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Environmental group accuses lawmaker, DNR of creating "false narrative"

Rodney Campbell

An environmental group says lawmakers and the DNR are pushing a false narrative in order to create a hunting season for sandhill crane.

In October the state house passed a resolution calling for the Natural Resources Commission to create a hunting season for sandhill crane.

In hearings for the resolution supporters of a hunting season used a photograph of cranes surrounding a tractor as evidence of the agricultural damage the birds can do.

Julie Baker is with the Songbird Protection Coalition. She said the tractor was feeding the birds and the photograph originated from Israel.

“We found the photograph was taken in another continent, on the other side of the world, and they were of eurasian cranes, not sandhill cranes. This photograph was a very misleading ploy, that was deliberate, to create this false narrative that there is a huge problem in Michigan.”

In the slideshow, Baker said the photograph was not identified as coming from outside of Michigan.

Republican Representative Jim Lower sponsored the crane hunting resolution. He says it ultimately doesn’t matter that the photo was not taken in Michigan.

“My opinion it’s not really material to the issue. The issue is about the cranes and whether or not there should be a hunting season and about the damage they are doing to crops. The photo is merely an illustration like we do in a lot of committees. I think they're trying to make a mountain out of a molehill with the photo.”

Baker said the Coalition also obtained emails from the DNR through a Freedom of Information Act Request which showed officials within the DNR are in favor of creating a hunting season.

“We did obtain documents and emails through the freedom of information act which shows there has been a lot of orchestration within the department to create a sandhill crane hunting season and anticipating the opposition being significant.”

Baker sent us the emails. In one,  DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason commented of the sandhill hunting season quote “this is one I could get behind.”

Ed Golder is with the DNR. He said the department has remained neutral on the creation of a hunting season. He says the emails from individuals are not representative of the DNR.

“Our wildlife division is working to collect information on sandhill cranes and our divisions typically gather background information on a variety of issues in expectation of responding to requests from our natural resources commission.”

Golder said the DNR is researching other methods of mitigating agricultural damage from Sandhill cranes other than hunting. Ultimately, he said, the Natural Resources Commission will make the final decision on whether or not to allow for a hunting season.

The Natural Resources Commission, which would have to approve a crane hunting season, has not given any sign that it’s considering the issue.