In 2011, the State of Michigan passed Senate Bill 248 effectively limiting the amount of land the Department of Natural Resources could acquire and worked to try and implement a more consistent method or strategy for land acquisition and disposal. HB 5210, known as the Land Cap Bill, sponsored by Representative Wayne Schmidt (R, Grand Traverse County), is currently being debated in the House. This bill is attempting to repeal the previous SB 248 restrictions, while officially implementing the strategy that was created in response to SB 248. HB 5210 is trying to repeal the land cap that was established through SB 248 because many feel that the previous established strategy requirements have been met. Furthermore, this land cap is preventing possible economic opportunities that the DNR could provide by expanding their ownership opportunities through repeal of the land cap.
As of now, Public Act 240 limits the DNR to acquiring no more than 4.626 million acres of land. Starting May 1, 2015, the land cap is intended to shift down to 3.91 million acres.
The DNR manages public lands in order to protect and foster state parks, forests, etc. The DNR maintains these lands for not only public use, but also in order to create a sustainable and adaptive environment. Maintenance of state forests includes reforestation, timber health, timber harvesting, hunting, fishing, scenery, wildlife, water quality, mineral and oil and gas production, and many more.
Scott Robins, Director of Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Public Affairs at Michigan Forest Products Council had this to say about the opinions on HB 5210, “Land companies are in favor of the new bill because they don’t want to limit anyone they can sell land to. The old bill would limit them in their ability to sell or trade their land. Rural counties liked the land cap because it protected their tax base. We however, remain neutral.”
When asked why SB 248 and HB 5210 were important issues for Michigan, Scott Robins mentioned, “I believe it made the state step back and take a look at what they own. It also made the DNR come up with a strategic land plan instead of buying land without any regard for the impact it may cause to the local communities.“
It seems that the best course of action in this case is to repeal the land cap because the previous strategy development requirement had been met by the DNR. With the passing of HB 5210, this strategy would be officially implemented and monitored. The strategy implementation is not expected to drastically increase the DNR’s costs, and the DNR can provide quality outdoor public recreation, protect cultural and natural resources, and increase economic prosperity more effectively than the public can. By repealing the land cap, there is expected to be increased chances of economic opportunities and prosperity for northern Michigan especially, but also Michigan as a whole.
HB 5210 is currently still in the Committee on Natural Resources in the House and a printed bill has been filed as of January 9, 2014. The likelihoods of this bill passing are very good according to Joseph Underwood, Chief of Staff for Representative Wayne Schmidt, the sponsor of the bill in question because of the wide support for this issue.
"Department of Natural Resources Managed Public Land Strategy" Michigan.gov.
N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.
"Eliminate Land Cap and Approve Strategic Plan." House Fiscal Agency. House Fiscal
Agency, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.