Grayling Township board does not support military training area expansion
Thu, 01/26/2023 - 12:12pm caleb
Grayling Charter Township Board of Trustees approves resolution during regular meeting on Wednesday, January 18
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Grayling Charter Township Board of Trustees – during a regular meeting on Wednesday, January 18 – approved Resolution 23-02: Camp Grayling Lease and Air Space Expansion, stating in the document that the township “cannot support the expansion at this time.”
“The Michigan National Guard has proposed leasing about 162,000 acres of state forest land to conduct training exercises” and “the newly proposed training areas, if approved, would be used for periodic, low impact activities such as drone operation, cyber, electronic warfare, space, and communication system installation and operation,” according to online information provided by Camp Grayling and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
On Wednesday, December 21, 2022, during a regular meeting of the Grayling Charter Township Board of Trustees, board members asked Township Supervisor Lacey Stephan III to draft a resolution opposing Camp Grayling’s training area expansion request.
During the December 21 meeting, board members said they wanted to be clear they support the military in general. The first paragraph of Resolution 23-02 says: “Grayling Township supports our military, veterans, and their families. We are proud of the fact training at Camp Grayling will prepare our military to protect our country and our soldiers to be able to survive modern warfare deployments around the world.”
According to the DNR’s Camp Grayling expansion online FAQ document, “the U.S. military has transitioned from training for counter insurgency to training for large-scale combat operations in response to new and emerging global threats. The resultant military readiness training now requires immersive, multi-domain exercises which integrate land, air, maritime, cyber and space domains over greater distances than those afforded with Camp Grayling’s current size.”
(The current size of Camp Grayling is approximately 148,000 acres, according to military officials.)
Township officials questioned the amount of land requested for the expanded training area.
“The stated purpose is for electronic warfare training, and general notion that it requires separation between training units. However no detailed information has been received to justify how much spacing, how many troops, and that current leased land is inadequate to meet the required training,” according to Resolution 23-02.
The resolution also questions possible environmental impact.
“No baseline wildlife/ecosystem study has been performed. Crawford County has 37 species listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Shannon Lott, now the DNR director, said the DNR doesn’t have the staff or resources to conduct a study in the expansion area. Military will do its own study. Grayling Township residents have created/started and maintained multiple leading international conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited to name a few. Grayling Township cannot ignore the fact that every conservation group within our boundaries is opposed to the Camp Grayling expansion request. Generations of Grayling Township residents have restored the AuSable River to one of the top blue ribbon trout fishing watersheds in the world. After generations of township residents’ conservation efforts Grayling Township cannot support expansion without nonpartisan environmental impact study showing absolutely no impact to the AuSable River watershed and the surrounding ecosystem,” according to Resolution 23-02.
“Historically, current short term leased lands have not met the standards established in the previous lease agreements. After years of renewals short term leased lands have concertina wire, unexploded ordnance, debris buried, chemical contamination, erosion from deforestation, and forest roads widened to accommodate oversized military vehicles. Existing leased lands have had to be fenced off for safety for both the public and military personnel. Without appropriate regional government, environmental groups, and private citizens being involved with the review process to hold DNR accountable for enforcement of lease agreement past environmental mistakes will continue,” the resolution says.
The township’s resolution also raises concerns about roads, tourism revenue impact, and property values.
“Increased impact from overweight military grade vehicles use of Grayling Township secondary roads will leave taxpayers to pay for the repairs. Crawford County residents will be and have been burdened with costs to repair and replace roads in residential areas not designed for overweight military vehicles and private contractors,” according to Resolution 23-02. “Proposed expansion is like taking a state park and closing it for military exercise. Use of state land for tourism is Crawford County’s largest revenue source. Expansion will impact the use of state lands furthering the economic impact on our residents. Decreased property values from the expansion will lower revenue for emergency services in Grayling Township and surrounding communities.”
“Military police, forest fire firefighting, and ambulance service is practically nonexistence on main camp and airfield for most of the year. Crawford County and Grayling Township’s emergency services budgets will be expected to cover the expense for these services of not only our residents but the leased lands added influx of military personnel and private industry contractors use,” according to Resolution 23-02.
During the December 21 meeting, Grayling Charter Township board members said the constituents they spoke with did not support the proposed expansion, and they noted the number of government and conservation groups that have officially opposed the request so far. Grayling Charter Township officials have acknowledged that the “current expansion request does not involve any township land,” but they felt it does affect Grayling Township and its residents.
“Camp Grayling expansion is a risk we feel is unacceptable for the waters, wildlife, and access people from around the world cherish. Furthermore, using DNR staff paid by sportsman license fees and timber sales to review the proposal, which will not benefit and may actually harm fish, wildlife, and the natural resource assets of the residents of the State of Michigan, will diminish the intended use of these fees. None of the land requested for the camp expansion is in Grayling Township, but all of our conservation groups and a super majority of our neighboring townships and residents have submitted letters and resolutions opposing the expansion. With a majority of neighboring townships passing resolutions of opposition, all conservation groups in opposition, and majority of our citizens opposing the expansion, Grayling Township cannot support the expansion at this time,” according to Resolution 23-02.
During the January 18 meeting, the Grayling Charter Township Board of Trustees approved the resolution with a 5-0 vote (one member absent, one member abstaining).