Casperson and Booher introduce measures to reform state land management and regulations

LANSING, Mich—Sens. Tom Casperson and Darwin Booher introduced legislation on Tuesday to address concerns raised by Michigan residents, a varied group of land use stakeholders, and local officials regarding state land ownership by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“While our constituents value the benefits public land can offer, we increasingly hear of problems due to unreasonable and unresponsive department rules, regulations and policies related to the enjoyment of state land,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Some of the issues we routinely hear about involve access and use for recreation, and problems that land-based industries encounter when dealing with the department in land transactions, such as with purchases or sales.

“Over the last few years, we have talked to the department about these issues, but it is time to improve state law to address them for the long-term benefit of Michigan residents, visitors, local units of government and the natural resources with which we are blessed, especially in the Upper Peninsula and the Northern Lower Peninsula.”

Senate Bills 39 and 40 are meant to continue the discussion started four years ago with Casperson’s efforts on a state law to cap the amount of land that the DNR can own with certain exemptions in place until a meaningful, comprehensive and strategic public land management plan was developed by the DNR.

While the DNR has developed a plan and presented it to the Legislature, lawmakers have expressed concern that more work needs to be done on the plan, along with improvements to state law to ensure that it fully addresses the many issues related to public land ownership.

“It is understandable that as Senator Casperson and I represent 24 of the 83 counties in Michigan where the majority of state land is located, our communities have asked us to engage on the issue of strategically improving land management on property the state already owns, instead of simply purchasing additional land,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This shift in policy, along with our proposed bills to encourage full and timely tax payments from the state on the land it owns and local approval abilities on state land purchases, will be a significant help to our communities and those that enjoy the use of these lands.”

County Commissioner John Waltman said he appreciates legislation being pursued.

“As a county commissioner from Luce County, which is nearly 52 percent owned by the state, I see a lot of value in the proposed changes to allow local units of government to approve purchases within their boundaries, as well as ensure that PILT and swamp taxes are paid in full,” Waltman said. “Improvements to working through land purchase requests with the department will help our local communities as well.”

Casperson said he welcomes ideas.

“As these bills work through the legislative process, we look forward to working with anybody who would like to engage with us on this legislation and on public land management issues as we look to enact meaningful, necessary natural-resource-related reform that provides balance and sensibility to better serve the state and its residents,” Casperson said.

SBs 39 and 40 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. Casperson, who chairs the committee, said he expects the legislation to be discussed at multiple committee hearings to be arranged in the coming weeks.

Senate committee to take testimony on wolf-related resolution via videoconference

LANSING, Mich.—The Senate Natural Resources Committee will take testimony Wednesday on a resolution to be introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to appeal a recent decision to return wolves to federal protection as endangered species.

The decision was made on Dec. 19, 2014 by Judge Howell of the U.S. District Court and has left Upper Peninsula residents again at the mercy of the aggressive predators, even though the wolf population in Michigan exceeds target numbers that indicate a recovered and healthy wolf population.

Upper Peninsula residents will be able to participate in the committee via videoconference from Gogebic Community College in Ironwood and City Hall in Manistique.

“Residents of the Upper Peninsula showed their strong support of state management of wolves in November when all counties in the 38th Senate District voted overwhelmingly to retain state laws that allowed Michigan to manage wolves,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “As we have seen the number of wolf attacks on livestock and dogs increase over the last year and hear more and more concerns raised about the number of wolves concentrated in the Upper Peninsula, it is imperative for this unreasonable decision by one judge to be overturned.”

Casperson’s resolution also voices support for federal legislation being readied for introduction by Great Lakes congressmen to remove wolves from being considered as endangered species so states can manage them.

“The committee hearing and videoconference opportunity will be a great way for senators in Lansing and lower Michigan residents who may not realize how wolves adversely impact how we live and work in the U.P. to hear from my fellow U.P. residents on this important issue,” Casperson said.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 12:30 p.m. EST in room 210 of the Farnum Building in Lansing, with simultaneous videoconferencing at Gogebic Community College, David G. Lindquist Student and Conference Center, Upper Level Conference Room, E-4946 Jackson Road in Ironwood at 11:30 a.m. CST and at City Hall, Council Room, 300 N. Maple in Manistique at 12:30 p.m. EST. Casperson asks those that plan to attend the Manistique location to RSVP to his office before the event at 517-373-7840  so you can be notified in case of technical difficulties.

**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Casperson welcomes U.P. residents to state Capitol for State of the State address

LANSING, Mich.—Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, welcomes Gary Benjamin (left) and Joe Basso to the Michigan Capitol before Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2015 State of the State address.

Benjamin, of Gundlach Champion, Inc. in Iron Mountain, and Basso, pastor of Felch Mountain Bible Chapel in Felch, were Casperson’s guests for the annual address Tuesday night.

A print-quality photograph of Casperson welcoming Benjamin and Basso is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: Click on “Photowire.”

***Media Advisory*** Sen. Tom Casperson available for comments following State of the State address

Who:               Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, chair of the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

What:             Reaction and comments following the governor’s State of the State address.

When:             Immediately following the address, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Briefing:         Casperson will be available following the State of the State address for comments on state issues mentioned by the governor in the address.

Please call Casperson’s office at 1-517-373-7840 prior to 5 p.m. on Jan. 20 to schedule an interview time with the senator.