Michigan House votes to lift ban on baiting, feeding deer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan House voted Tuesday to lift a state ban on baiting and feeding deer that extends throughout the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula, passing legislation that is opposed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

The measure cleared the Republican-led chamber on a mostly party-line 57-49 vote and was moved to the GOP-controlled Senate. It would end the ban that was approved in August 2018 by the state Natural Resources Commission to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease.

“Baiting is a method that hunters have relied on for generations, and there’s absolutely no evidence it contributes to the spread of disease,” said the bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Michelle Hoitenga of Manton. She said the prohibition is discouraging hunters, harming businesses and curtailing revenue the state receives from hunting licenses.

Three Democrats joined 54 Republicans in support, while two Republicans aligned with 47 Democrats in opposition.

GOP Rep. Gary Howell of North Branch, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee, said the bill is not “good public policy” and noted that state voters in 1996 authorized the Natural Resources Commission to make decisions about hunting.

“We are now on the edge of violating the spirit of that proposal,” he said, contending that hunters are divided over the baiting ban. “The truth is we ought to let the proper authorities make these decisions. We as politicians really are not particularly qualified to make these scientific decisions.”

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Ed Golder said peer-reviewed research has shown that baiting and feeding concentrates animals beyond their normal movement patterns, increasing the likelihood of disease transmission.

In July, the commission decided to allow baiting and feeding of deer and elk in the Upper Peninsula, except in an area where a deer infected with the disease was found last year. It includes portions of Menominee, Delta and Dickinson counties.

Republican Rep. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain voted for the legislation.

“Absolutely nothing about this baiting ban and feeding ban is based on any sound science whatsoever,” he said. “Us as lawmakers need to be able to decide at some point when the bureaucrats have had enough running of the show.”

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