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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Courtesy | Wiki­media Commons

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill spon­sored by Repub­lican state Rep. Ken Borton, that would have eased restric­tions on bird and wildlife feeding near private residences. 

The bill would have per­mitted res­i­dents to put out more than two gallons of feed within 300 feet of their res­i­dence to prevent animals from starving or for recre­ational viewing, according to MLive and GOP House. Cur­rently, it is not illegal to feed birds in Michigan, but it is illegal to put out food that attracts deer, according to the AP. 

Whitmer sent her veto letter to law­makers on Oct. 7 and high­lighted how the current ban on feeding wildlife pre­vents disease from spreading among the animals. She wrote that the bill would “cast aside sound disease man­agement prin­ciples to loosen restric­tions on deer and elk feeding,” threat­ening agri­cul­tural and hunting industries. 

The Michigan Farm Bureau and Department of Natural Resources also opposed the bill in April, according to the AP. 

Sophomore Eliz­abeth Speck, pres­ident of the campus con­ser­vation club, grew up hunting in Penn­syl­vania, where it’s illegal to spread feed or bait deer. Some “bird feeding” prac­tices sound like veiled excuses for baiting, she said, and she doesn’t have a problem with the bill being vetoed. 

“I was sur­prised that people were upset about it,” Speck said. “Baiting or spreading feed can be dam­aging to deer pop­u­la­tions espe­cially in lieu of chronic wasting disease and hunting prac­tices, so I feel that this is appropriate.” 

While the club hasn’t yet held a dis­cussion about leg­is­lation, Speck said she hopes that they’ll hold an event related to it during the spring semester. 

In a statement, Borton said his plan would have pro­tected cit­izens from unfair fines and per­mitted recre­ational bird and wildlife feeding, and that the Department of Natural Resources failed to provide hard evi­dence against the bill. 

The chief of the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources said he was unaware of a study indi­cating backyard bird feeding con­tributes to the spread of chronic wasting disease or bovine tuber­cu­losis, according to Borton.

Gov. Whitmer’s veto of my bipar­tisan leg­is­lation flies in the face of common sense, making crim­inals out of Michigan res­i­dents who feed the birds,” Borton said. “Unfor­tu­nately, overly broad gov­ernment rules punish indi­viduals who simply place food in their yards — even to keep animals from starving.” 

About a decade ago, Borton himself was ticketed for bird seed that had spilled from a feeder and attracted deer. According to the AP, he said the case was dropped. 

“Mary Poppins would be dis­ap­pointed,” Borton said of the veto. 

On Oct. 13, the bill was re-referred to the Com­mittee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation.