Whitmer vetoes bill to ease restrictions on feeding birds

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The antenna of an Argos satellite tag extends past the tail feathers of a female American robin as she feeds a worm to her hungry nestlings on a front porch in Cheverly, Md., Sunday, May 9, 2021. A new antenna on the International Space Station and receptors on the Argos satellite, combined with the shrinking size of tracking chips and batteries, are allowing scientists to remotely monitor small animal and songbird movements in much greater detail than ever before. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

GAYLORD, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill that would have protected people from possible legal action if they fed birds in areas where deer and elk roam.

Whitmer said the bill conflicted with state efforts to keep the animals from congregating and spreading disease.

“Mary Poppins would be disappointed,” said the sponsor, Rep. Ken Borton, R-Gaylord, referring to the magical nanny in book and film who sings lovingly about feeding birds.

Feeding birds is not illegal in Michigan. But it’s illegal to put out food that can lure or attract deer. The Department of Natural Resources recommends people in rural areas use tube feeders or suet cages at least six feet off the ground, perhaps surrounded by a wire fence.

Borton’s bill would have explicitly allowed people to place or spread feed within 300 feet of their house. There would have been a cap on the amount of feed.

But Whitmer said Thursday that House Bill 4088 “would cast aside sound disease management principles” and threaten agriculture and hunting.

The DNR and the Michigan Farm Bureau opposed the bill in April.

“Unfortunately, overly broad government rules punish individuals who simply place food in their yards, even to keep animals from starving,” Borton said in response to the veto.

More than a decade before becoming a lawmaker, Borton was accused of not doing enough to keep deer from his feeders in Otsego County. He said the case was dismissed.

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