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Michigan Conservation Groups Sue Gov. Whitmer Over Motorboat Restrictions

— April 20, 2020

The MUCC says its members’ financial and mental well-being have been damaged by Whitmer’s order restricting motorboating.

A Michigan conversation organization has sued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to exempt motorboats from the state’s shelter-in-place restrictions.

According to, the lawsuit was filed on Sunday by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, or MUCC. The coalition alleges that Whitmer’s ban on motorized boating is unconstitutional, vague, and unnecessary to protect public health.

Under Whitmer’s current order—which expires at the end of the month—Michiganders can only leave their homes under limited circumstances. Physical activity and outdoor exercised are allowed. However–while sailing, canoeing and kayaking are all permissible–use of motorized watercraft is not.

Attorneys for MUCC say the ban on motorboats isn’t sensible and poses a risk to the financial and mental well-being of its members.

The Michigan state capitol building in Lansing. Image via San906/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-1.0)

“Many MUCC members rely on this fishing not only as a locally sourced, high-quality protein for their family and friends, but also as an activity important to their mental health during the stresses of this pandemic,” MUCC said. “For some members, fishing and boating activities are their only source of income.”

In its filing, MUCC pointed out several inconsistencies in Whitmer’s order. For instance, that canoes, sailboats and rowboats may still be used on public waterways even if they have a motor attached.

MUCC said it’s been broadly supportive of Whitmer’s mandate, as well as a flurry of citations issued to anglers and boaters flouting social distancing rules at launches across the state.

“MUCC has been supportive of the administration’s legal closure of areas like Tippy Dam, where anglers continually were asked to social distance and conservation and law enforcement officers were met with resistance,” MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter said. “We support measures to mitigate risks in these highly frequented locations. However, these are only a few small examples of the thousands of public and private accesses we have throughout Michigan that are infrequently visited by people with motorboats and could be vital to Michiganders’ mental health and well-being during this time.”

Tipper also suggested that MUCC would be willing to partner with or otherwise advise Whitmer’s office on outdoors-related policymaking.

“The organization, if given a chance, will partner with the governor’s office to continue communicating and helping in any way possible to ensure anglers are recreating responsibly,” she added.

Trotter has also emphasized that neither she nor MUCC—the governing board of which voted 14-1 to file the lawsuit—opted to sue for political reasons. In recent days, Michigan has seen thousands of protesters flock to the capitol, all demanding an end to stay-at-home orders.

“This litigation would not be brought forward if it did not include a sound policy argument,” she said. “Attempts to cast this as emotionally- or politically-driven are baseless.”


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