Governor signs legislation to aid U.P. tourist destination

For Immediate Release                                                           
March 26, 2013                                                                       

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Governor signs legislation to aid U.P. tourist destination

LANSING, Mich.‒ Legislation to ensure Oswald’s Bear Ranch of Newberry can continue to operate as it has for more than 15 years was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Rick Snyder, said Sen. Tom Casperson.

Senate Bill 48 amends the state’s Large Carnivore Act to allow federally licensed exhibitors to let their visitors have contact with bear cubs 36 weeks or younger or less than 90 pounds as long as other criteria in the law, including compliance with federal laws and regulations, are met. While the bill would directly help Oswald’s Bear Ranch, the provision on cub contact could also be used by other exhibitors or zoos that owned bears at the time SB 48 was signed.

“Oswald’s Bear Ranch has been a staple of U.P. tourism for decades with many visitors drawn to Newberry from lower Michigan, neighboring states and around the world to see Oswald’s high class operation,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s a business that offers much to the patrons who visit, the Newberry community and to the bear cubs and older bears that are very well cared for and able to live in vast natural habitats.”

Last summer, after years of being approved by state and federal agencies to exhibit bears and allow photos to be taken with bear cubs, Oswald’s Bear Ranch was told by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency that had never regulated the operation previously, that they now determined state law did not allow Oswald’s to continue that practice. Visitors and many local businesses were very disappointed with that limitation, causing owner Dean Oswald to ask Casperson to clarify Michigan’s law.

“Dealing with the varying regulations imposed by three different state and federal agencies has caused our business unnecessary stress and costs over the past year,” said Dean Oswald.  “But my family is thankful that Senator Casperson worked with us and the governor signed SB 48 to clarify the state law to ensure we can continue to offer an experience that visitors to Oswald’s Bear Ranch have enjoyed for generations.”

SB 48 is now Public Act 8 of 2013.

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Casperson creates historic opportunity for the U.P. to connect with the Legislature

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2013
 
Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Casperson creates historic opportunity for the U.P. to connect with the Legislature

LANSING, Mich.— For the first time ever, people in six different U.P. locations will have the opportunity to attend a Michigan Senate committee meeting without being in the same room.

Senate Bill 50, introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson will be taken up in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee on Thursday, March 21 from 8:30 a.m. EST to 10:00 a.m. The committee meeting will use videoconferencing technology to make the meeting accessible to residents from as far away as Ironwood.

Casperson, R-Escanaba, has long advocated for a more wide-ranging use of technology to help bridge the geographical challenges presented by the State’s enormous size and allow the state to work smarter and more efficiently. Casperson previously employed technology to link three U.P. communities to a Senate committee through video conferencing.  

Through the leadership of a number of local stakeholders, including the Copper Country Intermediate School District, Northern Michigan University, the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance and UPLink, the opportunity has now been expanded to bring a half-dozen U.P. communities together to participate via video directly with the Legislature.   

Casperson noted that his district includes 13 of the 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula, and given the distance, it is difficult in both practical and financial terms for residents to make a trip to Lansing in order to listen or give testimony in committee meetings.
 
“The time is now to employ this technology,” said Casperson. “We have the technical ability, and UPLink has the vision to bring high definition video conferencing throughout the entire state.

“The possibilities are nearly endless of how we can use this technology to make local and state government more accessible to people, and to permit government to work more effectively and efficiently— thereby presenting real savings to taxpayers.”   

Casperson is once again using this as an opportunity to bring the voice of the Upper Peninsula to a legislative committee, this time to permit the Natural Resources committee to hear many different local perspectives on off-road vehicle (ORV) related issues that will help to help the committee better understand the issue and craft a sensible policy.

The UP videoconference locations are as follows for the March 21st Committee:
•    Bergland – Gogebic-Ontonagon ISD, 202 Elm St.
•    Escanaba – Michigan Works Conference Room, 2950 College Ave.
•    Hancock –  Copper Country ISD, 809 Hecla Street
•    Iron Mountain – Bay College West, ITV Room 108, 2801 North U.S. 2
•    Manistique – Manistique City Hall, 300 N. Maple Ave.
•    Ironwood – Gogebic Community College, Solin Business Center, Room B21, E-4946 Jackson Rd.

The committee will hear testimony on SB 50 that would allow ORV riders to access state highways and cross bridges to help connect trails and reach tourist attractions or towns for fuel and food. The highway access must be approved by county boards and meet the approval of the Michigan Department of Transportation. The bill also would allow an ORV free sticker weekend and make changes to DNR’s group event permit process.

The public is welcome to attend at the committee meeting locations. To help the committee run efficiently, anyone who is interested in speaking is asked to contact Sen. Casperson’s office in advance at 866-305-2038.

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http://www.misenategop.com/senators/readarticle.asp?id=5773&District=38

Bill to aid U.P. tourism destination sent to governor

For Immediate Release                                                           
March 12, 2013                                                                       

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Bill to aid U.P. tourism destination sent to governor

LANSING-Mich.— The Michigan Senate on Tuesday passed a measure to assist Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry, the bill is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

“This is common sense legislation to remove government overreach that inhibited a well-run, successful business, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, from operating this past year as it has for more than 15 years with no problems with its bear cubs or visitors,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, the bill’s sponsor. “The change will help ensure that Oswald’s will remain a staple of U.P. tourism for years to come,”

Senate Bill 48 will amend the Large Carnivore Act to allow visitors to licensed and inspected exhibitors to have contact with a bear cub that is younger than 36 weeks old or under 90 pounds.  

For more than 15 years, Oswald’s Bear Ranch allowed guests who wanted to take a photo with their bear cubs to do so. They had been operating with the understanding that they were exempt from Michigan’s Large Carnivore Act because they were licensed as a “class C exhibitor” regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act.  

Last June, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified Oswald’s that their interpretation of the law said that the practice of allowing visitors to have their photo taken with their cubs violated state law.

Casperson introduced legislation last August to fix that state law to assist Oswald’s Bear Ranch which has been in business for nearly 30 years, attracting visitors from across the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, the U.S. and the world.  

Following a veto of the first bill by the governor because of other changes to the Large Carnivore Act that were included in the same bill, Casperson introduced SB 48 at the beginning of the new legislative session in January with the commitment from Snyder that he would sign a bill that dealt only with Oswald’s bear cub issue.

“My family and I are grateful for this bill being passed that would help enable us to continue to run our business and accept rescued bear cubs if the bill is signed,” said Dean Oswald, Owner of Oswald’s Bear Ranch. “When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came in and stopped us from allowing our visitors to have their photos taken with the cubs, which has been a very popular attraction, not only was our business negatively impacted by unnecessary government interference, but tourism in the area was also adversely affected. Tourism is too important to Luce County to lose.”

“These small businesses and others like them are essential to the Upper Peninsula as they provide jobs and economic activity to our communities through the visitors they attract,” said Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who co-sponsored the legislation.

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