By Charles Chandler
Please vote YES for Proposal 20-1 on the November 3rd Michigan general election ballot. This is a rare bipartisan supported opportunity for us to change the State Constitution for the public good without a long bitter protracted dog fight. Approving Proposal 1 would make it easier for the State to use the Natural Resources Trust Fund to protect wildlife, protect drinking water, and improve our aging recreational facilities. Public taxes do not fund the DNR Trust Fund.
The Natural Resources Trust Fund was created in 1976 as a compromise between conservation groups, business interests, and lawmakers over how to manage revenues from oil and gas production on state-owned land. After the smoke cleared from the back room a trust fund was created, ground rules for use developed and a board appointed.
“Disbursing the money is subject to a strict formula. The board considers requests from all over the state and issues grants from the fund. Money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has helped communities buy land and develop existing parks for decades.” Currently, most of it is restricted to land acquisition and park development projects. You can access the Trust Fund home page and find information on how to apply for a grant and the types of projects that have been approved and funded.
Given the Trust Fund restrictions and other reasons Michigan has a wealth of outdoor recreation land at the state, federal and local levels. As compared to the other states “Michigan ranks 15th of 50 with 28.1% of the state land being held in a variety of public lands. In comparison, Big Hat Texas ranks 45 with only 4.2 % of the state land designating as public lands.” You have to pay to play in Texas and that was another reason that I repotted to the woods and waters of Michigan. However, and sad to say most of the infrastructure in our State facilities that support outdoor recreation is aging and deteriorating. It is not energy efficient and needs additional renovation to meet safety and security needs. As an example, take a drive through our local Newaygo State Park on Hardy Dam Pond. You quickly notice that the roads have fallen apart and the amenities are primitive. When compared to Newaygo County’s Sandy Beach across the Pond the lack of amenities and neglect in this State Park is obvious.
Additional arguments for this much-needed change are because big chunks of our Michigan Public recreational lands and facilities are not accessible for much of the state’s population and visitors. A quick glance at a State Map reveals that the “majority of public land is in the northern two-thirds of the state where only about 15 percent of the population live. And times have changed and how we recreate has changed as well. Traditional outdoor recreation activities like hunting, fishing, and trapping have declined over the past 20 years.”
Today and especially during the Pandemic land and water trails, motorized and non-motorized recreation appears to be increasing. A good case for regional economic development can be made for integrating our existing trail systems. Trails like the North Country, White Pine, Dragon, and the Diamond Three Snowmobile trails can be linked to goods, services, and key destinations.
Investing in walkable communities, local hiking, kayaking, biking, and rail-trails for motorized users that allow safe access to businesses is good for business. Keeping our recreational vehicles off highways and municipal streets will promote social harmony and ensure safety. Integrating these trails with urban greenways and green spaces can help protect sensitive environments and provide habitat and safe travel corridors for the growing urban wildlife population.
Approving Proposal 1 would enable Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund managers to spend a greater share of the fund on development projects such as playgrounds, restrooms, and trails, as opposed to additional land acquisition.
“This Proposal has attracted broad support from dozens of groups representing environmentalists and industry, tourism and labor. Supporters say the proposed changes will help state and local recreational land managers make needed updates to facilities while expanding amenities to cater to a new generation of land users.” We now need to provide recreational opportunities for our urban neighbors who don’t have that cabin or camp up north near those beautiful public lands.
Watch this short video http://vimeo.com/heartlakes/protectmi and please vote YES for Proposal 1on November 3.
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