Turkey habitat legislation is approved

REED CITY — It was a moment that Jim Maturen of Reed City and his Pere Marquette Chapter of the Michigan Wild Turkeys Hunters Association had been anticipating for a long time.

Recently, Maturen and Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) were in Lansing with Gov. Rick Snyder for the ceremonial bill signing of Public Act 81.

In a statement from his office, Booher noted that the act expands the use of wild turkey hunting license fees to include creating and management of habitat on state and private land and national forest land. It also includes additional purposes such as hunter surveys to track populations and disease testing.

“This new law is about better distributing our limited amount of funds statewide in order to help provide quality habitats for wild turkey and maintain healthy populations,” Booher said in his statement. “This reform does not increase turkey hunting license fees in any way. It simply expands the uses for these fees to ensure that wild turkey populations are equally protected and preserved throughout Michigan.”

It was also pointed out that the DNR will have to meet the requirement of testing a turkey that is suspected by a hunter of having a disease and is submitted to the department to determine what might be affecting the turkey.

Maturen, a Reed City resident, noted that efforts to get such a bill passed started last year. He said the bill signed was not totally the one that was introduced.

“The turkey fund was established in 1977,” he said. “It was intended by the DNR that if the hunters were willing to buy a turkey license, they would provide that money for management of the wild turkey (population).”

Maturen said the bill is designed to combat what he and other have contended is a dwindling turkey population in this area of the state.

“Why aren’t we creating turkey habitat on state lands?” he said. “The answer we were getting is that we didn’t have any money. The turkey fund was being used for everything expect to manage the wild turkeys.”