Drivers frequently use GPS systems to help them get to their desired destination. The Wildlife Division of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) hopes to do the same with their own recently implemented “GPS” in an effort to help them reach their goals for wildlife conservation and management over the next five years.
The department’s GPS — which stands for Guiding Principles and Strategies — is a new strategic plan approved in November to help guide the Wildlife Division as it faces numerous challenges in staffing, funding, and changing departmental organizational structure.
“It was imperative that we set a new course,” said Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason in a press release. “The Wildlife Division faces major challenges in staffing, funding and various emerging wildlife issues such as disease, climate change and land use. We manage wildlife on over 4 million state-owned acres, as well as helping Michiganians manage wildlife on their own lands; yet our staffing capacity has decreased by approximately 30 percent over the last 20 years.”
The need for a strategic plan for the Wildlife Division first arose in 2009 when three internal meetings in the Wildlife Division were held to identify priority issues and emerging wildlife needs.
“We held a series of meetings trying to come up with efficiencies and a series of issues that needed to be addressed for some time. And we decided to create a plan that needed to get us where we needed to go,” said Patrick Lederle, a supervisor within the Wildlife Division. “We decided to develop a strategic plan to let people know what we needed to do and to outline all our goals and the objectives for the next five years.”
Outlined within the GPS are 13 strategic issues: Wildlife population management; wildlife habitat management; land use and economic development; access to lands for wildlife recreation; hunting heritage; external communication; positive relationships; internal communication; workforce; internal administration; infrastructure; funding; and managing adaptively.
While Lederle stated that it was important to work on all the strategic issues at once, communication would be the most important goal to accomplish.
“The most important is to have better communications. The whole idea about having better communications is really key,” he said. “We need to form better partnerships with stakeholder groups and have better communication externally and internally. It will be a better thing for wildlife overall because of that.”
The 13 issues identified in the GPS have all been arranged into five major “destinations” the Wildlife Division would like to reach by 2015. Each ideal destination is further broken down into goals, objectives, and strategies as “routes” to arrive at these destinations.
The first destination is “Securing the Future of Michigan’s Wildlife” with the goals of managing sustainable populations of wildlife species; managing habitat for sustainable wildlife populations in a changing environment; and mitigating the negative impacts of human land use on wildlife habitats.
The second destination is “Enhancing Wildlife Recreation” with the goal of increasing public participation, acceptance, and support of hunting and trapping and increasing participation in non-consumptive wildlife-related recreation.
Hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses account for a major chunk of the Wildlife Division’s budget. While federal funding comprises 50 percent of the Wildlife Division’s budget — mainly through excise taxes on guns, ammunition, bows, and arrows — 40 percent of the budget is supported by state license fees for hunting and fishing.
“As hunters decline, so do dollar funds. Wildlife conservation across the state has been funded through hunters,” Lederle explained. “We need to rethink how we get money to support the agency charged with the public trust of wildlife.”
The third destination is “Serving Michigan’s Citizens” with the goals of improving communication and engagement with the public regarding wildlife issues and fostering positive working relationships with other agencies and organizations.
“Improving How We Work” is the fourth destination on the list. The goals to reach this destination include improving internal communications and relationships; increasing effectiveness and reducing time and energy needed to complete administrative processes; providing equipment and facilities to fulfill Wildlife Division program priorities; attracting, developing, and retaining a highly qualified workforce; and effectively funding priorities identified in the strategic plan.
The fifth and final destination is “Re-routing While Staying on Course,” with the goal of addressing established priorities while being more appropriately responsive and less reactive to emerging and urgent issues.
The objectives and strategies to reach these destinations along with the entire GPS can be found online at www.michigan.gov/wildlife.
“I am proud of the enormous staff effort and commitment that occurred to create this plan,” Mason stated in a press release. “The GPS sets the direction for our division’s wildlife management over the next five years and will hold us accountable to this direction.”