Senate adopts Casperson’s resolution supporting hunting camp owners

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

Urges U.S. Forest Service to issue special use authorization

LANSING, Mich. — A resolution encouraging the United States Forest Service (USFS) to work with owners of privately held hunting camps on leased acreage within the Ottawa National Forest was adopted by the state Senate last Thursday.

Senate Resolution 79 highlights the concerns of approximately 100 property owners who could lose their camps to the federal government if special use authorization or some alternative allowance is not granted. It also highlights the possible negative impacts to the local community if the USFS follows through and removes the camps.

“This is another all-too-common example of government bureaucrats deciding they know what is best rather than working with locals and understanding that the arrangement with property owners that has been in place for years works well and causes no harm to the federal forest land,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Instead, many benefits are enjoyed by all as people enjoy the outdoors and local economies in areas that badly need the activity are bolstered and supported.

“I strongly encourage the United States Forest Service to issue camp owners special use authorization or some similar allowance so they can continue decades-long traditions of hunting, fishing and other recreational activities in the national forest and continue supporting local economies.”

The USFS informed leaseholders that leases will not be renewed at the end of 2016 due to an agency policy not to lease national forest land to individuals. The holders of the active leases will have 90 days after the leases expire to remove the hunting cabins and return the land to its natural state.

Casperson’s resolution argues, however, that the USFS Recreation Residence Program provides a solution to the situation if the agency would just lift its moratorium on such arrangements and actually work with folks instead of just saying no for what appears no reason except that they are pursuing their internal agenda to close access and limit use on the publicly owned land as they are routinely doing across the country. The Recreation Residence program provides private citizens an opportunity to own single-family cabins in designated areas of national forests, and 15,570 recreation residences currently occupy national forest system lands throughout the country.

Michigan residents were offered an opportunity to lease privately owned land from the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) in the 1950s to build recreational hunting camps. In 1991, the UPPCO announced intentions to sell the land currently under lease to an intermediary who would simultaneously sell the land to the USFS. Existing leaseholders were offered an option to sign a 25-year, nonrenewable lease on the land that was to be sold or to immediately vacate the property.