Whitmer kills Nugent-backed deer baiting bill

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The deer baiting bill that Michigan Republicans – and rocker Ted Nugent – have argued so fervently for has been shot down with a stroke of the governor’s pen.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her year-end press conference, Dec. 18, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

As expected, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed enrolled House Bill 4687 Thursday morning. The bill would have allowed hunters to engage in deer or elk baiting in the state, a practice which was banned last summer by Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission amid concerns that using bait to lure deer closer to hunters could further transmit chronic wasting disease (CWD) among the animals.

“This legislation would’ve increased the chance of spreading wildlife disease within wildlife populations and the beef and dairy industries, which are vital to Michigan’s economy,” Whitmer said in a statement. “That’s not a risk we can afford to take. … Leaving the ban in place will allow the state to continue working to curb the spread of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease.”

Introduced by state Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) earlier this year, the bill gained traction among Republicans after Nugent, an outspoken musician and Republican activist, gave an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the state House Committee on Government Operations.

Whitmer unlikely to take Legislature’s deer bait

Nugent and Republican lawmakers felt that the ban would only hinder the sport, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cited scientific research as their reason for backing the ban and opposing the legislation.

CWD is a fatal, highly contagious neurological disease that was first identified in Michigan nearly a decade ago. According to the DNR, peer reviewed studies have shown that baiting and feeding practices greatly increase the likelihood of the disease spreading.

In a statement Thursday, the Michigan Environmental Council praised Whitmer’s veto of the “anti-science” bill.

“CWD is the largest threat facing our deer population, putting at risk Michigan’s outdoor conservation economy,” said Policy Director Sean Hammond. “The spread of CWD also creates potential risks to public health, as more exposures increase the risk of spreading to humans as Mad Cow has in the past.”

House Bill 4687 also was opposed by the Michigan Cattlemen’s Association, Michigan Gun Owners, Michigan Bow Hunters, Upper Peninsula Bear Hunters Association, Cadillac Sportsman’s Club and Michigan Sierra Club, among others.

Nugent wants deer-baiting ban lifted, bashes wildlife officials and scientists

Hoitenga spoke out after the veto, condemning the decision in a statement and vowing to continue fighting against what she calls the “overregulation of hunting activity in Michigan.”

“The governor continues to illustrate she is completely out of touch with people in northern Michigan,” Hoitenga said. “The baiting ban does absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of disease among our deer. In fact, it’s having the opposite effect by driving hunters away from the sport.”