GLADSTONE, Mich. (WLUC) - The USDA Forest Service welcomes hunters to the Hiawatha National Forest, which provides nearly a million acres of public land for the use and enjoyment of the American people.
According to Forest Service personnel, most hunters are responsible and follow the rules, however there is growing concern about the incidence of illegal abandoned (or so-called ‘permanent’) blinds on National Forest System lands. Illegal blinds pose several risks including safety hazards, environmental damage and hunter conflicts.
Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor, Cid Morgan, offers several reminders to hunters who use hunting blinds and stands on National Forest lands. State of Michigan hunting regulations require that:
• Hunting blinds and stands on public lands must be portable and temporary.
• Hunting platforms cannot be affixed or attached to any tree by nails, screws, or bolts and screw-in tree steps are illegal, meaning it is unlawful to use any item that penetrates through the bark of a tree in the construction or affixing of any device to assist in climbing a tree.
• Blinds and stands can be placed no earlier than September 1, 2016 and must be removed by January 1, 2017.
• The name, phone number and address of the owner must be posted on the blind/stand.
• Failure to remove any type of blind, structure, equipment or trash can result in fines, costs, and removal, destruction, impoundment and/or seizure of those items.
“We want to make sure hunters are aware of Forest Service regulations regarding impoundment, which apply to the process of removing abandoned junk, including blinds, from national forests,” stated Morgan.
Abandoned property, including blinds left in place beyond the State's removal date, can be removed by the agency as soon as seventy-two hours after they are discovered.
Hunters using blinds on National Forest System lands should also be aware that there are some differences between hunting on state land versus National Forest land.
For instance, hunters should remember that:
• All wheeled motor vehicles, including off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are allowed only on National Forest roads and trails shown open on the Forest’s current year Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). Consult the current MVUM to determine which roads, trails and areas are currently available for motorized use. The map is updated annually and is available free of charge on the web at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/hiawatha/mvum.
• All cross country motorized travel (off of the designated routes) is prohibited on National Forest System lands, even for baiting or retrieval of game.
• Cutting branches, limbs, trees, or other vegetation for shooting lanes or to construct blinds is prohibited.
• Guiding on National Forest land requires a federal special use permit.
“In the midst of hunting season, we thought it timely to remind hunters that the hunt is not over when they've bagged their deer. Responsible hunting includes removing your blind from public land no later than January 1, 2017,” explains Forest Supervisor Morgan.
Forest Service law enforcement and investigation personnel and other staff will remove abandoned hunting blinds in accordance with the State and federal regulations. For accurate information about hunting regulations in Michigan, hunters should review the current year’s MDNR “Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest,” paying particular attention to rules about, Blinds on Public Lands, Raised Platforms and Tree Stands, Baiting, and Hunting on National Forest System lands. The MDNR’s Guide is available at DNR Field Sites and all Hiawatha National Forest offices. In addition, the federal regulations regarding impoundment (36CFR Part 262 Section 262.12) have recently been updated. Abandoned blinds will be removed in accordance with this new regulation.
The Forest Service encourages hunters and the public in general to contact the local National Forest office anytime they notice illegal blinds on federal Forest lands.
For more information on how you can help, or to report illegal blinds or dumpsites, please contact your local National Forest office, M-F, 8-4:30.
• Forest Supervisor’s Office, Gladstone – (906) 428-5800
• Rapid River/Manistique District Ranger’s Office – (906) 474-6442
• Munising District Ranger’s Office – (906) 387-2512
• St Ignace/Sault Ste. Marie District Ranger’s Office – (906) 643-7900