Tom Washington, Don Inman Inducted Into Environmental Hall of Fame as Governor Signs Bill Funding Natural Resources Trust Fund Projects

It seems fitting that on the same week that Governor Snyder signed the appropriations bill funding this year’s Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund projects, two of the principle figures responsible for its existence were inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame by the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society. In the mid-1970’s, Don Inman, then a staff ecologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, had the idea for the Trust Fund, and MUCC’s newly-hired executive director Tom Washington ushered the political clout necessary to create one of Michigan’s best ideas.
At an awards ceremony last night, the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame inducted Inman and Washington, along with Joan Wolfe, Dave Dempsey, Norm Spring, the Clinton River Watershed Council, Mayville Elementary School, the Wolf & Moose of Isle Royale, and Ralph Bailey. And on Monday, Governor Snyder signed Senate Bill 780, which appropriates $27.6 million to local and state public outdoor recreation acquisition and development projects.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund began as a compromise as controversy swirled around oil drilling in the Pigeon River Country. Don Inman had the idea that royalties from gas and oil rights on state land be set aside for acquiring additional land for outdoor recreation. Tom Washington, hired as executive director of MUCC in 1975, championed the idea as a compromise to mitigate the negative effects of drilling and creating value for conservation out of the royalties. He and MUCC worked to bridge the divide between conservation and the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, and the fund was created by a bill introduced by state senator Kerry Kammer in 1976.
Tom Washington, the late executive director of MUCC, was inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame. Tom Washington, the late executive director of MUCC, was inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.
The Trust Fund was adopted into the Michigan Constitution by public vote in 1984. It takes a percentage of royalties from oil and gas leasing and development owned by the state, and directing it to purchase outdoor recreation land and grants to local communities for acquisition and development. This year’s projects include $19 million for 32 acquisition projects and $8.6 million for 44 development projects. Grantees are also providing $18.9 million in matching funds for a total investment of $46.5 million in conservation and outdoor recreation lands and projects this year, thanks to the compromise developed and advocated by Don Inman, Tom Washington and many others almost 40 years ago.

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