Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund was established for the purpose of acquiring land for “recreational uses or protection of the land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty”. In short — it has helped preserve the Great Lakes State as one of the most beautiful places in the world…. and that may all be rapidly coming to an end.
Today, Senator Thomas Casperson, along with Senators Patrick Colbeck and David Robertson, introduced SB 214 of 2013, a bill that would amend Public Act 451 of 1994 to allow diversion of these funds to develop logging and mining roads and dredge lakes to support commercial traffic. (Democracy Tree previously reported the large campaign contributions Casperson has taken from logging and mining interests.)
The amended language specifies that the funds may be used for the “development and maintenance of trails and roads on state land…[to build] infrastructure directly related to natural-resource-based industries, including timber harvesting and mining…infrastructure on waterways including breakwaters and dredging”.
The trust fund has been instrumental in identifying and preserving public spaces and parklands across the state. Most recently among them we find a new shoreline park on Grand Traverse Bay replacing a strip of run-down and abandoned buildings. This park project is nearly complete, but other communities will not be so lucky.
With lake levels at their lowest since they have been recorded in 1918, and shipping on the rise, Gov. Snyder’s budget is requesting increased funds for dredging – money that may or may not be fully approved from the State General Fund and its Waterway Fund, especially if lawmakers believe they can off-set some of the cost by tapping the DNR Trust Fund.
The bill is currently in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee for consideration.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project