Frankfort legislator seeks more DNR workers for wildlife services

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Capital News Service
LANSING — When the House reconvenes Sept. 17, Rep. David C. Mead will focus on reorganizing state resources for Michigan wildlife in the remaining weeks of the lame-duck Legislature.
Mead, R – Frankfort, is also concerned over possible changes to Proposal A.
But his primary concern is the use of “restricted funds” in the Department of Natural Resources. Under an early retirement package, only one out of four retiring employees will be replaced, according to Mead.
That means that state parks and other DNR facilities will be badly understaffed, resulting in the possible closure of facilities that can not be properly maintained, he contends.
Mead will lobby to change “restricted funds” policies. He wants to see funds used to hire more employees to prevent the shortages he foresees.
Under the current policies, for example, revenue brought in from the sales of hunting licenses can only be used for hunting-related purposes such as maintaining herds or hiring biologists for wild game research, according to DNR Chief of Staff Guy Gordon.
Mead’s main reason for changing the current policy is concern about chronic wasting disease. CWD, while not known to be in Michigan, has been discovered in wild game in Wisconsin.
The disease, similar to mad cow disease, is caused by an abnormal protein called a-prion and affects the central nervous system according to the Wisconsin DNR Web site.
Mead worries that with a shortage of biologists to test and study wild game in Michigan, CWD could infect Michigan wild game without detection.
He wants to take funding procured from the sales of fish licenses and use it to hire more biologists to study wild game in Michigan. “We’ll have to work hard to make sure we have adequate staffing for the DNR,” he said.
Possible ways to curb the advancement of CWD include regulating the transport of wild game across state lines for the purpose of stocking or restocking private hunt clubs, Mead suggested.
Mead also favors increasing funding for better education, but not at the taxpayer expense. “I’m all for continuing funding of schools for better education, but I can not support any changes (to Proposal A) that will raise the property taxes of my constituents,” he said.
Other topics Mead touched on were airport security, which he feels should be handled by local officials and not federal mandate, and altering the state budget to be “more in sync with current economic trends.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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