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DNR needs to build public trust

November 13, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

The head of one of the most important divisions in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources had an encouraging message during a recent visit to the Upper Peninsula.

Russ Mason, chief of the DNR's Wildlife Division, said the biggest issue surrounding the department and the public is trust - and he intends to do something about the lack of it.

He said the DNR and the public need to recognize that they are not adversaries when it comes to managing the state's vast wildlife resources, and that realization can lead to much more constructive cooperation on wildlife issues.

Mason is right that there is significant lack of trust between the department and the public, a mistrust that has existed for many decades.

Part of that mistrust comes from the very nature of the division's mission - managing resources in a manner that is good for the resource and at the same time acceptable to the users of the resources.

When you throw in uncontrollable factors, like nature, as overriding aspects of wildlife management, you can see the challenges facing the DNR. And when a management technique doesn't work or is defeated by uncontrollable factors, the public is quick to blame the DNR.

Reversing the lack of trust trend won't be easy, either, particularly when the issues are focused on some of the most time-honored outdoor sports - such as deer hunting.

However, the Wildlife Division is already moving in the direction of building trust between state wildlife managers and sportsmen and women, Mason said.

One area in particular Mason pointed out is wildlife managers being more receptive to suggestions and ideas from the public, even if they are counter to current DNR policy, as long as the suggestions are reasonable.

Of course, reasonable is a subjective term, but the overall gist of Mason's comment is certainly a positive step toward a much better working relationship between the DNR and the public.

In addition, the public needs to recognize that the DNR and those who hold an interest in the resources they manage are working toward the same goals.




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