The Michigan chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers applauds the Department of Natural Resources for their decision to reject the proposed Camp Grayling lease expansion.
Last summer the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) petitioned the DNR to more than double the current Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center footprint of 230 square miles. MIBHA joined with many other conservation groups, tribal governments, and municipalities surrounding Camp Grayling to oppose the expansion request (Read our December 2022 Post HERE).
While we affirm the importance of the National Guard’s mission, the proposed expansion of what is already the country’s largest National Guard training facility would have had a significant negative impact on public land and water access. Local communities also expressed concern for ongoing negative environmental impacts from Camp Grayling, especially the presence of PFAS in a region that includes the headwaters of the Manistee and AuSable rivers; two world class fisheries.
In an April 28 announcement of the decision (Read official DNR announcement HERE), acting DNR Director Shannon Lott said, “We appreciate the many comments we received on this proposal and the commitment people have to public lands. 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.”
Instead, the DNR formed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the DMVA to apply for limited land use permits to conduct exercises on up to 52,000 acres of eligible land. These will be low impact exercises with a buffer zone of 3,000 feet from lakes and designated trout streams. The permits would also require all public land to remain open to public use during exercises.
The DNR’s decision to reject the proposed expansion shows the important impact of staying engaged and speaking up for public land and water. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share your input with the DNR and your elected officials!