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:


  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

  2. Douglas and Lynne Rittenhouse on June 29, 2022 at 11:32 am

    It sounds to me that they the National Guard may use this additional land for artillery or bombing. We had this problem when we lived in Silver Springs Fl.
    Thank you for the information we are not for expansion.
    Douglas and Lynne Rittenhouse

  3. Rebecca Malouin on June 29, 2022 at 11:47 am

    Thank you MUCC! In additional to the concerns noted above, I have concerns regarding the effect of Camp expansion on the local wildlife, residents and visitors (potential noise and chemical pollution), business (if people are uncomfortable using Camp lands for recreational purposes, loss of business in local economy), and impact on cellular use given the plan for internet warfare training. The latter may have a significant impact on the safety and enjoyment of local residents and visitors.

  4. Jean Buddy on July 3, 2022 at 11:29 am

    I am a property owner on Bear Lake, and I am totally against the expansion of Camp Grayling. It will certainly disturb wildlife and eventually our peace and quiet in this area. If they get a 20 year lease, it will be forever. Do you think the camp will shrink in size in 20 years? Not likely! More than doubling the size of the camp is WAY TOO MUCH to ask.
    It sounds ridiculous! This camp, as well as others, don’t exactly have stellar reputations.
    I stopped at one of the road ends on Lake Margarette a couple weeks ago, and there was a sign that said: Don’t touch the foam. If you took a child down there to swim, the child would have to “touch the foam” in order to get in the lake. What is that foam? Is that PFAS!?
    I have also heard of contaminated wells in the Grayling area. Who would ever want to welcome that camp into their area? Bear Lake Township is a wonderful area with beautiful lakes and rivers for fishing and water sports, miles of recreational trails, and abundant wildlife. Why would we want to jeopardize the quality of life that we have here? I certainly don’t.

  5. Sandra on July 17, 2022 at 9:27 am

    I strongly oppose the Camp Grayling expansion. I’m on West Twin Lake in Lewiston. When you look into the reasoning behind it it’s even worse. There are so many other more sustainable and community Oriented ways that the land could be used that would still be respectful to the nature that already occupies the land. Note to all: the military would not pay taxes on that land. I absolutely do not support a bunch of jerks occupying the land without contributing to the surrounding communities and without respect for the land!!!! DNR shame on you for even considering this!!! Where are your problem solving skills. There are so many other solutions!!!!!! You would actually sell out all of the communities and the land and poison us all???!!!!! Call off the expansion and reveal the true reason you’re considering this horrible option. Reach out to your community for healthy solutions instead of selling out to warfare.

  6. Craig Valentine on July 21, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    MUCC is correct and should be applauded for their stance. The Great Land Grab of 2022 by the military is a tremendous burden on the DNR budget and staff when the should be focused on their mission and core values. It was clear at the both the Bear Lake and Lovells Township meetings that the local communities and sportsmen and women oppose this expansion. While Col. Meyers has stated no Live fire, but did admit at the Bear Lake meeting they will be shooting blanks. Image riding your horse through trails where blanks rounds are being fired. Not so good for the equestrian crowd. Look beyond the sound bit answers for the full truth. We need more citizen input for/against this proposal, seems like we are only hearing from those opposed.
    DNR Director Eichinger, please just say NO.

  7. Lori Hodge on August 2, 2022 at 11:12 am

    We have owned a cabin on the main branch of the AuSable river for almost 40 years. We spent a lot of time there fishing, canoeing, and hunting with hounds. The available state land for hound hunting is already at risk! The guards continually shut down these public lands during training and hunting seasons. Deer hunters are not the only hunters in these areas. Grouse, bear and bobcat are also hunted in these areas. We listen to artillery fire and aircraft noise in all hours of the day and night. There is no good explanation for this request of an additional 309,000 acres of land. The guard needs to utilize what it already has!

  8. Barbara Herman on August 25, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    We live on Guthrie Lake, adjacent to Range 40. We see the worst of the National Guard right here from our dock. Throughout the years we have seen the “good neighbor policy” that we had during the late 1980s into the 90s just disappear. Now the A10s are shooting at targets from right over the middle of our lake. It can be very scary when you are kayaking in the lake and one of those planes opens fire right over your head!!! At least in the 1990s the military had an agreement that they would NOT fly over our lake. When Col. Meyers visited Guthrie Lakes this week he was asked how high the planes have to be when they are over residential property. The answer was “the treetops.” Well. We have heard in past years 500 ft. OVER the treetops was the correct height. A house in our neighborhood was shelled in the summer of 1994. Fortunately the people who owned the house were in Gaylord that night watching a movie. The military paid for the extensive damage to the house. It has also paid for two of our door walls that shattered after 500 lb bombs were dropped in the 90s. We have also endured fires that have started at the range and have gone for hours before the smoke cleared enough to see across the lake. Air quality during fires has caused us to leave home for the day. We have been coming to Guthrie Lake since the mid-1970s. We know the military has to practice, but certainly they can make a few changes to their schedules once again to co-exist with residents nearby. Even the IDEA of expansion is crazy to me. The very necessary practice of setting up equipment to scramble signals for cyber warfare can be done on the current footprint. Col. Meyers said they don’t use all the land they are currently leasing. We do appreciate the hard work of the military, but we often think our “Pure Michigan” will never be the same as before when hiking and fishing and hunting in the fresh air paradise of northern Michigan was a given … before Camp Grayling took over such a huge part of northern Michigan. Please don’t let them have any more! Wyoming is wide open….

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