Whitmer bans motorized boating and jet-skiing statewide

Whitmer bans motorized boating and jet-skiing statewide

Michigan outdoor recreation leader disagrees: "This is using a hatchet where a scalpel was appropriate and necessary."

Few states value the relaxation and tradition of boating and fishing as much as Michigan. It’s home to the third-highest count of recreational boating licenses in the nation, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

And after weeks of shelter-in-place orders, recreation that allows for safe social distancing like boating would be a boost for Michigan’s morale and mental health.

But families who untie from their dock now face a $1,000 fine and even jail time under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s revised executive order, signed April 9.

The order bans motorized boating and jet-skiing until May 1. Non-motorized activities such as canoeing, kayaking and sailing are allowed if residents follow social distancing guidelines.

Michigan’s long-respected outdoor recreation leaders have major concerns with Whitmer’s new order. “This [order] is using a hatchet where a scalpel was appropriate and necessary,” said Amy Trotter, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Making things worse, vague and conflicting orders have been issued. Just last week, Michigan State Police told the Detroit News that motorized boating was illegal. Then law enforcement was corrected by Whitmer’s office, which said such boating was allowed. But Whitmer’s administration now changed course again, banning motorized boating after all. The Department of Natural Resources clarified the order on April 10.

“Under the governor’s revised ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ Executive Order 2020-42, physical outdoor activity, such as kayaking, canoeing and sailing, remains permissible. However, the use of a motorboat, jet ski or similar watercraft is not permitted for the duration of the Executive Order, which is currently set to expire at 11:59 p.m. April 30,” reads a statement on the DNR website.

Anyone caught violating the order could face significant penalties. Whitmer originally set violations of her order as a criminal misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services later issued a civil penalty of $1,000 for violating Whitmer’s order. The DNR Law Enforcement Division, Michigan State Police and local law enforcement agencies are all authorized to enforce Whitmer’s order.

Aside from walking, hiking, running and biking, nearly all other outdoor recreational activities have been banned. The revised stay-at-home order Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed April 9 is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Not only are residents banned from traveling by boat, but they are also barred from travel between their own properties. Another controversial provision of the new order bans the sale of certain goods from big box stores. Items such as gardening supplies, furniture and paint will be unavailable for shoppers in many stores.

“The government shouldn’t be deciding who is essential. Everyone in Michigan is essential,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said.

“Instead, Gov. Whitmer should be asking what jobs and activities can be done safely. We need to make safety the deciding factor and allow people in low-risk communities and workplaces to begin getting back to normal. We can do all of that and still prioritize public health as the deciding factor.”

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