October is here, and with it comes the time of year most outdoorsmen and women anticipate for months: The fall hunting and fishing seasons, when it's possible to spend a busy but rewarding day chasing fur, fins and feathers, all while taking in the Upper Peninsula's gorgeous and unmatched backdrop of fall foliage at its peak.
With the multitude of fall hunting and fishing opportunities intersecting during the months of October and November, it's also the time of year when sportsmen and women may have a lot of questions or opinions on their minds related to natural resource management.
Whether it's questions about antlerless deer quotas in a specific Deer Management Unit, or thoughts on daily possession limits for waterfowl or salmon, it's only natural that these concerns become more magnified when sportsmen or women are out in the field actively engaged in their favorite outdoor activities.
The good news for those who have found themselves mulling over questions about wildlife or fisheries management while at camp or sitting on stand, is that the fall season also brings ample opportunities to interact with leadership from the Department of Natural Resources and Michigan's Natural Resources Commission through public meetings and other interactive forums.
First up is the annual Natural Resources Commission meeting in the Upper Peninsula. This year the Commission meeting will be held in Ontonagon on Thursday, Oct. 11 at the Theater of Performing Arts, located at 311 South Steel St. The NRC meeting will begin with a meeting of the NRC's Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries at 1:30 p.m., followed by the Commission meeting at 3 p.m.
During the NRC meeting, attendees have an opportunity to see natural resource policy being made firsthand. From the nitty-gritty conversations that take place during the policy committee meeting, to the formal presentations and public comment given during the Commission meeting, this is a chance to draw back any perceived curtain and see how the decision-making process works.
At this month's meeting, further discussion is expected regarding bag limit proposals for brook trout in the Upper Peninsula, along with a decision on proposed regulation changes for muskie and northern pike statewide. Additionally, a Partner in Conservation Award will be presented to the Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sport Fisherman group at 4 p.m.
For local residents, a highlight of the annual U.P. NRC meeting is the chance to give public comment in person to the NRC members and the DNR Director without having to make a trip to Lansing. Those who sign up for public comment by the Friday prior to the meeting (today) who would like to speak about an item on the meeting's agenda will have five minutes, while those who sign up later (including at the meeting), or who would like to speak about a topic not on the agenda, will have three minutes.
Full instructions for public comment, along with the meeting agenda and other information about the NRC can be found online at michigan.gov/nrc.
For those who have questions about hunting and fishing regulations or natural resource management in general, WNMU-TV 13 public television is again hosting a full season of Ask the DNR, its live call-in program that features a panel of DNR biologists, conservation officers and other management specialists taking questions from the public on air.
The remaining fall episodes will air on Thursday, Nov. 1 and Thursday, Dec. 6, from 8-9 p.m. The November episode typically focuses on the deer hunting seasons, while the December episode includes a firearm season wrap-up along with a focus on snowmobiling and ice fishing. Don't miss this chance to call in and have your questions answered by DNR program specialists who deal with these management issues in the field on a daily basis.
Another public forum presents itself on Monday, December 10, when the Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council meets in Houghton County. CAC meetings feature discussion of natural resource and recreation agenda items set by the council members and also include time for public comment.
In addition to the council's agenda items and discussion, DNR staff also provide program updates and answer questions from the council and members of the public. DNR updates begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the council meeting at 6 p.m.
The location of the Dec. 10 CAC meeting in Houghton County has not yet been determined, but meeting details will soon be posted online at michigan.gov/upcac. Applications are also available online for those who would like to be considered for council membership.
These are all excellent opportunities to get involved with natural resource management on a regional and statewide basis, and although the fall season is already jam-packed with outdoor activities waiting to be enjoyed, taking a few hours now to make your voice heard or to get those nagging questions answered could make a big difference in your long-term enjoyment of the state's fish and game resources for years to come.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Deputy Public Information Officer. Have a question about natural resource management in Michigan? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 906-226-1352, or get in touch on Twitter @MichiganDNR_UP.