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OUTDOORS: Fight over doves comes down to hunting rights

Granholm gets chance to reward state hunters
June 10, 2004


LANSING -- Now that the state Legislature has approved a dove-hunting bill, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a one-time opponent of dove hunting, says she is interested in a compromise. She is considering a proposal by Michigan United Conservation Clubs that would allow a limited hunt for three years in the most southerly counties of the state.

The compromise isn't part of the dove bill, but it could be adopted by the state Natural Resources Commission as part of its hunting regulations.

"The governor is going to look at it," gubernatorial press secretary Elizabeth Boyd said Wednesday, a day after the state House passed the final version of the bill, 65-40. "She is very interested in what the Natural Resources Commission has to say about this. The governor finds that Michigan United Conservation Clubs proposal very intriguing, and she will examine it carefully."

That's a big step for someone who three years ago told animal-rights groups that she would veto any effort to establish dove hunting in this state. Sam Washington, executive director of MUCC, was delighted with Granholm's decision to consult with the NRC and consider a compromise.

"This bill was a bipartisan effort, and it represents a common-sense approach to a difficult issue," Washington said. "I think the approach we proposed will show most people who opposed dove hunting that it will not affect the dove population. At the same time, it will offer inexpensive outdoor recreation opportunities to a very large number."

The compromise would allow hunting for three years in all or parts of counties south of I-94 and west of M-23. State Department of Natural Resources biologists would monitor the hunt to determine its effect on dove numbers now estimated at about 4 million statewide.

After three years, the Natural Resources Commission would use that information to decide if the hunt should remain the same, be expanded or shut down. The decision would be based on the best science available, which is what the voters wanted eight years ago when they passed Proposal G and put such decisions in the hands of the NRC.

The mourning dove is the most popular and most common game bird in the country. National numbers fluctuate between 450 million and 500 million. Last month Minnesota became the 40th state to allow dove hunting after a long political fight similar to the one we are experiencing. Wisconsin did the same thing last year.

Now every Midwestern state but Michigan allows dove hunting.

There's no question that the Republican-controlled Legislature handed Granholm at least an unpleasantly warm potato with this bill. But if she signs the bill, or lets it become law without her signature, it probably won't cost her many votes, or earn her many, for that matter. Other issues are far too important for Granholm's supporters to abandon her over the issue of shooting a few birds.

But if she vetoes the dove bill, it allows the GOP to paint her as anti-hunting and a closet gun-grabber, which will cost her support in her next election and could cost John Kerry votes in one of the crucial battlegrounds for the presidency.

The people who oppose dove hunting will put on a full-court press in the next few weeks to convince the governor that it's in her interests to veto this bill. If you care about hunting, you should contact her to stress that you think she should sign it. Even if you're a hunter who isn't interested in dove hunting, this is no longer a simple question about shooting woodcock-sized birds that are as common as sparrows.

Animal-rights people, who are the primary opponents of the dove hunt, have suffered a steady series of setbacks in the last few years, losing far more political fights than they have won. They are desperate for a victory, and if the dove bill is vetoed in Michigan, they will trumpet it as the result of their efforts.

Like it or not, we're once again down to a more basic question of hunting rights. You might not want to hunt doves, but if you're a hunter, it is in your vested interest to support other hunters as long as their activities don't adversely affect the resource.

Rodney King, the hapless victim of the videotaped Los Angeles police beating, once desperately asked a televised news conference: "Can't we all just get along?"

' Well, Rodney, the answer is "no," because we human beings seem to have an inordinate capacity for trying to impose our beliefs on our fellows. So if you're a hunter of any kind, the choice on the dove bill is whether you want to be controlled, or the controller.

Contact ERIC SHARP at 313-222-2511 or

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