Environmental groups, boards oppose Camp Grayling expansion
Tue, 08/16/2022 - 2:18pm caleb
Michigan Department of Natural Resources announces updated Q&A page for the proposal
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Camp Grayling’s request to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for more leased land on which to train – approximately 162,000 acres, according to the DNR – continues to face opposition from local governments, groups, and citizens due to concerns about state land access, tourism, possible effects on local waterways, and other reasons.
According to Camp Grayling and the Department of Natural Resources, the military wants to add training space for “periodic low impact activities such as drone operation, cyber, electronic warfare, space, and communication system installation and operation.” The current size of Camp Grayling is approximately 148,000 acres, according to military officials.
“If the proposal is approved to move forward and meets environmental and parcel review requirements, public access to state lands including forest roads for ORV use would remain. AuSable and Manistee river access would also remain open with 1,500-foot buffers from military activities. There are no anticipated environmental impacts from the proposal. Access to portions of the training area could occasionally be restricted for public safety to accommodate military training exercises, as is typical for currently leased lands. ‘Impact zones’ where live fire is directed would not be added to these lands,” according to the DNR.
The Lovells Township Board passed a resolution on Tuesday, August 9, opposing the proposed expansion. According to the township, a significant amount of the proposed expansion is located in Lovells.
“We’re pro-military; we just don’t think they need that much land,” said Cynthia Infante-Inman, Lovells Township Clerk.
In part, the resolution – “Lovells Township Resolution #8-9-2022 Expressing Lovells Township’s Position On The Proposal To Increase Camp Grayling’s Training Area By 168,000 Acres” – says Lovells residents are “already providing more than their fair share of support to Camp Grayling’s current training objectives” because “the entirety of the existing 40 Complex is within Lovells Township and Lovells Township residents are already exposed to High Mobile Artillery Rocket Systems and other projectiles being fired from the 30 Complex into the 40 Complex.”
“The Lovells Township Board is generally supportive of the goals and objectives of the all-domain Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors training capabilities Camp Grayling anticipates and that such training is needed,” but “the enormity of Camp Grayling’s proposal, to add within Area 6 32,000 acres/50 square miles of leased training areas, drives the Lovells Township Board to adamantly oppose the proposal as (1) a ‘want’ by Camp Grayling that is factually unsupported by logical ‘need’ and (2) because the only industry in Lovells Township is tourism and the loss of all remaining ‘open’ State of Michigan land in Area 6 to Camp Grayling would effectively eliminate our current tourism industry,” according to the resolution.
The Lovells Township Board believes the “1,500-foot buffers” currently listed by the DNR and Camp Grayling are not sufficient.
“The Lovells Township Board emphatically recommends that buffer space of at least one-half mile be placed (1) around all lakes, creeks and rivers, and (2) around all springs and wetlands that feed any lake, creek or river and (3) around all privately owned property, regardless of size and (4) around any known areas of historical or ecological significance,” according to the resolution.
Anglers of the Au Sable – a “501(c)(3) environmental conservation organization founded in Grayling,” with a mission to “preserve, protect and enhance the Au Sable River System for future generations of fly fishers,” according to the group’s website – announced on Thursday, August 11, that its board voted to oppose the proposed Camp Grayling expansion.
“Anglers of the Au Sable is strongly opposed to the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling, and is prepared to work with local government groups and environmental organizations to stop the plan to more than double the size of the National Guard camp,” Anglers of the Au Sable officials said. “After listening to public hearings involving state Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, discussions with our members and affected property owners, and meetings with our fellow conservation group partners, the Board of Directors voted this week to take a clear position against the plan to expand Camp Grayling from about 230 square miles to about 480 square miles of land for some yet-to-be clearly defined additional military exercises.”
“(Anglers of the Au Sable) strongly supports a fully ready military. But the headwaters and land surrounding the Au Sable and Manistee is not the place for an expansion of military training to occur. We’ve compromised enough. They keep wanting more,” according to Anglers of the Au Sable. “(Anglers of the Au Sable) will be reaching out to groups like Michigan United Conservation Clubs, which has also taken a ‘no’ position on expansion, and local townships who also are expressing concerns and joining their voices in opposing the expansion. We have retained an attorney to assist us in considering actions.”
Anglers of the Au Sable – in its August 11 announcement – cites the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and says the proposed Camp Grayling expansion through leased state land does not align with “the mission and duty of the Department of Natural Resources.”
Specifically, Anglers of the Au Sable refers to excerpts from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994), available online through www.legislature.mi.gov, regarding the “Duties of department; powers and jurisdiction; purchase of surface rights; limitations; record; strategic plan; managed public land strategy; volunteers; granting concessions; lease and sale of land; reservation of mineral rights; sale of economic share of royalty interests; definitions.”
“Sec. 503. (1) The department shall protect and conserve the natural resources of this state; provide and develop facilities for outdoor recreation; prevent the destruction of timber and other forest growth by fire or otherwise; promote the reforesting of forestlands belonging to this state; prevent and guard against the pollution of lakes and streams within this state and enforce all laws provided for that purpose with all authority granted by law; and foster and encourage the protection and propagation of game and fish. Before issuing an order or promulgating a rule under this act that will designate or classify land managed by the department for any purpose, the department shall consider, in addition to any other matters required by law, all of the following: (a) Providing for access to and use of the public land for recreation and tourism. (b) The existence of or potential for natural resources-based industries, including forest management, mining, or oil and gas development on the public land. (c) The potential impact of the designation or classification on private property in the immediate vicinity,” according to Act 451.
“The National Guard’s effort to carve out even more land for its use meets none of these requirements,” according to Anglers of the Au Sable, “and (Anglers of the Au Sable) would be opposed even if the legislature and governor were to provide a specific exemption.”
“Should the DNR agree to this lease, it would be acting outside its statutory obligations to provide access to and use of public land for recreation and tourism, as well as underplaying the potential impact on private property,” said Anglers of the Au Sable President Joe Hemming. “These statutory obligations are state law and are the concern of everyone in the state, but by law, they are especially the concern of the (Michigan Department of Natural Resources).”
“We deserve a DNR focused on hunting, fishing, and conservation, as is their duty, instead of considering leases that would diminish access to hundreds of square miles of public land. At best, this would serve as a distraction to the interests of hunters and anglers, and more likely, a loss of opportunity and diminishment of experience in Northern Michigan,” said Josh Greenberg, Anglers of the Au Sable board member.
The Beaver Creek Township Board opposes the Camp Grayling expansion request, according to township officials, due to concerns that it would negatively affect the area’s tourism, trail system, businesses, housing, and access to nature.
“Beaver Creek Township Board voted unanimously to oppose the expansion,” said Dan Bonamie, Beaver Creek Township Supervisor.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners – during its regular meeting on Thursday, August 11 – listened to a presentation from local citizen Mike McNamara regarding the proposed Camp Grayling expansion.
McNamara said he is a taxpayer in both Grayling and Frederic and a retired military veteran who worked at Camp Grayling. McNamara said he is not against the troops but he is “against the proposal for land acquisition.” McNamara voiced concerns about impact on the land from the training – especially with regard to possible third party “for-profit” businesses using it – and possible effects on humans, livestock, and wildlife. McNamara said there are “many downfalls” but not much upside for the community with regard to the proposal, and “the whole process was done very quietly.”
“The (National Guard) hasn’t provided a good reason why 162,000 more acres are needed,” McNamara said.
McNamara asked the board to consider passing a resolution opposing the Camp Grayling expansion proposal.
Sherry Powers, District #6 Commissioner, said her constituents want the Crawford County Board of Commissioners to oppose the expansion via board resolution. (District #6 includes Lovells Township and a portion of Grayling Charter Township.)
Other commissioners said they would like more information before making a decision.
“We will all be looking into this more,” said Shelly Pinkelman, District #3 Commissioner and board chairwoman.
County officials said representatives from Camp Grayling have offered to speak to the commissioners about the proposal during the board’s next regular meeting. According to the ensuing discussion, the board plans to have Camp Grayling officials speak during the upcoming August 25 meeting or the September 8 meeting.
On Friday, August 12, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that it had updated its online Q&A page for the Camp Grayling expansion proposal.
“As the Michigan Department of Natural Resources considers a Michigan National Guard proposal to expand its Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center operations in Lower Michigan, the DNR continues to field questions and ensure public input remains a key part of the process. Building from questions asked at the June 22 public meeting in Grayling and via calls and letters since then, the DNR recently updated the Q&A section of the Camp Grayling proposal webpage,” according to the DNR.
“DNR Director Dan Eichinger is expected to decide this year whether to move to the next stage in the leasing process, which would include environmental and parcel reviews. The DNR will accept public input throughout the process. Submit comments through the interactive online map hosted on the DNR’s Camp Grayling lease update proposal webpage or by email to DNR-Camp-Grayling@Michigan.gov,” according to the DNR.