Lawmakers tell DNR to control birds
Written by Cheybogan Daily Tribune   
Tuesday, 13 December 2005 09:49

State lawmakers have asked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for aggressive management of the double-crested cormorant.

Citing public concerns for declining sports fish populations, lower tourism and environmentally decimated shorelines received at a series of statewide hearings, House members have submitted a letter to DNR Director Rebecca Humphries seeking details on cormorant management programs during the past few years.

“It was very apparent at the hearings that cormorants are having an extremely negative impact on Michigan,” said state Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City. “These ongoing problems need to be addressed to protect the environment and communities that rely on the same resources as the bird, yet there appears to be little being done.”

Walker and fellow state Reps. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Matt Gillard, D-Alpena, hosted hearings in Alpena, Cedarville and Escanaba to examine the cormorant issues. Late last week the trio submitted a letter to Humphries signed by all 68 of their House colleagues asking for clarification and details of the management programs that have occurred since 2003.

The letter also asks the DNR to implement more controls on the birds or provide reasons why more controls cannot be imposed.

The cormorant population has received national attention as well.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, has been pushing cormorant control in Congress. In 2003, Stupak secured $125,000 in federal funds to control the birds.

The project was a two-fold plan that combined egg-oiling to reduce reproduction with the termination of approximately 15 percent of the adult birds, Stupak explained in a recent editorial column. A smaller control project was then launched on Drummond Island to protect spawning fish which coincides with the cormorant migration in late April and early May.

“This project focused on what is referred to as ‘harassment measures' to ward off birds from settling. With a limited amount of shooting the plan successfully deterred approximately 98 percent of the birds from foraging in the spawning area, thus protecting the young perch,” Stupak explained.

State lawmakers say more must be done.

“Although we've seen some successes in the Alpena and Les Cheneaux Island areas working with the USDA Wildlife Services, more needs to be done,” Gillard aid. “I am hopeful we can continue and expand these efforts to reduce the cormorant population to truly have an impact on the problem.”

Cormorants are present in Cheboygan County. They can often be seen diving for fish in the Cheboygan River, on the Inland Lakes and near the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The DNR is in charge of management efforts and funds at a state level, and lawmakers said that, based on testimony at the hearings, cormorant management in Michigan is not being fully addressed.

“We are asking Director Humphries to share the Department's information on the cormorant program so we can answer questions people had at the hearings,” said Casperson. “If there are certain challenges or issues the DNR has with the program, the Legislature needs to know those, too, so we can work on ways to help address them.

The Great Lakes population of double-crested cormorants was devastated during the 1960s, primarily by the efforts of chemical contamination, human disturbance and nest destruction. In the early 1970s, the Great Lakes population was so low that they were added to the list of species protected by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Since then the numbers of cormorants along the Great Lakes has reached historic numbers, Walker reports.

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