Public lands, wildlife and freshwater are amenities we often overlook as Michiganders. Access to these vast public lands afford countless recreational opportunities –– whether that is sitting in your stand on a crisp October day waiting for a white-tailed deer to walk by or paddling down your favorite river in July trying to catch a bass.
Many of these public places and public spaces come with a cost, though. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has allocated more than $1.1 billion throughout Michigan’s 83 counties for the acquisition and development of public lands in Michigan.
Operating using royalties and payments from state-owned mineral leases, along with interest and earnings on the fund, the MNRTF is perhaps the greatest public land victory Michigan has ever seen. Currently, not more than 25 percent of trust fund grants can be used for development on public land, leaving up to 75 percent of the allocation each year for acquisition and costs such as payments in lieu of taxes on purchased lands.
However, with declining tracts of viable land up for sale in Michigan and failing infrastructure throughout state game areas, county parks and state forests, conservationists need the formula to be brought into the 21st century to provide more flexibility year to year. We need to be creative with the public land we have and find ways to create better access, more shooting ranges and more boat launches – all projects that could be funded with a greater allocation of development funds.
More important, however, is the reality that once the State Parks Endowment Fund (where oil and gas royalties have been funneled since 2011) reaches it cap, that money will be redirected to the state’s general fund –– forever losing its capability of acquiring and improving the public lands our next generation of conservationists will roam. We can’t know how long it will take for the cap to be reached, but we need to be proactive.
Voting yes on Proposal 1 of 2020 ensures that the next generation of conservation stewards will be afforded the robust public lands, water and wildlife we are, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter.
“Flexibility for the trust fund board in how they spend the money each year would allow them to be more creative with development projects and projects benefiting hunters, anglers and trappers,” Trotter said. “Acquisition of lands is still critical and MUCC is committed to making sure high-quality proposals are funded; however, improving access on acquired lands, creating better amenities for recreationists to enjoy and making sure the revenue stream is forever enshrined in the Michigan constitution is something all conservationists must support.”
More than 30 environmental and conservation organizations, including Michigan United Conservation Clubs, support Proposal 1 because it protects the revenue of the Natural Resources Trust Fund and will help protect our drinking water sources, wildlife habitats and parks for future generations.
- This proposal would allow more money to be spent each year on public land access, shooting ranges and boat launches.
- The proposal maintains the same required minimum we have always had for land acquisition (minimum of 25 percent and up to 75 percent of annual spending).
- The proposal would keep dollars in the conservation arena and out of general fund coffers once the State Parks Endowment Fund cap is reached.
- The proposal allows redevelopment of existing public recreational facilities –– which is often a more cost effective way to provide public access than building new facilities.