Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have overturned a deer baiting ban, citing health concerns among Michigan deer populations.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources banned deer baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula and some parts of the Upper Peninsula in January 2019 in an attempt to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease, a neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. Chronic wasting disease cannot be cured and is known for giving animals a “zombie-like” appearance.
The bill sought to overturn the ban and allow any person to bait or feed during open hunting season for deer and elk. It placed a 5-gallon limit on feed and allowed provisions for areas affected by chronic wasting disease.
“I remain fully committed to protecting Michigan’s wildlife, public health and agriculture jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement. “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. That’s not a risk we can afford to take.”
Whitmer said that passing the bill would have been in direct violation of the will of Michigan voters, who “overwhelmingly” decided to give authority to implement bans to natural resources authorities.
“By vetoing this legislation, the authority to ban baiting and feeding will remain with the experts at the Natural Resources Commission, in accordance with the will of the overwhelming number of Michiganders who supported proposal G,” Whitmer said. “Leaving the ban in place will allow the state to continue working to curb the spread of diseases like chronic wasting disease.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-102-Wexford), said in a statement that Whitmer’s veto proves that “she is completely out of touch with people in northern Michigan.”
“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,” Hotienga said. “Thinning out the deer herd is the best way to prevent disease from spreading. We need hunters to participate to prevent overpopulation.”
Hoitenga said she plans to continue to fight for a solution to overturn the bait ban.
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]