A life long Republican, hunter, and conservationists comes to terms with endorsing Joe Biden for president.
It’s the early Canada Goose season here in Michigan, and as I sit in my blind on a small lake with my black Labrador– Stormy– at my side, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a great day. No wind, a high bluebird sky and barely a ripple on the water. Still, it’s great to be out enjoying the outdoors here in my home state of Michigan.
As I sit scanning the horizon, my thoughts move to the important role Michigan played in the restoration of the Canada Goose population in North America. You see, in the 1930’s habitat destruction and poaching had nearly eliminated the Canada Goose from the North American landscape. It was in 1934 that the CCC and the Fish and Wildlife Service created the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Eastern Upper Peninsula in my state. It was there that restoration of the incredible flocks of Giant Canada geese that belonged here really took place. Today, you can see Giant Canadas from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron to Lake Superior to Lake Erie in Michigan.
And, Canada goose restoration is not the only conservation success story that Michigan helped write.
For the decade of the 1970’s, I had the privilege of working for one of the greatest conservation governors ever, Michigan Republican William Milliken. As his conservation and environmental ad visor, we worked to protect wetlands, Great Lakes shorelines, wilderness areas and rivers and streams. During his term of office, Michigan became the first state to ban the use of PCB and the first state to ban the use of DDT. We went to the people to ban throwaway beverage containers in the state, and created the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to protect vital wildlife habitat and provide public access to Michigan’s unique treasures.
I also had the opportunity to work for Republican Governor Rick Snyder from 2010-2014. We continued to build the conservation legacy by enhancing public access, protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem from invasives, and taking a firm position against the diversion of Great Lakes waters.
Conservation in the US has traditionally been a Republican issue. It was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who helped lead the nation into a new era of habitat and species protection. He once famously said, “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”
And, it was Republican President Richard Nixon who signed the National Environmental Protection Act, signed the Clean Water Act, and who established the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sadly, my party has recently severed touch with its roots.
Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the current President’s proposed budgets were cut by 90% for three years running. The program restores wetlands, protects against invasive species and works to reduce nutrient loading to the Great Lakes, preserving critical walleye, lake trout, perch and smallmouth bass habitat. The Great Lakes define Michigan, and are one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet.
The current administration in Washington reinterpreted the Clean Water Act to significantly weaken protections for half our nation’s wetlands, the nurseries for much of our fish and wildlife, and they also are attempting to rescind a 40-year old interpretation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty, which held polluters liable for the incidental death of thousands of migratory birds, including the Canada geese I seek today.
Despite being a Republican and working for Republicans my entire career, I have made the tough decision this year that I will be voting for the other guy, Joe Biden.
I firmly believe, as Teddy Roosevelt said, that the next generation—and the one after that—have a right to the hunting and fishing resources of our nation that is equal to our own. I want to know that my kids– and theirs–can hunt geese, deer, turkeys and ruffed grouse just like I do. And I want to know that my kids—and theirs—will be able to experience the thrill of a Great Lakes steelhead, or a brook trout in a headwater stream or a smallmouth exploding at a topwater lure.
The sad truth is that the current administration, led by Donald Trump, just doesn’t get it.
Well, back to staring at the bluebird sky. Wait, was that a goose I just heard…