The National Guard’s request to expand Camp Grayling’s footprint by more than 160,000 acres was countered Friday by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In January 2022, the guard submitted an expansion request to the DNR to more than double its footprint. The DNR publicly acknowledged the proposal in June and held its first and only meeting. Since, dozens of meetings were scheduled by local townships, county boards and concerned citizens — each with near-unanimous opposition.
In the release Friday, DNR Director Shannon Lott announced the original National Guard ask would be denied but that “the DMVA will be able to apply for limited land use permits to conduct exercises on up to 52,000 acres of eligible land.”
“We appreciate the many comments we received on this proposal and the commitment people have to public lands,” Lott said. “Public concerns and feedback from Tribal governments, coupled with our own review of the proposal, led us to decide against a 20-year lease on such a significant portion of state-managed land.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) was the first statewide organization to announce its opposition to the expansion. Public land, access and wildlife are at the core of the organization’s mission, said Amy Trotter, MUCC executive director.
“While MUCC may have sounded the alarm first, we were joined by Anglers of the Au Sable and some fantastic on-the-ground volunteers who really put the work in to educate folks about this expansion,” Trotter said. “It was a team effort to ensure focused opposition to this proposal from all outdoor users, conservation organizations and local residents.”
52k acres is still massive
Trotter said the announcement that the National Guard could utilize up to 52,000 new acres of land still has MUCC on guard.
“The memorandum of understanding falls more inline with traditional land-use practices by entities other than the government,” Trotter said. “We expect transparency and the protection of our natural resources to preface any and all conversations surrounding the militarization of our public lands.”
MUCC members reaffirmed their opposition to Camp Grayling’s expansion in March, passing a resolution stating: “…[MUCC] opposes any further expansion and MUCC will work with the DNR and National Guard to minimize environmental impact and maximize recreational opportunity and any expansion that may take place will not negatively impact the DNR budget…”
The MOU lays out nine activities that will not be permitted:
- Live fire or any similar kinetic activity;
- Use Aqueous Film-Forming Foam material or any similar or other material known to contain harmful pollutants, including PFAS.
- Activity within 3,000 feet of any inland lakes or designated trout streams listed in Fisheries Order 210.23;
- Use of tanks;
- Erection of fencing or any permanent structure;
- Violent, loud, or disorderly conduct; 3
- Activity that results in significant damage to vegetation;
- Storage of watercraft or other vehicles beyond the designated permitted period;
- Use of any loudspeaker, PA system, or similar equipment.
The MUCC Role
After learning about the request for expansion and reviewing its member-driven policy, MUCC contacted DNR Unit Supervisor Tom Barnes, who oversees the unit Camp Grayling’s current lease and where the proposed lease would have covered.
MUCC learned through this meeting that the department would have to bear the cost of any work evaluating the lease proposal, including all staff time and ground-truthing the acreage.
Soon after, Anglers of the Au Sable, MUCC and volunteers teamed up to form a loose coalition. That coalition worked to connect townships with resources regarding the expansion and communicated about the negative impacts of the proposed expansion.
Through MUCC’s Policy Action Center, 5,500 emails were sent by concerned conservationists and citizens to elected officials, the governor and DNR director opposing the expansion.
In early 2023, MUCC connected with the governor’s office and relayed important points of opposition and context. The coalition ensured that the administration understood what an expansion of this magnitude could mean for the land and wildlife.
Check out our Path to Policy Resolution document to get more involved in the MUCC policy process or to learn how it works.
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