State legislators ask governor to consider constituent concerns with regard to expansion

Letter from State Rep. Ken Borton and others questions potential impact of DNR granting Camp Grayling more leased land for training
The office of State Representative Ken Borton announced on Thursday, February 8, that he and other legislators 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.”
“Rep. Borton serves the 105th House District, which includes Crawford, Missaukee, Otsego, and Roscommon counties, as well as portions of Antrim, Kalkaska, and Oscoda counties,” according to Borton’s office.
John R. Roth (104th House District), Cam Cavitt (106th House District), and John Damoose (37th Senate District) also signed the letter.
“We are proud to represent a large area containing many of Michigan’s finest natural resources. These natural resources are very important to the well-being of Michiganders and the longevity of the environmental health of Michigan. Many of the constituents we share are deeply concerned about the ramifications of the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling. We, as elected representatives of the people, have a voice in these considerations, on behalf of our constituents,” according to the February 8 letter to Governor Whitmer.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “the DNR is reviewing a proposal for the expansion of DNR-leased lands available for low-impact Camp Grayling military training activities,” including “drone operation, cyber, electronic warfare, space and communication system installation and operation.”
The February 8 letter says the legislators who have signed it “fully support our military and law enforcement branches and do not want this to be interpreted as a letter of opposition against them in any way.”
“Please note that there is much respect for the military amongst those who have signed this, and we understand the need for continued development and training. There is absolutely no way we can express enough gratitude for the veterans and active military members who sacrifice so much to protect our individual freedoms,” according to the letter.
The letter says “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 letter raises concerns with regard to potential impacts on outdoor recreation, health (humans and wildlife), and the environment.
“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,” according to the letter. “We have heard from many concerned constituents regarding experimental weapon testing on the proposed land.”
Some opponents of the Camp Grayling training area expansion have cited comments by military officials in different media sources with regard to the “weapon testing” issue, including excerpts of a letter from Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais (retired), Director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and Adjutant General of the Michigan National Guard from 2011 to 2018, published in the September 29, 2022 edition of the Crawford County Avalanche (sent to the Avalanche via Michigan National Guard Public Affairs on September 21), that refer to the need for an “expanded testing ground.”
“Expansion of training ground available in Northern Michigan is critical to achieving the readiness our armed forces require to defend the nation and to support allies and partners across the globe to deter and defeat adversaries, both nation and non-nation state, as they challenge democratic and rule of law principles. An expanded testing ground in Michigan would also enable our military and civilian agencies to test and field the methods and equipment required to modernize the tools we will need against these 21st century challenges. The potential capability and capacity for this currently exists centered around Camp Grayling,” according to the Vadnais letter.
“Our Michigan soldiers and airmen have been blessed with training space and capability not matched in the U.S. I have seen our military joint forces – soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, special operators – come to the state to maximize Northern Michigan’s capabilities to build their readiness for conflict, to validate their readiness for deployment, and to confirm their ability to work together as a joint and combined team. Camp Grayling and the Grayling community has served the state and the nation well in this regard. But the 21st century has brought with it new challenges, and with those challenges, new opportunities. To remain relevant, Camp Grayling must evolve and expand to match those challenges, to meet those opportunities.  To achieve that, we ask for your support,” according to the Vadnais letter.
“Training grounds have to replicate the 21st century battlefields, both known and envisioned, where we will potentially send our young men and women to fight. Camp Grayling and the Michigan Department of National Resources are currently in discussion on how to expand the land area available to train our military while safeguarding Michigan’s recreational and natural resources. There are pathways forward that achieve both. We need to come together in frank discussion to reach that aim, with full transparency for the citizens of the Grayling area and Michiganders that enjoy the economic and recreational opportunities of Northern Michigan. There need not be losers and winners in this effort, rather, there can be support for these critical 21st century military requirements while maintaining and even improving our natural resources and their protection,” according to the Vadnais letter.
Public information from the DNR in the department’s “Q&A on Camp Grayling proposal” page and “Frequently asked questions” page does not mention “experimental weapon testing.”
According to Camp Grayling, via the Department of Natural Resources, the purpose of the training area expansion – “electronic warfare” – “is the use of electronic signals to jam, disrupt or spoof communications in electronic systems. Soldiers need to be trained in how to respond when (electronic warfare) effects target their equipment (radios, GPS, drones, etc.) and develop techniques and procedures to overcome those effects. Greater distances better replicate when effects by an adversary could be used in scenarios. Additional land use will also allow for separation between (electronic warfare) effects and other troop training maneuvers when used.”
“Low impact or light maneuver training consists of foot traffic, tents, bivouacking, and porta-johns. Vehicle travel will be restricted to current state forest roads and trails,” according to the FAQ page.
“With many of these constituents relying on the land for recreation, the safety and well-being of our constituents is very important to us,” according to the February 8 letter from Borton to Governor Whitmer. “We are also apprehensive about the potential environmental impacts associated with the expansion of the base. The runoff of contaminants across the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula into Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and numerous groundwater systems is another significant issue. With the acquisition of 250 additional square miles, these concerns grow exponentially.”
“It is our belief that proposed expansions have the potential to threaten the health, safety, and general welfare of the people in this region, and we should therefore be granted some authority on the expansion with respects to the protection of the air, water, wildlife, and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment, and destruction,” according to the February 8 letter.
According to the “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” page via, “There are no anticipated environmental impacts from the proposal. 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. 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 Q&A on Camp Grayling proposal” page, “Major General Paul Rogers requested a meeting with (DNR) Director Eichinger on January 11, 2022, to discuss an expansion of land use agreement,” and the meeting included other military and DNR officials, including DNR Deputy Director Shannon Lott. On December 2, 2022 Governor Whitmer’s office “announced selections to lead state departments and state agencies into the next four years.” According to the announcement, “Dan Eichinger will serve as the acting director of EGLE” and “Shannon Lott will serve as acting director at (the) DNR.” Major General Rogers is the Adjutant General for Michigan. According to the Michigan Military Act: Act 150 of 1967, via the Michigan Legislature website, the adjutant general is appointed by the governor “from among qualified federally recognized officers of the national guard.”
On February 2, the DNR announced that the public comment period “on the National Guard’s proposed expansion of its Camp Grayling training facility” would “close at 5 p.m. Wednesday, February 8.” 
According to the DNR’s “Camp Grayling lease update proposal” page, “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.”

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

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

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