that week.  The NRC will meet later in the day at Kellogg.  Many other activities are planned.

2.  Tax time for 1998 is coming, and I want to remind all of you and ask you to remind your colleagues that a donation to the Nongame Trust Fund and the Heritage Programs can be made directly on your Michigan tax return.  Just look for the loon and enter a number.  If you have someone prepare your taxes you have to make certain they know you want to make a donation, or it may be overlooked.  You can make a donation of any size, and do not have to have a refund coming to do so.

Michigan citizens should be proud.  Our contributions in Michigan have remained steady (even increased to a record for the 1997 tax year, over $700K).  Many other states have seen their contributions decline over last few years.  This says much about how Michigan's program viewed.  It is, indeed, a popular and successful program.

Please see a copy of comment I made about the program, in this forum, a couple of years ago -- below.

3.  SB 179 and SB 180 have been introduced by Senator McManus.  SB 180 would amend the Nongame Trust Fund Act (now a part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, PA 57-1995) to provide a 7th requirement of the Act to "purchase and develop critical wildlife habitats."  SB 179 would amend the Motor Vehicle Code (PA 300-1949) to direct the Secretary of State to develop and offer "Critical Habitat" license plates.  Extra fees would be paid to have such a plate, income above expenses would go to the Trust Fund/Heritage Programs.  Both bills were introduced on 28 January, and referred to Senate Committees.  See the Legislature's website for updating info:  http://www.michiganlegislature.org

For those of you who know how long we have tried and hoped for a Heritage Program license plate, this may be a breakthrough.  Though the particular language regarding "critical habitats" is not our thinking and is not focused the way we would like, these bills may work fine and be supportable, anyway.  I will communicate more to you as more is learned.

The Heritage Program's website is:  http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/Wildlife/Heritage/default.htm

Here follow parts of the messages back and forth from 1997:

At 08:19 PM 3/7/97 -0500, Anne wrote:

Today I read some literature describing the Nongame Wildlife Fund, which is funded by taxpayer contributions via the Michigan income tax form and administered by the DNR.  In the past few years I've learned to be suspicious of anything associated with the DNR/DNQ.  I'd like to know what people think of this program.

To which I answered:

I have served on the Advisory Committee for the Nongame Fund since the mid-1980's, representing the Michigan Environmental Council.

Nothing I have ever done for government has been a greater joy or more fun -- not just pleasing to me, but in a way I think is genuinely pleasing to the people of Michigan.

I can vouch for the integrity of MDNR in this case, with no hesitation whatsoever.  The people involved here have been exemplary, without exception.  The Wildlife Division continued our Committee without a blink, after Governor Engler disbanded the official Advisory Committee called out in the enabling legislation.  And the dollars given over the years have been leveraged in cooperative arrangements, matching grants, etc. to produce far more result than any other state program I know of, for the dollars spent.

You know and have heard answers from others about some of the results:

Restoration efforts for the Peregrine falcon in Detroit and Grand Rapids, the Pine Martin, the Trumpeter swan;  radio tracking and educational efforts for the Wolf;  eagle and loon surveys;  the Breeding Bird Atlas;  the Watchable Wildlife Program and Guide;  the series of community posters on Rivers, Sand Dunes, Wetlands, and Forests;  the new Frog Survey;  a whole series of other very attractive posters and brochures that are gobbled up by the public anywhere they are distributed;  $100,000 - $150,000 of surprisingly interesting small grants per year;  and many, MANY educational packages or exhibits for literally thousands of educational classes, events and programs over the years and throughout the State. 

This work has been a complete joy to be part of and see develop!

Donations have come from fewer people over the years, but every year the people donating have given more -- now averaging $10+ -- so the fund's total income per year has held between $500,000 and $600,000.  A hefty hunk of this is deposited as principle in the fund -- now totaling nearly $3,000,000.  The balance is spent for programs such as the ones I mentioned.

The Heritage Program in the Wildlife Division -- which includes the Nongame Program -- also includes the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, the Living Resources Program, and the Natural Areas Program. 

I know the Wildlife Division is very proud to have the Heritage Program, the same people who care about and work with huntable critters know very well how to care about and help the nongame ones -- and many of them do so with great pleasure.  These programs will all play an important role in the future of the Division and the Department.

The Nongame program could easily spend several times what it does now, without any growth pains.  The demand for its programs and services is huge, only partly filled.

Staff and members of the Committee have always been looking for more funding.  We long advocated that Michigan allow us to release a Nongame license plate -- and we came close to succeeding in the last Session of the Legislature.  We hope we yet succeed.  If the plate were well promoted both by the Secretary of State and by Michigan's environmental organizations -- it could produce a couple of million dollars a year for the Fund.  You have seen such plates in Maryland and Maine and Florida, etc.

Legislation is perhaps coming in Washington that would create a fund from small taxes on outdoor gear.  It would provide matching grants to states with Nongame programs, greatly leveraging their effectiveness.  The federal fund was always anticipated as part of the state Nongame programs, but only now seems possible to orchestrate.  The effort, in case you hear of it, is called Teaming with Wildlife.

All in all, a donation to the Nongame Fund is very worthy of your attention.  You can do it on your State tax return.  Just  "LOOK FOR THE LOON," and fill in a number!  THANKS for asking.  Thanks to others on Enviro-Mich for their contributions to answering this question.

Christopher L. Graham, ASLA
(734) 668-8476