LANSING—The Michigan Senate approved legislation this week to establish a no net gain policy for land owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said Sen. Tom Casperson.
Senate Bill 248 would cap the amount of land that the department can own to what it currently owns and pending purchases, roughly 4.65 million acres or 12 percent of Michigan’s land base. According to the DNR, Michigan owns more land than any state east of the Mississippi.
“While our state lands are valuable assets for the people of Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources needs to develop a plan for state land ownership that better serves the people. We must improve management of what is currently owned rather than spending more and more money to continually make land purchases,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba, who sponsored the measure.
Casperson said a real strategy concerning state ownership of land is long overdue, especially at a time when Michigan residents are struggling to pay their bills. It makes little sense for the state to purchase more land when the DNR is admittedly unable to care for the land and facilities it now owns.
A perfect illustration of this problem occurred in April when the DNR announced plans to close 23 more state forest campgrounds claiming that it could no longer afford to operate them, yet the department continues to pursue acquisitions of more land.
Senate Bill 248 allows the DNR to continue to acquire land, such as parcels for connecting trails, land gifted to them or small amounts of property needed for accessing other land. These types of acquisitions would be exempt from the cap.
“It is important for our state to get a handle on the amount of land that should be owned by government,” said Casperson. “As more land is removed from private ownership, our schools, local units of government and economy are impacted.”
SB 248 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.