Land Cap Bill Vote Expected In House
The Michigan House of Representatives will be voting on the Land Cap Bill – Senate Bill 248 – as early as tomorrow, June 13th. A number of changes have been made to the version that passed the House Natural Resources committee.
MUCC opposes these changes.
The changes would put a statewide cap in place until May 1, 2015 while the DNR engages the public and stakeholders to develop a statewide public land acquisition and disposition strategy. If the legislature approves the plan, it goes into effect. If the legislature does not approve the plan, the cap will be removed in southern Michigan, but will be kept on indefinitely in northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The boundary is determined by the northern most county boundary line of Mason, Lake, Osceola, Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac counties. Any land above that line would be beholden to the legislature’s decision to act or not.
There are some good things that MUCC’s members and our conservation partners worked hard to include:
- MUCC applauds the request of the creation of a plan for state public land purchases and sales, and believes that the process for creating this plan should be open to the public and as transparent as possible. It should include opportunities for public comment, and engagement of stakeholders, local units of government, and the legislature.
- The bill provides exemptions from the cap that include important recreation and natural resources features important to this state, such as conservation easements, trails, and gifts of money and land, and a buffer of roughly 150,000 acres.
- The bill also grants the Department of Natural Resources an easier process for selling tax reverted land.
However, what makes SB 248 in its current form so troublesome is that the northern lower and Upper Peninsula could remain in limbo in terms of lifting the land cap if the legislature does not take action. The plan that will be produced would also be on hiatus should the legislature fail to act. How many big issues go untouched by the legislature every session? It is more common than we’d like to believe. That is why the plan should go into effect and the cap should lift for all of Michigan once the plan has been completed.
The reality of the current bill is that only by the legislature choosing to take action will the fruits of all this labor to produce a plan for state public land acquisition be realized. Otherwise, it is just a big waste of time.
That does not seem like a wise use of resources, and to date, the conservation community has received no assurances that the plan will be reviewed and adopted on its merits, rather than brushed aside over politics.
There is still time for you to weigh in on this issue. The vote is on the House floor tomorrow. Call your Representative today!