Types of land ownership rights

  • Surface rights
    • The DNR is responsible for managing approximately 4.6 million acres of surface ownership across the state.
    • Surface ownership includes state forests, state game and wildlife areas, state parks and recreation areas, boating access sites, public water access sites, trails and DNR facilities.
  • Mineral rights
    • The DNR is responsible for managing 6.4 million acres of state-managed mineral rights in a manner that protects and enhances the lands for current and future generations. Minerals are developed in a safe way in order to optimize revenue consistent with public interest while also protecting natural resource values.
    • Revenue from the royalties, leases and sales of state-managed mineral rights is deposited into the State Park Endowment Fund, which funds state park operations, maintenance and land acquisition. A percentage of the revenue is also deposited into a corpus fund.
    • Historically, the revenue from state-managed minerals was deposited into the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which provided grants for the acquisition, development and maintenance of local and state parks and other recreational areas, resulting in a wide range of recreational opportunities and access to Michigan's forests, trails, waterways and beaches.
    • The inclusion of mineral rights when acquiring new state land is a priority, not only to provide revenue through leasing, but also to maintain and protect the natural resources found on the surface.
  • Great Lakes bottomlands rights
    • Michigan's Submerged Lands Program began in 1955 with the passage of the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 1955 PA 247, as amended, which is now incorporated as Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), 1994 PA 451, as amended.
    • The state owns 25 million acres of bottomlands, which are regulated by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
    • Both state and federal law require the state to manage and protect the submerged cultural resources lying on the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. These resources potentially range from prehistoric Native American village sites to shipwrecks that can be found anywhere from shallow waters to the deep trenches of the Great Lakes.
  • Conservation easements
    • Conservation easements are a permanent right in land that protects the conservation values of the land in perpetuity while it remains privately owned.
    • Although the rights that are acquired through a conservation easement vary by easement, the rights acquired typically include development rights, which prevents the landowner from constructing buildings on the property and therefore protects the conservation values on the land.
    • The DNR also holds working forest conservation easements, which in addition to extinguishing the development rights, also requires the private landowner to manage the timber on the property in a sustainable manner according to an approved forest management plan.
    • Most conservation easements held by the DNR require, at a minimum, nonmotorized public access and therefore expand recreational opportunities without the state owning the land. This protects the values of the surface owner while providing a benefit to the citizens of the state.
    • Some conservation easements held by DNR do not include public access and are primarily for the purposes of resource protection.
    • The DNR currently holds conservation easements on more than 153,600 acres of land stretching across both peninsulas.
    • While conservation easements are a useful tool for achieving the DNR’s mission to protect natural resources without the need for the DNR to own the land, there is a requirement to appropriately stewards and enforce those conservation easements.

 

  • Leases
    • Leasing state-managed land is a tool that the DNR uses to carry out the department mission by partnering with other entities to help manage state-owned land.
    • Conversely, the DNR also manages land that is not owned by the state in order to carry out the department mission.
    • When the DNR is the lessor, the following apply:
      • Leases DNR-managed land to local units of government to provide outdoor public recreation or natural resources management.
      • Local unit of government is responsible for operation and maintenance.
    • When the DNR is the lessee, the following apply:
      • Leased from another agency to provide outdoor public recreation or natural resources management.
      • DNR is responsible for operation and maintenance.
  • Life leases
    • A life lease is an acquisition tool that allows the DNR to secure land ownership from a private landowner, who then retains a lease to live on the property for the remainder of their life. The value of the land is prorated in this scenario, so it also results in a cost savings to the DNR.
  • Trail easements (for example, snowmobile, ORV and rail-trails)
    • The DNR often acquires easements across private property for public recreational trail use when the private property is located between blocks of state ownership in order to eliminate the need to locate trails within the right-of-way of a road.
    • Trails often cross several private land ownerships resulting in the need for trail easements to secure the trail right-of-way for public recreational use.
    • Securing permanent trail easements ensures trail connectivity and reduces the need to reroute the trail as landowners change over time.
  • Other rights in land
    • The DNR holds other rights in land in certain situations as a means of fulfilling its mission. These range from hunting rights to restrictive covenants to deed restrictions.
    • While holding other rights, such as these, may assist the DNR with meeting the mission of land protection, they still require department administration, oversight, stewardship, and monitoring to assure those rights are protected.
    • In many instances simply owning the land in fee, especially within dedicated project boundaries is preferable due to ease and efficiency of management and administration.