Mum’s the Word on Lake Michigan Fisheries Talks
As printed in the Leelanau Enterprise by Alan Campbell
Did you hear what happened at an important court hearing held Friday in the nearly three year negotiations to divvy up fishing opportunities in Lake Michigan among state and Tribal interests? Neither did I. And neither did anyone outside of a small tent of dignitaries who have chosen to create public policy far from public view. The negotiations have dragged, delayed for a while by the pandemic. At least that was the perception.
But there is a bigger problem. In fact, there are two problems. One is that public policy regulating a resource that affect hundreds of thousands of people is being determined without citizen input.
And the other is that once that policy is set, you and I will be expected to accept its result without protest.
I’m talking about prolonged attempts to write a new fishing pact for most of Lake Michigan including all of the Leelanau Shoreline to replace a court order that expired in the summer of 2020. All parties to the negotiations, including MDNR and Tribal representatives, have been hushed by a confidentiality agreement that’s worn out its welcome.
The code of silence prevents Tribal representatives from communicating with their members. And it stops the MDNR director from speaking one word about the state’s goals and stances in this secret standoff.
I understand the need for representatives to speak freely to each other, to hold frank discussions. Negotiations can be messy. But neither Tribal nor state constituents have a clue about the priorities of their negotiators other than to get a nebulous “good deal”.
It’s past time to let some air out of the hot balloon. Time for negotiators to report their progress or lack thereof to a public that will be expected to buy into the result of negotiations.
It’s time for negotiators to talk to the people who pay their salaries.
Reprinted by permission,
Leelanau Enterprise 2022.