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Map reveals proposed expansion of Camp Grayling by Michigan National Guard

The area proposed for military use encompasses nearly all of the wetlands visible from US-127 west of Houghton and Higgins lakes. It also includes stretches of the Manistee and Au Sable rivers, although Camp Grayling commander Col. Scott Meyers told Bridge Michigan in an interview last week that training exercises will not take place near these. river sections.

How would that change the footprint of Camp Grayling?

The training area would more than double in size. Camp Grayling’s current footprint is approximately 148,000 acres, most of it on state land.

Related: Michigan National Guard wants to double Camp Grayling training ground

Although the camp was established in 1913 with a land donation from timber baron Rasmus Hanson, state land donations and leases were its main means of expansion in the century that followed.

The accumulation of Camp Grayling state land began with a donation of 40,000 acres in 1934, and the Guard has since acquired long-term leases on 57,000 acres, as well as shorter-term leases on 43 000 more acres, Barnes said.

“We have worked with the military for a long time,” he said.

How would the National Guard use the land?

Last week, Meyers told Bridge Michigan that the National Guard would conduct only “low impact” training on the proposed expansion lands. There would be no new paths built for the tanks, no shelling or firing, no new buildings or fences.

Instead, Meyers said, the typical exercise might involve soldiers camping in the woods with satellites, training in electronic and cyber warfare.

But a draft map of the proposal also includes proposed “firing points,” which Barnes described as areas where the military is setting up weapons to fire at existing firing ranges. Meyers could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon to clarify the National Guard’s intentions at those sites.

How will the changes affect public land users?

For the most part, Barnes said, “you won’t see much difference.”

Training exercises on the proposed expansion landscape would be time-limited and confined to small areas, Meyers said. Although troops involved in cyber warfare training would need large tracts of land to avoid jamming the signals of other nearby groups, he said, their physical footprint on the ground would be minimal.

Still, Barnes told Bridge, there will likely be occasional road or area closures. It does not provide for any of these affecting access to the Manistee or Au Sable rivers. As for the impacts on the wilderness experience for hunters, fishers, hikers, mushroom pickers and others?

“User experience is already impacted,” he said. “When you’re in Grayling and you’re fishing in one of those rivers, you hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns. You hear the strafing of the A-10s. You hear the helicopters, you see them flying overhead.

Would Michigan get something in return?

The National Guard reimburses Michigan for costs known as “payments in lieu of taxes,” which Michigan taxpayers would otherwise pay to reimburse local governments for lost property tax opportunities on public lands.

Barnes said he would expect a similar arrangement if the DNR accepted the expansion proposal. He did not have a dollar estimate of how much MNR might expect to save.

The National Guard also helps pay for some management tasks on the land it leases, such as tree trimming and species management.

Is this map final?

No.

“It’s just a draft,” Barnes pointed out, and the boundaries will almost certainly change if the DNR agrees to the deal.

Some parcels within the proposed expansion area are not eligible for military use. Property purchased with money from the Natural Resources Trust Fund, for example, must be used for public recreation or land protection.

What happens next?

MNR officials plan to meet later this month with river and angling groups who have expressed concern that an increased military presence in the forest could hamper recreation, public access and habitability.

Barnes said the DNR will also hold a public meeting in early June, followed by a public comment period. For now, he said, the agency is neutral on the proposal and there is no timeline for a decision, he said.

The military should also go through an environmental review process before establishing new training areas, he said.