Michigan to Review 4.6 Million Acre Public Land Strategy

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

As of July 9, the Michigan (MI) Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently reviewing and seeking input on their statewide public land strategy. Originally created in 2013, the DNR is reviewing the success of their first public land strategy while identifying any necessary adjustments. An updated strategy must be submitted to the Michigan Legislature by July 21, 2021 for final consideration and approval by the legislature.   

The Michigan DNR manages nearly 4.6 million acres of public lands across the state. Many of the management practices utilized by the DNR to benefit these lands, and the wildlife that inhabits them, are funded through the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excises taxes that funds the majority of the MI DNR’s conservation efforts. In return, these lands provide significant recreational opportunities to both Michigan residents and visitors. The importance of these resources has taken on a new light during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, Michiganders are seeking a respite in the outdoors by taking advantage of the many parks, wildlife areas, beaches, and trails. Michigan is experiencing an outdoor renaissance of sorts as people look to the outdoors in search of ways to practice #ResponsibleRecreation.    

Michigan’s public lands also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. According to the MI DNR’s website:

  • Michigan’s state parks, which draw 28 million visitors each year, act as a catalyst to attract out-of-state tourists and provide a focal point for activities that drive local economies.
  • Michigan’s state game and wildlife areas, state forests and state parks offer abundant places to hunt, fish and watch wildlife, all activities that help drive the state’s economy. Hunting contributes almost $9 billion, fishing contributes more than $2 billion, and wildlife viewing contributes more than $1 billion annually.
  • Home to many tourist attractions – known for both their unique natural beauty and their rich history – DNR-managed lands are the backbone of Michigan’s $20 billion-plus tourism industry.
  • Harbors and boat launches on DNR-managed lands also provide access to the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams for boating, which has an economic impact of more than $7 billion a year in Michigan.
  • State forest land supplies more than 20% of the timber consumed by the forest industry statewide. The industry contributes $21.2 billion and more than 99,000 jobs to the economy annually

The goals outlined in the public land strategy include:

  • Protecting and preserving Michigan’s natural and cultural resources.
  • Providing spaces for quality outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • Promoting natural resources management.

Although the strategy will primarily focus on the almost 4.6 million acres of state-owned land, it will also recognize the importance of the 3.6 million acres managed by the federal government and the tens of thousands of acres managed by counties and municipalities across the state. If you are interested in providing comments on the public lands strategy, you can follow this link to review the current plan and to identify lands that are a priority to you. 

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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