GREAT LAKES COUNCIL CONSERVATION COMMITTEE UPDATE
February 1, 2017
Little Manistee Weir Proposal
The GLC recently took a strong stand against a U.S. Forest Service proposal to grant a permit requested by the Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians to install an anchoring system in the Manistee River which will be used to anchor a temporary resistance board weir across the river. This aluminum weir would span the Big Manistee providing only a narrow passage for water craft and could disrupt the passage of migrating steelhead and other fish. The Little River Band wants the weir to study the impact of Sturgeon restoration efforts.
A letter from GLC President Dennis O’Brien and Conservation VP Dave Peterson said, “There are simply too many unanswered questions and potentially damaging effects to allow this weir to be constructed.” The letter cited potential impacts on the fishery, questioned the suitability of this type of weir, raised safety issues for boaters and anglers and questioned the absence of environmental impact study. A copy of the letter is included later in Flyline and posted on the GLC website. Stay tuned for for the Forest Service’s final decision.
Aquila/Back Fort Mine Comments
The Great Lakes Council recently sent comments to the Michigan DEQ strongly opposing development of an open pit sulfide ore mine on the banks of the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. Known as the Aquila Mine/Back Forty proposal, this mine has the potential to pollute both the Menominee River and Lake Michigan, destroy a pristine fishery, and place Michigan’s citizens at risk.
The GLC letter stated, “The risks are simply too great to allow a project like this to proceed…It is time for the DEQ and other Michigan policy makers to step up and represent the interests of Michigan’s citizens and the state’s invaluable water resources. Stop the development of this mine now.”
GLC members are encouraged to oppose the Aquila mine and submit their comments to the DEQ. A copy of the GLC letter with the DEQ address is included later in the Flyline as well as on the GLC website.
GLC Opposes Recreational Gold Mining Bill
GLC President Dennis O’Brien was one of a number of witnesses testifying before the House Committee on Natural Resources on December 6, 2016. He stated, “ We are here today to strongly oppose HB 5862 which would eliminate the requirement that a permit be obtained to engage in recreational gold mining in Michigan streams and rivers. This bill is bad for Michigan from both economic and conservation perspectives. It holds the potential to economically damage Michigan’s thriving angling economy and also would place ecologically fragile streams across our state at risk. Michigan is home to over 20,000 miles of cold water trout streams and many more miles of warm water streams. Our state is recognized internationally for its trout, salmon and steelhead fisheries and anglers from around the world come here to fish and spend their recreational dollars. If enacted, HB 5862 will endanger this legacy.” Fortunately, as a result of a great deal of negative testimony, this bill died in committee.
Great Lakes Council Comments on Draft Resident Trout Management Plan
Through our participation on the MDNR Coldwater Resources Steering Committee, the Council had the opportunity to comment on the Draft Resident Trout Management Plan being developed by the Fisheries Division. The comments were presented at a Cold Water Resource Committee meeting on September 16, 2016.
While the GLC commented on a number of points in the plan the most significant involved this DNR proposal: “Some stream reaches have a long history of flies-only regulations, yet studies indicate biological benefits are similar for artificial lures (including flies) regulations, and more anglers support the latter regulation. Utilize “artificial lures only” as opposed to “artificial flies only” regulations on gear restricted streams whenever possible.”
The GLC responded, “It is beyond comprehension why the Fisheries Division would want to modify long established and successful “flies only, catch and release regulations” and allow hardware fishing in these stretches. These regulations which exist only on a small portion of the Pere Marquette, small parts of the Manistee and Little Manistee and a few sections on the AuSable.
They have been in place now for many years and have succeeded in bringing fly anglers from across the world to these rivers and have resulted in large populations of big trout. Moreover, these regulations have created a vibrant fly fishing economy and guides who specialize in fly fishing depend on these flies only stretches.
If this recommendation pertains to streams being considered for future gear restriction regulations, it is just as onerous. Regulations regarding future gear restrictions should be based on individual circumstances for each stream and consider conservation goals, angler satisfaction and social and economic considerations.”
After reviewing comments from the GLC and other groups, Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter assured those present that the plan did not intend to modify “flies only, catch and release” regulations that are already in place. It is our hope that the next draft of the plan reflects Chief Jim Dexter’s comments at the meeting.
Arctic Grayling Restoration
On December 6, 2016 the GLC Conservation Committee participated in the second meeting devoted to the restoration of the grayling at the RAM Center in Roscommon. The GLC joins others representing university fisheries researchers, fishing groups, conservation organizations, etc.
The meeting was devoted to planning various aspects of the restoration and discussing potential sites for reintroduction. At this point, it looks like the first reintroduction efforts will be in tributaries to the Manistee River. We plan on being involved in this effort for many years to come.
Great Lakes Council Supports Research Efforts on New Zealand Mudsnails
The Great Lakes Council agreed to be involved in a prosed Michigan DNR/DEQ Invasive Species grant titled “Citizen Science and New Zealand Mud Snails: Fly Fishermen as Sentinels and Deterrents of Range Expansion” that was developed by Dr. Scott Tiegs of Oakland University.
We are pleased to report that Dr. Tiegs just informed us that the Michigan DNR/DEQ approved the proposal. More to come as this project gets started.
Conservation Grants at Work
It was previously reported that the GLC Board approved Conservation Grants to support the AuSable Fish Farm Litigation and a Conservation Resource Alliance project to remove a dam on Syers Lake which feeds Syers Creek, a tributary to the Little Manistee.
We are please to report that both of these these projects were approved for additional $1500 grants from the IFFF Conservation Committee. If you are aware of a worthwhile Conservation project encourage the sponsors to apply for GLC and IFFF grants. Instructions are on the GLC website.
Conservation Committee Members
We are pleased that Wayne Andersen has agreed to join the GLC Conservation Committee. Wayne is Chairman of the Big Sable River Restoration Committee, a Board member with the Pere Marquette Rivershed Council and has long been a conservation leader in Western Michigan. Other members include Jen Kablunde, Terry Lyons, Belinda Friis, Brad Reynolds, John Bebow, Roger Fechner, Jim Schramm, Dennis O’Brien and Dave Peterson. The Committee is always seeking additional members. Please contact Dave Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested or know of any GLC members who might be interested in participating.
Great Lakes Council VP for Conservation