DNR to close public comment period for Camp Grayling expansion
Thu, 02/02/2023 - 11:27am caleb
According to February 2 press release, Department of Natural Resources to end comment period at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is ending the public comment period for the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling training areas.
In a February 2 press release, the Department of Natural Resources announced that the “comment period” for the proposed additional land lease from the DNR to the military “will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday, February 8.”
“The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will continue to accept public comment through Wednesday, February 8, on the National Guard’s proposed expansion of its Camp Grayling training facility to include 162,000 acres of DNR-managed forest land,” according to the February 2 press release.
According to the DNR, another “public input opportunity” will be offered for the “refined plan” later in the “Review Process” if the proposal proceeds.
“The DNR has been receiving public comments since June 2022, and the DNR and the military have sponsored and appeared at many public meetings to collect feedback throughout the summer and fall regarding the proposed expansion. Several thousand comments have already been shared with the DNR, and staff has been evaluating public input as it is received. A summary of the comments will be posted on the DNR’s Camp Grayling proposal information page,” according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“The Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, including 148,000 acres in and around Grayling, is the largest National Guard training facility in the United States. Michigan military leaders last winter proposed a lease of up to an additional 162,000 acres of state forest land around the existing camp to conduct training activities such as drone operation, cyber and electronic warfare, and operation of space and communication systems,” according to the DNR.
The DNR’s “Camp Grayling proposal information page” has links for the “Original proposal FAQ supplied by Camp Grayling to the DNR” and the “FAQ about DNR review/approval process (updated August 12, 2022)” and the “Interactive map showing proposed land locations.”
According to the DNR, people can “use the interactive map to view proposed locations and make comments on areas of interest” or email input to DNR-Camp-Grayling@Michigan.gov.
According to the updated “FAQ about DNR review/approval process,” the Camp Grayling training area expansion has been in the works for more than a year.
“Major General Paul Rogers requested a meeting with (DNR) Director (Dan) Eichinger on January 11, 2022, to discuss an expansion of land use agreement. Director Eichinger asked (DNR) Deputy Director Shannon Lott, Forest Resources Division Chief Jeff Stampfly, and Grayling Unit Manager Tom Barnes to join the meeting. Assistant FRD Chief Jason Stephens and Camp Grayling personnel also joined the meeting. This was followed by meetings with local officials. Communications staff were tasked with developing public information and to collect public comment once a formal proposal was made,” according to the “FAQ about DNR review/approval process.”
(Eichinger is no longer the DNR Director. In December of 2022, the office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that “Eichinger will serve as the acting director of EGLE” and Lott, former Deputy Director of the DNR, “will serve as acting director” of the DNR during Whitmer’s second term in office.)
The DNR’s “Camp Grayling proposal information page” offers a basic list of the “Review Process” for the training area expansion request: “1. DNR parcel review” including “staff review of proposed parcels to remove those purchased with restricted funds, campgrounds and parcels that do not allow leasing” and “review Kirtland’s Warbler habitat with Kirtland’s Warbler Management Team, with representation including the DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service” and “use Conservation Viewer tool to remove parcels where training could have negative impacts on fish, wildlife, and the natural landscape” and “maintain 1,500-foot buffer around lakes and rivers. 2. DNR and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs review revised expansion footprint. 3. Military conducts federal environmental analysis on new expansion footprint. 4. DNR and DMVA determine lease limits and language for each expansion area. 5. Public input opportunity on refined plan. 6. DNR executive management review of revised draft. 7. Final draft presented to DNR director and National Guard adjutant general for approval.”
“The review process for the proposal involves many steps. Following the public comment period, a decision on moving the proposal into the parcel and environmental review stages will be made by the DNR director,” according to the “Camp Grayling proposal information page.”
The February 2 press release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources does not include a specific timeline for a decision.
“The DNR will review the feedback received and continue discussions with the military about use of state-managed forest land for military training,” according to the DNR’s February 2 press release. “Protecting water and maintaining public recreational access to land have been key concerns expressed by fishing, hunting, and conservation groups throughout the comment period.”