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Support HB 5210: Land Cap Repeal

January 31st, 2014

Support HB 5210: Land Cap Repeal

Representative Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) recently introduced HB 5210, which would remove the public land cap of 4.625 million acres and codify the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s land acquisition & disposal strategy.

Some of you may remember that in 2012 the Michigan legislature passed a bill, PA 240 of 2012 that placed a cap on the amount of public land the state could own until the DNR developed a detailed, strategic plan for land acquisition and disposal. MUCC members passed an emergency resolution in opposition to the bill as introduced because it was a shortsighted approach to get the DNR to develop a public land management strategy by using a simple arbitrary cap. This cap would then remain in place in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula unless the legislature passes an entirely new bill to approve the statewide public land acquisition and disposition strategy.

Well, in July 2013 the DNR unveiled their “Managed Public Land Strategy” and now HB 5210 will codify key elements of this strategy and repeal the arbitrary cap placed on public lands in Michigan. To be fair, the DNR still has some work to do on the strategy and MUCC has worked closely with them to ensure it is a transparent land transaction process involving input from recreational users of the land and from local units of government.

HB 5210 would do the following:

- Repeal the arbitrary cap on public land in Michigan;
- Approve the DNR’s public land acquisition and disposition strategy;
- Require the DNR to consult with local units of government before acquiring or disposing of land within their jurisdiction.

MUCC is supportive of HB 5210 and last week the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill where it received mixed reviews. There were several Representatives that would like to see local units of government have “veto” power over acquisition and disposal projects within their jurisdiction. However, this gives us caution because there a few examples of public land acquisitions and access being blocked by locals.

In Cass County (Michigan), the DNR has been attempting to purchase a few acres of land along Eagle Lake in order to provide public access to the lake. However, the Eagle Lake Improvement Association (ELIA) has fought all efforts to develop public access to these public natural resources. On February 5th the DNR is going to present their new plan before the Ontwa Township Planning Commission to purchase roughly 10 acres in order to provide public access to the lake. But again, the ELIA is opposing this project.

It’s stories like this and others from around the state where a small group of people block public access to natural resources that all should be able to enjoy. We are asking that you please contact your Representative and ask them to support HB 5210, as introduced. It is imperative that we remove the arbitrary cap on public land and codify the DNR’s land management strategy. We simply can’t continue moving forward without a long-term strategy that is open and accountable.

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