A Simple Demand in an Open Letter to the Ludington Area School District

Many of our loyal readers in Ludington may have some support for the Deer Cull Agreement with the USDA that our city council approved in October.  The last five winters have been mild and deer hunting in the area has been decreasing over that time, so one might see deer a lot more often than in the past.  Any gesture by city hall to control the deer population in the area could be looked at as a sign that the government is actually listening to your concerns, which is why several dozen citizens signed a petition to encourage the passage of a cull.

The problem is that the three years of midwinter culls contracted for will cost our city's budget, funded primarily by city taxpayers, nearly $60,000, while there is no guarantee of how many deer will be harvested in the limited time the USDA snipers will be in the area.  One recent year in more-rural and geographically larger Manistee netted only nine deer in their USDA cull suggesting that the cost for each deer harvested in our cull could go beyond $2000 per animal.  

On the other hand, our state DNR started counting deer hunting stats this year, mandating that hunters contact the DNR within 72 hours to report a deer kill, establishing a statistic new to the game.  Hunters killed over 1535 deer inside Mason County before the first day of rifle season.  Today is the first day after hunters could lawfully report kills made on the first day; the number of confirmed kills in the county at this point is 2655 meaning that 1120 deer have been killed in a small amount of time inside the county.

The ten, twelve, or even twenty that may be bagged each year is a small drop in the bucket of deer population culled by our hunters each year-- and this doesn't even count the significant number of deer that are fatally hit but are never found because they take a while to expire (this has happened twice this year to a local hunter I know).  The 2655 deer killed by hunters has actually brought more than $60,000 into our local economy while offering us a valuable service that the USDA cull could never ever accomplish were we to spend millions on it.

But value is not the only reason any rational person should be against the deer cull.  The agreement envisions USDA agents setting up hunting perches in the school forest adjacent to the new elementary school (and outside the city limits of Ludington, meaning our tax dollars are being used cull deer in the Ludington Area School District (LASD) inside Pere Marquette Township) and using techniques which could include bait piles, shooting from vehicles, etc.-- established as illegal for regular hunting-- to kill any deer they can.  And they will be doing this in the middle of the school year (February). 

One can find this unsettling, but we at the Ludington Torch find it highly illegal and very concerning that the school board would make a decision to allow this in the school forest without properly vetting all the consequences or even having any idea of the potential liability issues they added to the district.   With this in hand, I sent an email to the board earlier today, with the superintendent and Ludington city manager copied, providing the board members a route to do the right thing or suffer the legal consequences.  It follows:

Ludington Area School Board member,
This "notice of intent to file injunction regarding school forest culling operation" shall serve as a formal notice that Tom Rotta is prepared for and intends to file an injunction against the Ludington Area School District (LASD) for deciding to allow deer culling operations financed by the City of Ludington (COL) and conducted by the USDA inside the LASD's school forest adjacent to the Ludington Elementary School.  
The LASD Board has a duty to follow their own bylaws and state law.  In summation, the LASD Board is in violation of the Municipal Forest section of Act 451 of PA 1994, namely MCL 324.52702, which allows for only forestry and recreational activities to occur within a school forest.  Deer culling by the USDA does not qualify as either under the law.
The board's decision also violates at least four subsection mandates of their own bylaws regarding the school forest found in section 7465.  As noted, it violates the mandates of Act 451 of PA 1994 (subsection B), the no hunting allowed mandate of subsection D (and other sections of the bylaws which prohibit firearms on school property with limited exceptions not met here).  The LASD has not been named as additionally insured under the terms of the COL's culling agreement with the USDA (violating subsection H), and the tenets of section L which requires the LASD Board to not even consider non-school groups (the USDA) conducting activity that earns them a profit (as indicated by the COL-USDA contract). 
The issue behind this incipient injunction can be cured by subsection O of that bylaw, giving the superintendent/board the authority to rescind, without notice or cause, permission to use the school forest previously granted the night of the last board meeting, permission granted without any committee discussion, or any 'notice or cause' given to the public aforehand.  This rescission will have no cost to the LASD or any of the problems that may prove costly should the LASD wish to commit to their current position, which is inviting government-sponsored sharpshooters to use firearms and methods not available to the public in killing and spilling the blood of innocent life on school property, in direct violation of state and school laws.  I hope that respect for your legacy and the children of this district will have you do the correct and responsible step and take action to rescind the permission of this illegal and unlawful cull in the school forest at your meeting on Monday.  Thank you for your time."

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Another interesting take on a situation involving very complicated matters. One wonders if the definitions you use, versus those used by the district are different which is how you arrive at different points of legality. Additionally, are these truly "tax dollars" funded by "city taxpayers" the way you are inferring? If I remember correctly, aren't these federal dollars being utilized, which eventually will be borne by income taxpayers? Just trying to make sure I understand this odd issue fully as I am not sure of the value of this cull quite yet.

The definitions used in the laws and bylaws are mostly straightforward and defined in legal terms; I just don't see an honest court suggesting a deer cull is an act of forestry or a recreational use, nor do I see the LASD absolved of any liability by dint of the USDA's tort immunity, nor do I see how federal sharpshooters can ignore state and school law by dint of some undefined immunity.  I welcome further clarification, particularly if the USDA claims that they are conducting this cull without garnering a profit.  Check out the breakdown of cull costs in the council packet and consider the incredible amount given to the USDA snipers and see whether that falls withing permissible federal pay grade scales.

You remember correctly that these funds come from ARPA, which one could say came from federal coffers and/or were added to the federal deficit which politicians are ballooning and creating that inflation you notice and ruining the futures of our kids and grandkids.  The City was given 5/6 of a million dollars of this debt/tax combo to use for approved activities, none of which are effectuated by a deer cull taking place in other jurisdictions.  

One could justify that this isn't local tax money, but that would be dishonest dissembling, as it's part of the city's revenue pool that can be used just like the taxes and fees the city collects.  It's money under control of the whims and follies of the city council.  I would commend the city for transparently spending the ARPA money on mostly worthwhile and transient expenditures, but this use was a foolish waste used expediently to quell some foolish folks in the city.  Ironic, the ones that wanted to buy back assault weapons from citizens seem to have a lot of common membership of those who want to bring assault weapons into our community to kill those they find to be a nuisance.  

Great response X ... with a powerful last shot.

Thanks, FS, and the irony in the last shot actually makes some sense after a little thought. 

In the buyback program, you waste a lot of money in order to redistribute guns from private hands to the government to try and reduce gun violence.  The impact to actual gun violence is minimal at best and short lived.  

In the USDA culling program, you waste a lot of money in order to belittle the effects of guns in private hunter hands and put trust in the government to try and reduce deer population.  The impact to actual deer populations in an area is minimal at best and short lived.

Two additional aspects not discussed, If the cull is to take place it should be limited to antlerless deer only. With this stipulation you are not just removing a current animal but potentially the twin fawns produced the following Spring. Three for the price of one if you will, otherwise it becomes nothing more than meaningless and costly political gesture.

The second part specifically regards deer ticks. If one of the rationalities of a deer cull is to limit exposure to ticks, wouldn't the school district and indeed all of Ludington be better served by allowing chickens which are notorious tick killers? Should the chicken hating group be considered as pro deer tickers?

There is numerous studies showing that chickens can be used for tick control. $20K annually would buy a lot of coops and chicken fence. Added benefit of free eggs.



I think it would make the cull even less effective if it restricted kills to does, but I think the cullers would be best advised to take them out when given the choice.  Giving up shots on bucks when they are the only ones available to shoot would bring the USDA head count down and have folks question their usefulness.

In a city with a bird as a school mascot, it's silly not to consider reasonable rules for raising chickens.  Kudos to the city council for finally taking this up after seemingly going after the concept by banning chickens explicitly.


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