Is DNR Ignoring Citizen Concerns?
Wed, 02/22/2023 - 11:09am caleb
To the editor: In September a public meeting was conducted in Albert Township in Montmorency County concerning the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling. In that meeting the DNR’s spokesman, Tom Barnes, said something to the audience that was glossed over because the meeting was about to conclude. Barnes told the audience the DNR director had asked him, “What’s the benefit to the us, the DNR (in allowing Camp Grayling to more than double its size)?” In response to the director’s question Barnes said he answered, “It’s a net zero.” By “net zero” Barnes meant there is no perceived benefit or negative impact to the DNR in approving the expansion.
Citizens believe the DNR is downplaying public outcry to oppose the expansion. We believe the director should not be asking what the benefit is to the DNR. The DNR does not own our public land. Citizens own it. The DNR is employed to be stewards of our recreational public land for the “use and enjoyment” of citizens. In addition to environmental concerns, citizens believe anything that restricts or diminishes our ability to enjoy state land should be reason enough for the DNR director to reject the proposal in its entirety. If the DNR director had participated in public meetings himself he would have heard loudly, clearly, and steadfastly that citizens do not want to share additional public land with the military.
Regarding the “net zero” comment, has the DNR forgot about Camp Grayling area residents, wildlife, and fishes being exposed to the carcinogen PFAS for the last five decades? The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services still has fish consumption guidelines and “Do not eat deer advisories” in place for areas contaminated by the “forever toxin.” This alone should nullify the DNR’s contention that Camp Grayling will have (or has had) a net zero impact on the land. There is currently no known way to remove PFAS contamination from the environment. Area residents, wildlife, and fishes will be subjected to its known health effects for centuries to come.
The public has spoken loudly and unitedly. More than a dozen major sportspersons and environmental groups representing tens of thousands of citizens; over 20 local government units representing thousands of citizens, and thousands more citizens from across the state (see “Camp Grayling Expansion” on Facebook) have joined together to oppose the expansion. At a recent meeting in Garfield Township in Kalkaska County Mr. Barnes himself acknowledged, “Less than one percent of the thousands of e-mails received by the DNR have been in support of the expansion.”
Michigan citizens are deeply grateful for the service of our National Guard. Residents of northern Michigan are proud to share our community with Camp Grayling. But we believe we have demonstrated our appreciation for Camp Grayling having already sacrificed more of our public land to the National Guard than any other state in the country. 83 percent (97,294 of 116,734 acres) of all state land within Crawford County is already controlled by Camp Grayling. At its current size of 148,000 acres Camp Grayling is overwhelmingly the largest National Guard training center in America, and the restricted airspace above it is the largest East of the Mississippi River.
Camp Grayling tells us it needs an additional 162,000 acres of public land so it can engage in modern forms of training such as electromagnetic and cyber warfare training. But the truth is, Camp Grayling has already demonstrated that it can successfully train in electromagnetic and cyber warfare training on its current immense training area. It has been doing so for years. In addition, it is extremely important to understand that comparatively, National Guard training centers across the country are tens of thousands of acres smaller than Camp Grayling. Because National Guard units in all other states demonstrate that they are able to achieve the same superior level of training and preparedness on much less land than Camp Grayling this is another strong indication that Camp Grayling’s ask for additional land is a want and not a need.
For instance, in a typical year Camp Grayling trains anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 guardsmen, guardswomen, and reservists on the 148,000 acres it currently controls. In sharp contrast, Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania has been the busiest National Guard training center in America for five of the last seven years, training on average, 113,000 personnel each year on only 18,000 acres.
If you oppose the proposed expansion the best way you can help defeat it is by e-mailing the newly appointed DNR Director, Shannon Lott, and letting her know that you believe sharing additional public land with the military will diminish your enjoyment of time spent on that public land.
We have already sacrificed 148,000 acres of our public land. Enough is enough.
You can reach Director Lott at: