IRONWOOD — The Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region Commission held its 45th annual meeting Monday night at Tacconelli’s in Ironwood, with speakers discussing Michigan’s wolf population, the Michigan Trails and Recreation Alliance of Land and the Environment, and the presentation of the Oreste Chiantello Award.
J.R. Richardson, chairman of Michigan’s Natural Resource Commission, said the commission is spending a lot of time trying to decide how timber can be harvested sustainably, using Ontonagon as an example of an area in need of revitalization, with only 20 students entering kindergarten this year.
Representatives for Senator Carl Levin, Congressman Dan Benishek, and Senator Tom Casperson attended, along with representatives from the six western Upper Peninsula counties.
Terry Minzey, Upper Peninsula Wildlife Supervisor, discussed the upcoming wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula, with over 1000 permits sold already for the three zones where the hunt will occur, which cover about 12 percent of the land mass in the Upper Peninsula.
“There is about a four percent success rate with wolf hunting,” Minzey said, citing other states, which would result in the harvest of 48 wolves in Michigan. A hunter who bags a wolf has to call it in that day, and present the animal within 72 hours. Locally there will be a station in Wakefield.
Nonlethal methods of eradicating problem wolves have included fencing, flags, flashing lights and donkeys, among others, Minzey said, and yet the problems with wolves continue. It is currently legal to shoot a wolf that is about to attack a dog or livestock, Minzey said.
Sixty-six percent of people in Michigan supported a recreational harvest of wolves in a survey, Minzey said, as opposed to “hired guns.”
Legislature had to get wolves listed as a game species, which happened in 2012, Minzey said. Public meetings were held across the Upper Peninsula, including local tribes, Minzey said. The 2012 hunting season was suspended after a referendum.
This July, a new law on wolf hunting was passed, with no trapping included. Some groups are protesting the wolf hunt, gathering signatures, with the possibility of the issue getting back on the ballot in 2014, Minzey said. This hunting season might be “one and done.”
President of MI TRALE, Don Helsel, discussed work the group is doing by working with five Upper Peninsula counties.
“ORV is changing, like snowmobiling,” Helsel said, with riders looking for destinations to ride to, not just trails to ride on. This is where local communities come in, Helsel said, by providing the places and activities for riders to enjoy.
“We want to establish safe motorized and non-motorized trails,” Helsel said, summing up MI TRALE’s mission, explaining that partnerships are key to what they do. Partnerships include local governments and snowmobile clubs.
The Michigan DNR has agreed to two sticker-free weekends for riding on the trails, Helsel said, and one will coincide with the annual free fishing weekend.
Helsel said that plans in the works including a page on the MI TRALE website for destinations in the participating counties to provide information and links to their websites for prospective riders to have easy access to planning trips.
Oreste Chiantello Award
WUPPDR Board of Commissioner’s Chair Carl Lind presented the Oreste Chiantello Award to board first vice-chair Michael Koskinen, who also serves as Baraga County’s Board Chairman. Koskinen has served on the Baraga County Board since 1974, with a six year break, has served on the finance and personnel committees, has served on the Copper Country Mental Health Board, among others, and has served on the WUPPDR board since 1993.
Koskinen said, “It’s very humbling to get this, and I thank you all.”
WUPPDR has lost five staff members in the past year, and yet the agency continues to bring a return of $95 for every dollar invested, Executive Director Kim Stoker said. The agency’s mission is to “foster stable and diversified economies in the Western Upper Peninsula.”
WUPPDR runs housing programs for MSHDA, creates hazard mitigation plans for counties, works in economic development and transportation, among other projects.