camp grayling

Does Camp Grayling lease expansion fall within the DNR’s mission?

Expansion proposal leaves questions unanswered

The DNR’s public meeting regarding the proposed lease expansion of Camp Grayling Wednesday left attendees with more questions than answers.

The National Guard wants to expand the base’s current lease of 147,000 acres to 309,000 acres — more than doubling its current footprint. In order for the guard to do so, it must receive sign-off from DNR Director Dan Eichinger and go through a thorough and intense review process.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs’ primary concern is the resource-drain that will be expended to undertake a review of this magnitude with no promise of compensation from the federal government, said Justin Tomei, MUCC policy assistant.

“The DNR review process will take at least a year,” said Tomei. “That is a year of shifted staff priorities, a year of added expense, a year of the department working on military priorities rather than for the citizens of Michigan.”

MUCC opposes the expansion of Camp Grayling except in a national emergency, per a 1989 resolution.

DNR Forest Division Supervisor Tom Barnes, who oversees the unit Camp Grayling’s lease currently resides in, said if a review of this proposal were to be initiated, it would likely be his team that undertakes at least part of it.

“The resources that would be required of my staff to undertake this proposal are still to be determined,” Barnes said. “We would likely need to contact neighboring units and ask their staff to also start looking into the review process.”

When asked if this work would be additive to current, ongoing work his staff is responsible for, Barnes noted that it likely would be. He did note that the National Guard has been an accountable partner to the DNR in terms of remediation of impacts when needed or to address social concerns.

“The National Guard has their own review team to understand the impacts training and base activities have on the resource,” Barnes said. “We work together regularly on mitigation plans and how to address potential land-use issues.”

Abraham Downer, an avid grouse hunter and angler, attended the public meeting and said the state or National Guard did not seem to be able to squarely answer many of the questions posed to them.

“I asked a question about what the expense, in terms of infrastructure, money, personnel, would cost to complete the review,” Downer said. “The panel did not answer and moved on, stating that they had already addressed those concerns in previous questions.” 

Downer, an MUCC Conservation Policy Board member, submitted public comment at the meeting.

Earlier this month, the department released an interactive public input map and a press release regarding the proposed lease expansion of the camp and what state lands would be impacted.

Another MUCC concern is the additional impact on the land and wildlife as an unnecessary burden to the department and constituents who utilize, manage and protect it. 

According to an FAQ document released by the National Guard, “low impact or light maneuver training consists of foot traffic, tents, bivouacking and porta-johns. Vehicle travel will be restricted to current state forest roads and trails.”

While considered light impact by the National Guard, there is a distinct difference between state lands and roadways currently utilized by military personnel from Camp Grayling and those not in terms of habitat and road degradation. 

“MUCC feels that this lease expansion or proposal does not fall in line with the DNR’s mission statement, our organization’s core values and does not represent a risk we feel is acceptable for the waters, wildlife and access Michiganders cherish,” Tomei said. 

Lastly, the department is ordered to keep open state hunting land via an amended 2009 statute unless certain circumstances are met. 

Public Act 47 of 2009, introduced by Rep. Judy Nerat (D-Menominee) and signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, states: “2(a) Keep land under its control open to hunting unless the department determines that the land should be closed to hunting because of public safety, fish or wildlife management, or homeland security concerns or as otherwise required by law. 2(b) Manage land under its control to support and promote hunting and fishing opportunities to the extent authorized by law.”

Anyone wishing to submit public comment on the plan can visit the state’s webpage on the matter.

Join Michigan United Conservation Clubs to help protect your access to public lands and protect your rights to hunt, fish, trap and shoot: http://bit.ly/JoinMUCC

1 Comment

  1. James Knight on June 28, 2022 at 9:07 am

    Good morning,
    I along with others feel the same way. Still we don’t have answers and question why a massive expansion is really needed. This sounds like a want not a need at the public who recreate on this land.
    I sit on the Bear Lake Township Board. After consulting with our Kalkaska county Commissioner, and other public officials, no one has been contacted concerning this proposal!
    I, on behalf of the Township Board, contacted Mr Barnes of the DNR, and have scheduled a Special Meeting, at our Township Hall. It is a question and answer format from the public. The meeting is set for July 7th, at 7:00pm.
    You can contact me at 989-513-038.
    Thank you for the great article!
    Jim Knight
    Bear Lake Township Trustee

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