July 15, 2003
LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service urging the agency to consider any and all alternatives to a proposed natural gas and oil drilling exploration site near the border of the Mason Tract, a popular state recreation area near Grayling.
“The Mason Tract represents a special place for Michigan residents, and we need to examine alternative sites for drilling that will allow us to preserve it,” Granholm said. “The natural beauty of this area is one of the qualities that helps define Michigan as a unique place to recreate.”
“The Mason Tract is a crown jewel of Michigan's great outdoors and must be protected,” said State Representative Matt Gillard (D-Alpena). “I look forward to working with the Governor on this issue and will do everything it takes to make sure the concerns of the people of my district are heard and this pristine area is protected.”
The proposed drilling site is on federally-owned land that is adjacent to the Mason Tract. Savoy Energy, LP has proposed drilling a natural gas well on the federal land within 700 feet of the Mason Tract, a 5,300-acre state recreation area donated to the state by George Mason, a founding member of Trout Unlimited. It is a popular recreation area, especially for fly fishing.
In her letter, the Governor pointed out many concerns she shares with conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts about a drilling operation close to the Mason Tract border. They include:
• Proximity of the drilling well pad to the minimally developed road leading into the Mason Tract;
• Noise from the drilling operation will ruin the serene nature of the area, which is the very reason that many outdoors enthusiasts visit the Mason Tract;
• Placement of the proposed drilling site at a high point in a valley, giving a “megaphone” effect to any noise from drilling activities;
• A drilling pad and facility so close to the Mason Tract would detract from the area’s aesthetics and natural beauty.
“Basically, the proposed location for this drilling site is too close to one of the most cherished natural sites in our state,” Granholm said. “The U.S. Forest Service has the opportunity now to look for alternate locations for the drilling pad that are further from the Mason Tract and further away from the South Branch of the AuSable River."
George Mason donated the land to the State of Michigan in 1955 with the agreement that the land would be managed as an undeveloped recreation area to preserve the natural beauty of the area.
“For nearly 50 years, the State of Michigan has done right by the Mason Tract and George Mason’s vision and passion for it,” Granholm said. “It is my hope that the U.S. Forest Service will respect that vision and move the proposed drilling site away from this unique Michigan resource so that we can continue our mission of providing an incredible place for outdoors enthusiasts to enjoy for generations to come.”