Opposition grows with regard to proposed military training area expansion
Tue, 02/07/2023 - 12:14pm caleb
Crawford, Roscommon, and Otsego boards, as well as many township boards, have passed resolutions opposing the plan
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Official governmental opposition to Camp Grayling’s requested training area expansion continues to grow and now includes resolutions from the Roscommon County Board of Commissioners, the Otsego County Board of Commissioners, and the Crawford County Board of Commissioners.
According to Otsego County Board of Commissioners meeting minutes, the Otsego board passed Resolution No. OCR 23-01 (“Resolution To Oppose The Camp Grayling Increased Expansion Into Otsego County”) on January 10.
“Camp Grayling is asking for a 20-year lease for an additional expansion of the 162,000 acres from the Department of Natural Resources for the National Guard, and the National Guard would like to lease this land in a public and private partnership for electromagnetic warfare testing in which micro-radio active waves are used to disable navigational and communication devices. The Otsego County Board of Commissioners strongly opposes any expansion be it by land, air or waterways in Otsego County,” according to Resolution No. OCR 23-01.
Several members of the Otsego County board attended the January 26 regular meeting of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, asking the Crawford board to join them in opposing the proposed training area expansion.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners approved “Resolution Opposing The Expansion Of Camp Grayling 1262023” with a 6-1 vote on January 26.
The Crawford County resolution cites specific reasons for opposing the proposal, including constituent concerns and possible “adverse impacts” on health, the environment, and roads.
“The citizens of Crawford County depend on the public land that is available for those that live here and those that visit. The abundant rich forests and pristine rivers are critical to the economy and the enjoyment of all people. The increased activities and traffic associated with the proposed expansion will have significant and adverse impacts on our roads, our environment, and the natural habitat of the region,” according to Crawford County’s Resolution Opposing The Expansion Of Camp Grayling 1262023. “We hear the concerns of our constituents and believe that the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling will ultimately have an adverse impact on the health and general welfare of the citizens and the precious natural resources of Crawford County. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners oppose any proposed expansion of Camp Grayling.”
The next day – during a special meeting on Friday, January 27 – the Roscommon County Board of Commissioners passed Resolution #2023-01-01 (“Resolution Opposing The Proposed Camp Grayling Increased Expansion”).
The Roscommon resolution also cites environmental concerns.
“The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on the proposed expansion and has been met with justifiable concerns from the public about the proposed expansion and proposed uses. A portion of the proposed expansion area will be located within Roscommon County and with the increased activities and traffic associated with the proposed expansion increase of Camp Grayling will generally have an adverse impact on the environment and natural habitats within Roscommon County. Roscommon County is a rural, recreation-oriented place with pristine rivers, rich forests and open farm land and that Roscommon County wants to retain its atmosphere of recreation and enjoyment for its citizens and visitors. Roscommon County Board of Commissioners, therefore, desires to express its views and hereby opposes the proposed increase Camp Grayling expansion by the adoption of this resolution,” according to Resolution #2023-01-01.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, via the “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” web page, “There are no anticipated environmental impacts from the proposal.” The page says the “DNR parcel review” part of the “Review process” will include use of the “Conservation Viewer tool to remove parcels where training could have negative impacts on fish, wildlife, and the natural landscape.”
“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, headquartered west of the city of Grayling in northern Lower Michigan, is part of a desired update to accommodate evolving training methods,” according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR’s “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” web 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.”
The original proposal FAQ says “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” and “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 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. If the proposal is approved the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will maintain ownership (of the land)” and “the DNR will continue to manage the land and resources including: game, fish, forestry, minerals, fire and all other interests. The lease is reviewed annually to ensure continued compliance and for recommended changes.”
The “original proposal FAQ” says the expansion will “benefit the community” with “federal resources” that “will increase for conservation, invasive species management, sensitive habitats, river health, and fire prevention” and “enhanced pride and patriotism having one of the largest and most capable four-season training centers in the nation that places equal emphasis on protecting the precious lands which we all enjoy.”
“These lands will remain open to hunting and no military training will occur on these lands during Regular Firearms Deer Season (November 15-30). Hunting, camping, fishing, and ORV trails will remain open. No permanent fencing will be erected on these lands. Public advisories will be broadcasted on the radio and posted on social media when troops are training in these areas. There will be no military training activity within 1,500 feet of rivers,” according to the original proposal FAQ.
In addition to the counties in opposition of the plan, many area township boards in Crawford County and neighboring communities have passed resolutions opposing the proposed Camp Grayling training area expansion. They cite various reasons for opposing the proposal, including concerns about health (of humans and wildlife), the environment, roads, tourism, and the large amount of land involved.
“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 Grayling Charter Township’s Resolution 23-02 (Camp Grayling Lease and Air Space Expansion). “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.”
“Crawford County is a world class destination for four season outdoor recreation and home to two blue ribbon trout streams. 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,” according to the Grayling Charter Township resolution. “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.”
“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 the resolution.
“The Township of Beaver Creek people rely on the recreational opportunities within our beautiful rich forests, pristine rivers, and open farm lands and that 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,” according to the Beaver Creek resolution. “The proposed expansions will have a negative impact on the health and general welfare of the citizens of Beaver Creek Township.”
A large amount of the proposed 162,000 acres for additional training areas is located in Lovells Township (32,000 acres, according to one of the township’s resolutions).
“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 the Lovells resolution.
South Branch Township passed its Resolution To Oppose The Camp Grayling Expansion with a 3-2 vote.
“South Branch Township held two separate board meetings with presentations from Camp Grayling and MDNR officials and presentations from individuals who oppose the expansion of leased lands. 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 resolution.
A Maple Forest Township official said the Maple Forest board plans to vote on a resolution about the training area expansion on Monday, February 13.
Townships from Otsego County, Kalkaska County, Roscommon County, and others have also passed resolutions opposing the proposed Camp Grayling training area expansion, according to area government officials.