STANTON — Three candidates vying for House and Senate seats in November met Monday evening at Twin Ponds Sports Shop to discuss conservation-related issues with area voters.
Attending were 70th District Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, and his Democratic challenger Jim Hoisington of Stanton, 33rd District Democratic candidate Fred Sprague of Alma and Will Wagner, a representative for Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan.
The candidates fielded questions from a moderator as well as verbal queries from the 20 or so voters who turned out for the event. The forum was sponsored by the Mid-Michigan United Sportsmen’s Alliance (MMUSA) and was moderated by political analyst Matt Evans.
Evans opened the forum by asking each candidate what action they would take, if elected in November, to stem the invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
“Invasive species is a problem,” Outman said. “Both plants and animals. We treat the lakes for all the invasive species; I can’t imagine the damage that would occur if Asian carp did get up here.”
Sprague noted Asian carp DNA has been found in the Great Lakes, although to date no actual fish of that species has been seen there. The best solution, he said, would be to make sure the species never establish a foothold in the Great Lakes.
“It takes a lot less money to stop them than it does to get rid of them,” Sprague said. “We have to be more careful with what comes into our state.”
Hoisington blamed the problem in part on the federal government and its inability to get beyond partisan gridlock.
“They’re not agreeing on basically anything,” he said. “They need to address these issues. Politicians are not doing their job like they should be.”
The candidates also were asked their opinion on regulating hunting and which species should be included as game animals. The moderator was alluding to the recent controversy surrounding the hunting of wolves.
Sprague noted that regardless of the animal being hunted, decisions should be based upon the best scientific data available, rather than emotional factors. Hoisington added that the Department of Natural Resources should not be the sole arbiter of deciding which animals are fair game; Congress also should oversee the decision making process.
Outman complained that petitions calling for a referendum on wolf hunting were sponsored by groups from out of state.
“A lot of out of state interest groups will pay someone to get names,” Outman said. “The Humane Society was in on this and they didn’t get the signatures. A lot of these people who gather these signatures are from the Detroit area. I tell them, ‘Why don’t you let me ship the wolves down there and see what you can do with them?’”
Outman said he has spoken with farmers who claim wolves are targeting cattle and deer populations.
When asked what action they would take to help improve relations between farmers and sportsmen who often conflict as to land use, no candidate offered up a specific solution.
Hoisington said that better communication between the two groups is the key, while Emmons’ advocate suggested some governmental intervention to find solutions palatable to farmers and hunters.
Outman said the problem wasn’t one that could, or should, be handled by politicians.
“I don’t know if it’s the Legislature’s role to open that line of communication,” he said. “The DNR has to have a better line of communication with the farmers.”
Sprague again suggested letting science and research help decide what the land is used for to the betterment of the general population.
Climate change also was addressed by the candidates. Sprague stressed the carbon load in the atmosphere must be reduced before further environmental damage takes place.
“We must first agree there is a problem,” he said. “We should be past that. We need to move into renewable energy in the future. Michigan can be a leader or can be behind.”
Hoisington stated that virtually all reputable scientists concur climate change is happening.
“The scientists all pretty much agree our Earth is warming,” he said. “But too many people want to make a dollar, a big dollar. We can’t let those folks have their way or it will kill us all in the long run.”
Outman agreed renewable energy should be something to develop in the long run, but for now, it should be only part of a balanced approach to energy management.
“The wind is free, the sun is free, but the wind isn’t always blowing,” Outman said. “There’s nothing wrong with a comprehensive energy portfolio. You can use coal, nuclear, wind, solar, depending on the needs.”
The candidates also fielded questions on recent cost increases for fishing and hunting licenses and other conservation-related issues.