House resolution would ask DNR to deny Camp Grayling expansion

Resolution introduced by State Rep. Ken Borton says risks to ‘treasured natural resources’ are ‘unacceptable’
A legislator who serves Crawford County recently introduced a Michigan House of Representatives resolution “to urge the Department of Natural Resources to deny the Michigan National Guard’s request to expand the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.”
State Representative Ken Borton (105th House District) introduced House Resolution No. 71 on Thursday, April 13, and the resolution “was advanced by the House (of Representatives)” and “referred to the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security,” according to Borton’s office.
(The 105th House District “includes Crawford, Missaukee, Otsego, and Roscommon counties, as well as portions of Antrim, Kalkaska, and Oscoda counties,” according to Borton’s office.)
In February, Rep. Borton announced that he and other legislators had sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer asking her to “carefully consider genuine concerns regarding the 250 square miles of state-owned land she intends the Michigan National Guard to use for an expansion of Camp Grayling.”
The letter said “there are many uncertainties surrounding the progress of the acquisition, what the acquired land could be used for, and what effects this expansion will have to those we represent. The issues in question regarding the expansion are vast, and range in severity and nature. One of the most prominent issues put forth by constituents is the lack of transparency with which this expansion has been treated.”
In its April 13 press release regarding House Resolution No. 71, Rep. Borton’s office says, “Gov. Whitmer did not respond to the letter.”
“I’m extremely proud to represent a district containing many of our state’s finest natural resources,” Rep. Borton said. “These natural resources, which are vital to the well-being of folks in Northern Michigan, don’t grow on trees. If Gov. Whitmer listened to locals about this planned expansion, she would know firsthand the genuine problems the project may cause and the hardships it would bring them. My constituents are concerned, and their governor isn’t listening to them, nor does she seem to recognize the potential ramifications of the expansion. We must not risk the longevity of the environmental health of Michigan.”
“I have the utmost respect for the military, and completely understand the need for continued exercise – this is simply not the right location for such a massive expansion. This plan has the potential to threaten the health and safety of the people of Northern Michigan,” Rep. Borton said. 
According to House Resolution No. 71, “The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is currently considering a proposal to greatly expand the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center despite resounding and repeated opposition from Michiganders across the state. Camp Grayling comprises a 148,000-acre area in the northern Lower Peninsula, already making it the largest National Guard training area in the United States. Last year, the Michigan National Guard requested a 162,000-acre expansion of the facility, which would more than double its current size. Following this request, the DNR sought public comment on the proposal which was met with numerous negative responses from concerned citizens, environmental groups, and local governments statewide. The DNR is a state agency that exists to serve the people of Michigan and should take seriously the concerns that have been expressed by these parties.”
“The proposed expansion of Camp Grayling is completely contradictory to the purpose underlying our Department of Natural Resources. MCL 324.503(1) provides that the DNR is to ‘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.’ Further, in its own mission statement, the DNR has expressed its commitment ‘to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.’ Expanding Camp Grayling against the wishes of so many concerned Michiganders across our state and without regard for the serious implications that the proposal has introduced would defy the ideals the DNR stands for,” according to House Resolution No. 71.
“This expansion risks creating new and exacerbating existing detrimental effects on Michigan’s treasured natural resources, risks that the DNR should recognize as unacceptable. The areas comprising the proposed expansion would include vital forests comprising one of the precious few habitats for the Kirtland’s Warbler as well as portions of Dead Stream Swamp, a National Natural Landmark and one of the largest white cedar swamps in the United States. Introducing new uses, including proposed electromagnetic warfare training, to these areas does nothing but raise new potential risks to the flora and fauna that exist therein. And, as the proposal is being considered, there are efforts underway to contain and clean per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – commonly known as PFAS – already present across the current Camp Grayling area, prompting the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Grayling Post to oppose the expansion. The DNR should pay heed to the reasonable and widespread concerns that expanding military activities into these new areas raise,” according to House Resolution No. 71. “Resolved by the House of Representatives, that we urge the Department of Natural Resources to deny the Michigan National Guard’s request to expand the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.”
On February 28 – during a meeting in Lansing of the Michigan House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Natural Resources – Shannon Lott, Acting Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (appointed by the governor), gave a fiscal year 2023-2024 budget presentation and responded to a question from Borton about the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling training areas.
Rep. Borton said “people are very concerned” about “the expansion of Camp Grayling,” and he asked Lott, “are you in favor of the expansion?”
“So you’ll see something hopefully within the next week and a half. I’m working with the governor’s office on a release for this,” Director Lott said during the February 28 subcommittee meeting. “But I will tell you that statute does not allow us to lease land like we did in 1941, so we are looking at other ways to help them do some of the training exercises that they need to do.”
“I’ve met with General (Paul) Rogers on some of the exact needs that he has for some of the cyber training they’ve talked about. We’ve been very clear about conversations about cyber testing, making sure that’s really the only thing that they need, and there’s only a few days a year where they really need to do that,” Director Lott said. “So we’re going to winnow it down to some of those really specific times they need to do that, and they don’t need 162,000 acres to do that. We’re almost there with coming out publicly with what that’ll look like moving ahead.”
As of Friday, April 14, the DNR’s web page about the possible expansion was still titled “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” and contained multiple references to “lease” and “leasing” with regard to the plan. 
“The DNR is reviewing a proposal for the expansion of DNR-leased lands available for low-impact Camp Grayling military training activities. The proposal for approximately 162,000 acres of land around the camp  is part of a desired update to accommodate evolving training methods,” according to the “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” website. “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.”
During the February 28 subcommittee meeting, Director Lott said she’s received “thousands of emails” about the proposal.
Dozens of governmental entities and conservation groups representing Northern Michigan have officially opposed the Camp Grayling training area expansion.
In Crawford County, all six township boards have passed resolutions opposing the proposal.
The Frederic Township “Opposition Of The Camp Grayling Expansion” resolution says “our residents fully support our military, veterans, and their families” and “we welcome our troops to our local communities” but the board opposes the proposal because it “may close trails and recreation lands to the public,” it “may allow troops to enter the waters of our pristine trout streams,” it “may allow the use of chemical warfare,” it “may allow the spread of PFAS and PFOS,” and it “would not enhance the safety, wellbeing or lives of its residents.”
The Maple Forest Township “Resolution To Oppose The Camp Grayling Expansion” cites “wear and tear of county roads,” “adverse impact on noise levels,” “adverse impact on the health, welfare and safety of the residents,” and “an adverse impact on the environment and natural habitats” as reasons for the board’s opposition. The Maple Forest resolution also says “the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling onto DNR land does not support the Mission Statement of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.”
According to Grayling Charter Township’s “Resolution 23-2 Camp Grayling Lease and Air Space Expansion,” “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. Grayling Township cannot ignore the fact that every conservation group within our boundaries is opposed to the Camp Grayling expansion request. Grayling Township cannot support expansion without nonpartisan environmental impact study showing absolutely no impact to the AuSable River watershed and the surrounding ecosystem. Historically, current short term leased lands have not met the standards established in the previous lease agreements.”
“Beaver Creek Township wants to retain what is left of its rustic and natural outdoor playground atmosphere for the enjoyment of its citizens and visitors,” according to Beaver Creek’s “Resolution In Opposition To Camp Grayling Lease Expansion and Military Air Space Expansion.” “The proposed expansions will take from the peaceful enjoyment of the state’s natural resources, further reducing the effectiveness of the ‘Pure Michigan Campaign,’ reduce tourism dollars to the community businesses and create even more hardships for its citizens. The National Guard usages of our public land has already created massive contamination of the area’s ground water and has already been poisoning citizens for years without giving the community a plan for clean up.”
“South Branch Township supports the training efforts of the U.S. Military and National Guard bases on their current leased and owned properties. South Branch Township is not directly impacted by the proposal yet recognizes the negative impact on our residents’ use and enjoyment of public state lands in the greater Crawford and Roscommon County areas. South Branch Township supports our neighboring townships and the direct negative impacts the proposal will have on our neighboring townships,” according to the South Branch Township’s “Resolution To Oppose The Camp Grayling Expansion.”
“The proposal lacks specific and definitive written information regarding the scope and impact of the expansion, it lacks written justification for its necessity, and it lacks written information on the uses to be permitted and the restrictions to be implemented. Given the multiple deficiencies of the proposal as presented the Lovells Township Board must adamantly and resolutely oppose the expansion of Camp Grayling,” according to Lovells Township Resolution #12-13-2022.

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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