Whitmer’s veto means feeding hungry birds could be a crime
There are over 400 species of birds in Michigan, and people across the state love to watch and feed them. But Natural Resources Department bureaucrats have created absurd rules that make all but the most cautious birds a felony, and the governor recently upheld the restriction.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed my House Bill 4088, which would have allowed wildlife and bird food to see the animals for recreation or prevent starvation. A Michigan resident could place, scatter or distribute up to two gallons of food within 300 feet of a residence.
His veto leaves in place a Natural Resources Commission order that bans baiting or feeding deer and elk throughout the Lower Peninsula and part of the Upper Peninsula, in an effort to reduce the spread of the wasting disease chronic and bovine tuberculosis by limiting the congregation. But the order applies to feeding other animals if the deer or elk can access the food. Even bird feeders out of reach break the order if food falls to the ground and deer arrive.
I know how ridiculous this government restriction is from personal experience. Like so many others, my wife and I enjoy birding in our woodland in northern Michigan. We installed bird feeders and a festive wooden snowman, which we broadcast live on our 24/7 snowman camera so that people all over the world can share our appreciation of nature.
More than a decade before I became a state legislator, the DNR convicted me of violating the ban in effect at the time because deer came to my feeder. The ministry took me to court – twice – but luckily the cases were dismissed. Finally, in 2011, the NRC lifted the bait and feed ban.
In 2018, the NRC reinstated a ban for some parts of the state. In 2019, the commission approved the order banning deer baiting or feeding in much of the state. After the order was issued, the legislature passed a plan to allow baiting, but Whitmer predictably vetoed it.
When I took office earlier this year, I introduced my more limited bill to allow for recreational feeding of birds and wildlife. I worked with the DNR to find areas of compromise. My original proposal would have allowed food to be placed within 600 feet of a residence, but we amended the bill to cut the distance in half at the request of the department. My plan won bipartisan support in the legislature, with several Democratic representatives even co-sponsoring the legislation.
The governor rejected this bipartisan collaboration. In her veto declaration, she argued that her decision was based on “solid scientific evidence”. But when my bill was before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Senator Ed McBroom specifically asked if MNR Wildlife Chief Jared Duquette knew of a story, science or study showing that feeding backyard birds contributes to the spread of chronic atrophy. bovine disease or tuberculosis. Duquette said he was not.
The overly broad ban on food doesn’t just affect rural residents like me. Residents of urban and suburban communities also feed the birds. And deer roam all 83 counties in Michigan, which means almost anyone could break the order if deer show up.
The Humane Society encourages bird feeding, noting that feeding can be beneficial for birds, especially during seasons when food may be more difficult for them to access naturally. Many Michigan residents love to feed the local birds in their areas. Unfortunately, the governor’s veto will keep bird admirers at risk from prosecution.
State Representative Ken Borton, R-Gaylord, represents Michigan’s 105th House District, which includes the counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Montmorency, Oscoda and Otsego.