August 2016 Conservation Report
CONSERVATION COMMITTEE UPDATE
GREAT LAKES COUNCIL
August 19, 2016
Chumming Banned in Michigan
After many months of hearing testimony from the Great Lakes Council and many other groups as well as getting background information from Chief Dexter and his staff, the Natural Resources Commission voted on Thursday, July 14, 2016 to “prohibit chumming in Type 1, 2, 3, & 4 streams”. This makes chumming illegal in all coldwater trout and steelhead rivers and streams, which is the position that the GLC has advocated from the start.
The NRC was presented with 5 options: 1) Status quo, no changes; 2) prohibit chumming in Type 3 streams; 3) prohibit chumming in Type 1, 2, 3, & 4 streams; 4) Prohibit chumming in the Manistee, Muskegon and Pere Marquette Rivers; and 5) Restrict possession of chum to 1 pint per person with no more than 1 quart of chum per vessel in Types 1-4 streams. Number 3 was the best the GLC could hope for and was adopted.
This victory is a great example of what our conservation groups (the Great Lakes Council, TU, the Muskegon River Alliance, the Anglers of the
AuSable, the Michigan River Guides Association as well as many individual guides and anglers) can do when we communicate and stick together.
Arctic Grayling Restoration
On Thursday, August 18th, Fisheries Chief Dexter and Frank Beaver, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians hosted a meeting to discuss restoring Arctic Grayling to Michigan. The Great Lakes Council participated in the meeting which included over 50 attendees representing university fisheries researchers, fishing groups, conservation organizations and others. The Department is committed to an effort to reintroduce these native fish to selected streams within the next several years.
The meeting included a description of the new technologies being considered for introduction of the grayling, an extensive discussion of research questions and protocols, and the formation of working groups to partner in the reintroduction efforts. Follow up meetings to develop a timeline for the project will be scheduled later in the year. The GLC has agreed, pending Board approval, to assist in education and outreach efforts.
The Great Lakes Council has been collaborating with the Anglers of the AuSable, the Michigan Environmental Coalition (MEC), TU and other groups regarding cage pen culture. The GLC Board approved a position opposing Aquaculture and flow through fish farms.
Our testimony on this issue was presented to the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee on February 2, 2016 where we testified on behalf of HB 5255 which would ban aquaculture in the Great Lakes.
Soon after those hearings, MDNR and MDEQ and the Snyder administration took a firm position against aquaculture in the Great Lakes. As a result, no action has been taken on HB 5255. With the state taking firm position against fish farms it is likely that no legislation will come out of committees for floor action. Unfortunately, none of these actions has resolved the issue of the fish farm on the AuSable.
New Zealand Mudsnails Invading More Michigan Rivers
As previously reported, New Zealand mud snails were detected and confirmed in August, 2015 in the Pere Marquette River near Baldwin, MI by DEQ personnel. At the August meeting of the Natural Resources Commission Chief Dexer provided an update on the status of mud snails in other Michigan rivers.
The Department has completed more extensive sampling with the following results:
No Mud Snails have been found in the Muskegon, White, Betsie, Baldwin, Platte, Rogue, Manistee, and East Branch of the Paw Paw. Snails have been found in the South, Main and East Branch of the AuSable, the Boardman and the Pere Marquette.
Although the snails have now been found in more rivers, the fact that snails are not yet present in a large number of rivers emphasizes the need to carefully clean waders, boots and watercraft.
The Department is now taking 15-18 more “snapshots” to see if there are further infestations and is also conducting threat analysis research on the snails which should be available in November or December.
New Zealand mud snails are an invasive snail that is small in size (1/8” long) and therefore can be difficult to identify. New Zealand mud snails reproduce in massive quantities and are extremely resilient (can live out of water for up to 24 hours). Where established, these snails dominate the bottoms of rivers and streams and exhibit invasive qualities, outcompeting and displacing macroinvertebrates that are vital as food sources for many fish species. In addition, these invasive snails have no nutritional value for fish.
The DNR and DEQ continue to partner with local stakeholder groups on steps moving forward in an attempt to limit the spread of harmful invaders. Unfortunately, control options for these nuisance organisms are limited and have low effectiveness; therefore, outreach targeted at prevention measures are the most effective management tool. In 2014, the DNR-Fisheries Division initiated conversations with trout angling groups to construct and maintain wader washing stations to promote prevention and outreach for aquatic invasive species. To date, multiple wader wash stations have been constructed and are being maintained at fly shops on the Au Sable River and the Pere Marquette.
The DNR and DEQ continue to increase outreach campaigns to promote prevention actions such as cleaning, draining, and drying all gear and equipment before and after use in lakes, rivers, and streams.
Conservation Grants were approved for two projects at the June 2016 GLC Board Meeting:
1) AuSable Fish Farm Litigation–The Grayling Fish Hatchery is an outdated facility on the East Branch of the AuSable River originally owned by the DNR. Because it was outdated and no longer useful to the DNR it was deeded to Crawford County to use as a tourist attraction and recreation facility. The county ran the old hatchery during the summer months as a tourist attraction for many years. They decided that it was not economically viable and came up with a plan to keep the tourist attraction running and not continue to lose money.
Without consideration of the comments from stakeholders and the fisheries division of the DNR the county proceeded with their plan and gave Harrietta Hills a contract giving them a twenty year lease of the property with virtually no environmental safeguards. Next, Harrietta Hills obtained a permit from the DEQ to operate the old hatchery. After more public comment and objections from the DNR the permit was issued with minimal restrictions on the operation of the Hatchery.
This is where the Anglers of the AuSable stepped in. They filed and appeal, hired an attorney and expert witnesses and prepared a case to overturn the permit.
This litigation continues and the Great Lakes Council Board approved a conservation grant to support the Angler’s efforts. The IFFF Board will vote on a matching grant in November.
2) Syers Lake Dam Removal-The Conservation Resource Alliance submitted a grant request to support removal of a dam which both impounds Syers Lake and also during most times of the year, dewaters Syers Creek downstream of the dam for approximately one-quarter mile. Syers Creek in its lower reaches, after it receives spring and tributary contribution, is a high quality tributary to the Little Manistee River. The effect of the dewatered section of stream and the discontinuity in connectivity impairs the potential for Syers Creek to provide even higher quality habitat for cold water fish species.
Additional Conservation Committee Members Needed
The GLC Conservation Committee includes Jen Kablunde, Terry Lyons, Belinda Friis, Brad Reynolds, John Bebow, Roger Fechner, Jim Schramm, Dennis O’Brien and Dave Peterson. The Committee is seeking additional members. Please contact Dave Peterson at email@example.com if you are interested or know of any GLC members who might be interested in participating.
Great Lakes Council VP for Conservation
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
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