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Michigan conservation group opposes proposed Camp Grayling expansion

Several tanks and a military helicopter on a post in a grassy field
Interlochen Public Radio
Military equipment sits on display June 20 in front of Camp Grayling in Crawford County.

As public comment continues for the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs announced its opposition to the project earlier in June.

The nonprofit, founded in 1937, is the largest statewide conservation organization in the country. It represents more than 200 affiliated clubs and 40,000 hunters, anglers, trappers and conservationists.

MUCC officials said in a post on its website the 162,000 acre expansion does not fall in line with the organization’s core values or the Department of Natural Resources mission statement.

“The DNR review process will take at least a year,” MUCC policy assistant Justin Tomei said in the post. “That is a year of shifted staff priorities, a year of added expense, a year of the department working on military priorities rather than for the citizens of Michigan.”

In May, the Michigan National Guard announced it wanted to lease additional land from the DNR to use for additional training exercises. The land would remain under DNR ownership and management and would still be open to the public.

MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter says a 1989 resolution informed MUCC’s decision. It states the organization will not support expansions unless the National Guard can prove it is due to a national emergency.

She said she’s also concerned about the costs of environmental reviews which comes from DNR funding.

“We need to see that this is justified,” Trotter said. “To me, that needs to come from the national guard. We need to understand the ‘why’ we are looking at this kind of acreage and the necessity of it.”

The DNR provided a statement to the Record-Eagle.

"We appreciate the individuals and organizations that have taken the time to provide feedback on the Camp Grayling lease update proposal. These comments will be among the factors taken into consideration when Director Eichinger makes his final decision on this matter."

The proposal is currently receiving public comment until July 8. Meetings were held last week that saw participation from more than 200 stakeholders. Despite more two hours of Q&A, some said they left with unanswered questions about how the proposal would impact the environment, infrastructure and access to the land.

The DNR put out an interactive map earlier this month that details the land the National Guard intends to lease, including its proximity to the Au Sable River, something local conservation groups were concerned about.

Residents can use the map’s interface to leave comments.

IPR News reached out to the Michigan National Guard for comment on this story and has not received a response yet.

DNR officials said at the public meetings last week the review process won’t be completed until the end of 2023.

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