Land cap not a problem for DNR

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Capital News Service
LANSING — The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports no negative outcomes from the initial cap on its land ownership of 4.626 million acres statewide, which was implemented by state law in 2012.
While some feared that the initial land caps would hurt the DNR’s ability to maintain its lands and achieve its environmental goals, Sen. Tom Casperson, an Escanaba Republican, said that the caps were never meant to harass or limit the department, but simply give it guidelines.
“It has been irrelevant because we had put some grace that allowed the department to keep buying. The intent was to not cut them off but set up a parameter,” said Casperson. “Right now, there’s 20,000 acres still left and the cap hasn’t held anything up — it’s just more that it’s there.“

DNR public information officer Ed Golder said that although the initial land cap has yet to hurt the department, it continues to work with the Legislature to avoid being limited in future land management.
Golder said, “We haven’t reached a point yet we’re we’ve been limited in buying lands because of that cap. That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen in the future.
“And that’s why we would really like that cap lifted. If a spectacular piece of land came into place, we could work with it.”
Part of the 2012 cap law was a possibility of additional restrictions unless the Legislature approved the DNR’s strategic plan by May 1, 2015. This new cap would limit the amount of land that the DNR can own north of Mason, Lake, Osceola, Clare, Gladwin and Arenac counties. Four months past due, both parties continue with negotiations.
Dan Eichinger, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said public lands are essential to preserving hunting, trapping and fishing. He said that the Legislature’s approval of the DNR’s strategic plan is a pressing matter that will allow the department to continue to manage resources and money, but the negative view of public lands contributes to the increased call for land-privatization across the state.
Eichinger said, “Over the last six to 10 years or so, we’ve seen a little bit of a trend in the Legislature — and I think it’s reflected somewhat from local governments — that public lands are portrayed as a drain on local economies.”
The DNR created its Managed Public Land Strategy as required by the Legislature in July 2013. It highlighted three goals, each with a set of measurable objectives, which the DNR hopes to achieve: providing quality outdoor public recreation opportunities, fostering regional economic prosperity and protecting natural and cultural resources for future generations.
Objectives include completing a road plan that ensures motorized and non-motorized access to public lands, increasing tourism at historic parks by 3 percent and achieving population goals for state and federally listed non-game species.

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