National Guard can still apply for special use permits for 52,000 acres
GRAYLING – he Department of Military and Veterans Affairs had sought to lease 162,000
acres of state forest land for training.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has declined a proposed 20-year lease of approximately 162,000 acres of state forest land to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The DMVA had sought to lease the land, located around the National Guard training camp in Grayling, to accommodate low-impact military training activities.
“We appreciate the many comments we received on this proposal and the commitment people have to public lands,” said Acting DNR Director Shannon Lott. “Public concerns and feedback from Tribal governments, coupled with our own review of the proposal, led us to decide against a 20-year lease on such a significant portion of state-managed land.”
The decision was made after months of public input and after consultation with interested Michigan Tribal governments.
Memorandum of Understanding
Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the DNR and the DMVA, the DMVA will be able to apply for limited land use permits to conduct exercises on up to 52,000 acres of eligible land. The permits would allow the Michigan National Guard to conduct low-impact training on specified areas of land, which would remain open to the public and Tribal members at all times. The MOU also provides that the permits will not allow military training to take place in any protected or sensitive habitat areas or within a certain distance of inland lakes and designated trout streams.
The DMVA may apply for permits using the same system and be evaluated under the same regulations that apply to all other public events and activities on state-managed public lands, including individual events, research projects and large gatherings. The DMVA will pay fees and costs associated with applying for a permit, the same as other members of the public.
People who want to legally use the land for hunting, fishing, camping or other recreational pursuits would continue to be allowed, without restriction, on land in use by the Michigan National Guard under a land use permit.
National Guard responds
Training planned by the Michigan National Guard (MNG) around Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center will require the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to apply for limited land use permits, according to Capt. Andrew Layton of the MNG as outlined by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the DMVA.
As described in the MOU, the DMVA will be able to apply for land use permits using the same system that applies to all other public events and activities using state land to conduct exercises on up to 52,000 acres of eligible land.
Any land use permits issued would not close the covered land to public or Tribal use, but rather allow the Michigan National Guard to conduct low-impact training as an additional user during specific timeframes, in accordance with federal regulations.
“While the MOU’s framework doesn’t meet the full vision of our original request, we believe it still provides distance and area required for some low-impact training that will help our service members stay safe and successful on a modern battlefield,” said Col. Scott Meyers, Camp Grayling commander. “We respect the DNR’s decision to deny our lease request while providing a way forward to help facilitate training capability for those who wear the uniform, and we appreciate the public’s engagement over the last several months, as well as the feedback we received from Tribal governments.”
Background on lease proposal
Michigan military leaders last winter proposed a lease of up to 162,000 acres of state forest land around Camp Grayling to conduct periodic, low-impact activities such as cyber and electronic warfare, and operation of space and communication systems.
Protecting water and maintaining public access to land were key concerns expressed by fishing, hunting and conservation groups throughout the public comment period, which opened in June 2022 and remained open for eight months, much longer than a typical DNR public comment period. The DNR and DMVA also hosted Tribal consultations to get feedback from governments about the DMVA’s proposed use of additional state-managed public land.
More information is available on the DNR’s Camp Grayling proposal webpage.