REED CITY — Department of Natural Resources director Keith Creagh was in the area earlier this winter and  defended the new license restructuring program which some sportsmen have argued forces them to buy licenses for seasons they may not be interested in so they can fish or hunt their main interests.

“It’s been real positive for most people who hunt and fish in this state,” Creag said. “It’s because it was based on outcomes. It was to make sure we have (conservation officers) for safe experiences, and make sure we have wildlife and fisheries biologists to improve streams and improve the habitat.

“It also was to put some habitat dollars out to the conservation groups. We’re leveraging their abilities. It’s interesting. Not many people come to a conservation meeting and spend two hours in a room. But they’ll spend an entire Saturday morning planting trees to improve the habitat. People want to get a little bit of dirt in their fingernails to improve habitat so they can look at it the end of the day and see that they’ve made a difference. That’s why we’re working with these guys.”

Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist and Program Leader for the DNR’s wildlife division, also was in the area this winter and was upbeat about the turkey season that starts next month.

He noted that in 2013, the state ranked seventh in the nation for turkey harvest. The spring seasons have had a decline from an all-time high of 42,002 turkeys harvested in 2008 to 31,931 in 2013.