CONSERVANCY ACCUSES MDNR OF HIDING THE COUGAR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR MORE INFORMATION Dr. Pat Rusz 989-865-6701 Dennis Fijalkowski 517-641-7677 BATH -- In a “White Paper” entitled Hiding The Cougar: Denying The East Its Apex Predator, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) concludes that the state’s Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are violating the Michigan Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the Lansing area based, non-profit organization charges that state officials have refused to take steps to restore the cougar (mountain lion), a state listed endangered species, despite evidence that the big cats have long been found in Michigan. The White Paper, and attachments, can be read in their entirety on the MWC website (www.miwildlife.org). David Haywood, President of the MWC, noted Section 3 of the Michigan Endangered Species Act reads, “The Natural Resources Commission shall perform those acts necessary for the conservation, protection, restoration, and propagation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants.” “The cougar was listed by the DNR as endangered in 1987, and the agency admits cougars are found in Michigan. But to date, they and the Commission have only addressed public relations problems related to the cougar. There is no commitment to conserving our apex predator,” Haywood said. “Endangered species protection is a cornerstone of modern-day conservation,” added Haywood. “So it is difficult to understand why the DNR and the NRC, a seven-member, governor-appointed body would refuse to act and instead make excuses based on unsupported notions that Michigan’s cougars must be pets or transients wandering in from the West.” The White Paper looks at the long history of cougar evidence in Michigan while debunking the pet and transient explanations for all cougars that have been detected in Michigan and Minnesota, in particular. This spring, MWC and Central Michigan University researchers published a peer-reviewed article in the American Midland Naturalist that was the first scientific documentation of multiple cougars East of the Great Plains, outside of Florida. While acknowledging this research and other evidence of cougars, the DNR has continued to point out that there aren’t many cougars in the state and there is no absolute proof of their origin or whether they are breeding. “There is no pre-requisite for proof of origin or breeding status in Michigan’s endangered species law,” counters Haywood. “It’s simply a refusal to act according to the expressed will of the legislature and the public.” The MWC’s White Paper examines the arguments that DNR personnel have used to justify ignoring cougar evidence. While the DNR has said its staff will no longer ignore or ridicule citizens and local government officials who report information about cougars, the MWC contends the agency is still not “connecting the dots” and complying with state law. “Enough is enough,” said Dennis Fijalkowski, the MWC’s Executive Director. “This DNR’s song and dance has gone on for two decades. The agency should err on the side of conservation when it comes to endangered species management, and develop a management plan that helps the cougar, not just the agency’s image.” end Editors note: Attached is a copy of the White Paper entitled Hiding The Cougar: Denying The East Its Apex Predator. Editors note: Photographs of wild cougars taken in Michigan can be obtained by contacting the MWC office at 517-641-7677 or wildlife@miwildlife.org. Michigan Wildlife Conservancy PO Box 393 6380 Drumheller Rd. Bath, MI 48808 Phone: 517-641-7677 Fax: 517-641-7877 wildlife@miwildlife.org Become a member of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy today! Your gift will help save our natural heritage for future generations and support our environmental training programs at the Bengel Wildlife Center, in Bath. For only $35/year, you'll receive six issues of "The Wildlife Volunteer," Michigan's premier newsletter about wildlife. To join or learn of other member benefits, visit http://www.miwildlife.org/.