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Hunters, anglers call for measures to protect wildlife against climate change

Wetlands are a source of habitat for wildlife, improve water quality, and reduce flooding and erosion.
Wikimedia Commons
Wetlands are a source of habitat for wildlife, improve water quality, and reduce flooding and erosion.

Conservation groups spoke before a state senate committee this week on how climate change is threatening Michigan wildlife and the outdoor recreation industry. They called for policies that they say would protect wildlife from the effects of climate change.

Kyle Rorah, representing Ducks Unlimited, addressed the committee by first recalling the history of his organization.

Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 during the Dust Bowl, a period of time marked by social depression and environmental degradation.

"We were the product of unfortunate circumstances, with changing land use patterns, accompanied with unfortunate weather patterns," Rorah said.

Rorah said Ducks Unlimited was created by a "small group of concerned waterfowl hunters," with a mission to protect wetlands.

Now, 86 years later, he said that mission is still critical against a changing climate, invasive species and habitat loss.

"And so wetlands become part of a really important solution to ensuring our communities remain resilient in the face of [today's] challenges," Rorah said.

Rorah was followed by representatives from Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), who highlighted recommendations from a recent joint report.

The updated report states that many of Michigan's "iconic species" like white-tailed deer, grouse and steelhead are facing pressure from changing weather patterns and uncertain seasons.

The report specifically cites climate threats like disease outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in deer, the warming of streams and disturbed waterfowl migration.

Amy Trotter, head of the MUCC, said the conservationists' workgroup doesn't "get in the weeds" but is supportive of clean energy policies, as long as they consider wildlife impacts.

Trotter emphasized that hunters and anglers should have a "seat at the table," and wildlife is at the center of future climate policies.

"The siting [of renewable energy projects] is something we want to be very directly involved in, and we want to make sure that fish and wildlife habitats and hunter and angler access are considered in those conversations," Trotter said.

State senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) thanked the hunting and fishing groups for trying to get ahead of the curve in combating climate change.

"We are the eyes and ears in the field," Polehanki said, reading a statement from Ducks and Trout Unlimited. "We see the devastation warming streams and more volatile weather events cause."

The report gives recommendations on how lawmakers can mitigate climate impacts on wildlife by increasing wetland protections, dam removals and invasive species management, among other policies.

For the full report, visit the MUCC website.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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