Monday, May 07, 2012

Letter: Industry, private matches -- not taxes -- support Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Brockway Mountain Summit west vista, showing Lake Superior and part of the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor, is part of a Natural Resources Trust Fund recommendation for a $498,000 grant to acquire 320 acres in Eagle Harbor Township.  (Photo courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

Dear editor,

People often believe that all government grants are from taxes, but this is not true. Grant money from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Trust Fund comes from oil and gas leases on state land -- money paid by industry to the state of Michigan for use of these lands. The Michigan Legislature determined that this money belongs to the people of Michigan and should be used for public recreation projects and public land throughout the state. Some federal programs are also funded from non-tax money, for example the Federal Duck Stamp program, which goes to purchase lands for wildlife habitat.

The summit of Brockway Mountain with the surrounding 320 acres is being purchased by Eagle Harbor Township with DNR Trust Fund money. Grants require a 25 percent cash match, which in this case was donated by private individuals and businesses.

This view from Brockway Mountain Drive, which provides access to the Brockway summit, along the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor, shows Copper Harbor on Lake Superior, at left, and Lake Fanny Hooe, at right. (Photo courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

Partners who helped raise the cash match for Brockway Mountain included the Michigan Nature Conservancy, Copper Country Audubon, Keweenaw Land Trust and Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District. No tax money was directly spent for this recreation property, which will serve Michigan's public in a multitude of ways.*

From 2001 to 2003, the approximately 6000 acres at the tip of the Keweenaw was also purchased with Trust Fund dollars and a large donation from The Nature Conservancy.**

The falls at the Mouth of the Montreal River were part of the Keweenaw Tip Natural Resources Trust Fund land acquisition for the public. On June 12, 2004, KPAC (Keweenaw Point Advisory Committee) members hiked to this spot with DNR staff to discuss how public access to the site should be managed. (Keweenaw Now file photo © Dana Richter. Reprinted with permission.)

During the KPAC tour on June 12, 2004, Dana Richter photographed this view of Manitou Island from High Rock Bay. Remains of a campfire can be seen in the foreground. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2004 Dana Richter. Reprinted with permission.)*** 

A recreation plan must be in place in order to receive DNR Trust Funds. Recently, Calumet Lake Park on the north side of Calumet was established and improved with DNR Trust Fund money. The mouth of the Gratiot River, Hunters Point in Copper Harbor and Seneca Lake near Mohawk were also obtained by DNR Trust Fund grants.

Lake Superior and beach at the mouth of the Gratiot River. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

 All of these special places are open to the public to enjoy year round.

This DNR Trust Fund is the program our 110th District State Rep. Matt Huuki and our 38th District State Sen. Tom Casperson are trying to gut.

Dana Richter, Hancock Township
President, Copper Country Audubon

Editor's Notes: 

** See our September 2003 article "TNC completes Keweenaw Tip purchase for Michigan," which includes a map of the purchase.

*** Read about the KPAC tour in our 2004 article "Keweenaw Point Committee tour with DNR leads to recommendations."

A slightly different version of this letter appeared in The Daily Mining Gazette on April 21, 2012. Photos are included here with Dana Richter's permission.

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