Section 3 - Taking action

Strategic approach to DNR land acquisitions

The DNR uses the resources in the toolkit to further accomplish its mission to benefit Michigan residents. Seizing opportunities such as land purchases and exchanges, the DNR is primarily seeking to achieve two objectives: strategic investment in current land holdings and an expansion of service which represents acquisitions in new areas.

Strategic investment

Strategic investment focuses on the consolidation of existing lands within project areas. Project areas are defined by a dedicated project boundary that serves as a long-term goal of DNR land ownership in an area. In many cases dedicated project boundaries will include both DNR-managed public lands and privately owned lands within them, which often reflects the pattern of acquisition of lands over time. For example, many lands may have tax reverted to the state of Michigan to form a core of public land ownership, but then interspersed among these parcels of state lands are parcels that are still privately held, often occurring as a "checkerboard" pattern. As these privately owned parcels become available for sale and funds are available to the DNR, these parcels, known as "inholdings," may be purchased by the state to fill in the project area in order to achieve a solid, larger and more easily defined block of DNR-managed public lands over time.

Having land consolidated in these easily defined blocks of ownership has many advantages, both to the public and to the DNR staff who administer and manage these lands. The benefits include:

Consolidating existing DNR ownership into larger, more easily definable blocks of public ownership often multiplies the benefits of existing lands because private inholdings detract from those conservation and recreation values associated with public lands. Because of the many advantages of consolidated land ownership, land consolidation efforts are among the highest priority for DNR acquisitions. The acquisition of priority parcels to achieve consolidation may occur through purchase, land exchange, gift or other means. Some of the most iconic state lands in Michigan have been acquired by using the land consolidation model. An example is the Pigeon River Country State Forest, which started out as a 6,400-acre tax-reverted parcel. Over time, lands were added to provide habitat for a growing elk population, including 53,000 acres of land acquired through hunter license fees. Now the Pigeon River Country is well over 100,000 acres and is the largest, most contiguous block of state land in the Lower Peninsula (see Appendix E).

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Expansion of service

Expansion of service involves either the acquisition of lands that are not currently associated with existing dedicated project boundaries or the establishment of new project areas in order to meet DNR priorities. Parcels of land in this category may be smaller, isolated parcels that are located outside of a dedicated project boundary, such as a new boating access site. They may also be smaller parcels of land that are associated with existing DNR-managed public lands, such as a parcel of land that is acquired for purposes of establishing a trailhead for a popular designated trail. Other parcels may be larger in size and, as a result, establish their own dedicated project boundary, such as the creation of a state game area in southern Michigan. Unlike the strategic purchase of inholdings, which often results in increased management and administrative efficiencies for DNR staff, lands acquired as an expansion of service must be carefully considered to ensure adequate capacity exists to manage and administer the new lands. Partnerships with local units of government or other collaborators offer potential opportunities to ensure sufficient capacity.

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Strategic results

Both strategic investment in our current ownership and the expansion of service in areas that lack adequate public lands are essential to continue the enhancement and improvement of Michigan's public land base. This public land base, which is constantly evolving for the benefit of Michigan residents, serves as the foundation for accomplishing the goals and strategic initiatives that are set forth in this document and provides the opportunity to achieve fulfillment of the DNR's mission.

Goals & strategic initiatives

The Michigan Constitution and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act are the authorities which charge the DNR with the specific duties and responsibilities that it is required to execute. Among the most fundamental responsibilities of the DNR are the obligation to protect and conserve the natural and cultural resources of the state, provide for and develop facilities for outdoor recreation, and to implement an ecosystem-based strategy for resource management aimed at protecting and enhancing the sustainability, diversity and productivity of the natural resources of Michigan. A large DNR-managed public land base is essential to, and provides the foundation for, the accomplishment of these core responsibilities.

These core responsibilities are the backbone of the goals set forth in this land strategy. Each goal is comprised of numerous strategies that assist in accomplishing the overall goal. In compliance with statute, each of the respective strategies has a regional focus - southern Lower Peninsula, northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula - and in some cases, the focus is statewide. Additionally, each identified strategy contains a measurable objective that details work that will be accomplished by DNR staff regionally and around the state to achieve it. Each identified measure will provide an opportunity for the DNR to track progress and communicate results.

The work toward the accomplishment of the identified goals is central to the function of the DNR and will be achieved through the course of day-to-day work. Additional detail of the specific approach to completing this work may also be found in sources such as strategic plans or management plans from department divisions.

In addition to measuring progress toward meeting the identified goals, strategies and measurable objectives, the DNR is committed to identifying new partnerships and growth opportunities for improved management and administration of these remarkable land resources through the adoption of several new strategic initiatives. It is important to note that in contrast to the goals, which will be accomplished through typical day-to-day work, the strategic initiatives are in addition to normal DNR operations and may require dedicated resources (including funding, personnel and support) to achieve. However, the department believes that the accomplishment of the identified strategic initiatives will result in better management of, and broader, more equitable access to DNR-managed public lands.

Whether developing a plan to make access to outdoor recreation more inclusive and accessible, conducting a timber harvest to enhance wildlife habitat while also supporting the forest products industry, or working to protect our native plants and animals from invasive species - these goals and strategic initiatives outline the priorities of the DNR and its role in managing the public land base.

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Land strategy goals

Goal 1: Protect natural and cultural resources

One of the primary, essential responsibilities of the DNR is the obligation to protect and conserve the natural and cultural resources of the state. Ensuring the health and resiliency of Michigan's natural communities on DNR-managed public lands contributes to the state's unique sense of place, the overall well-being of Michiganders, and the distinguished hunting and fishing traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Protecting the landscapes, buildings and archaeological resources on public lands documents Michigan's heritage and identity for future generations. Together, this goal will be accomplished by strategies ranging from the management of habitat and natural communities to the interpretation of heritage trails - epitomizing the core functions of the DNR.

Strategy 1 (statewide):

Sustainably manage and protect fish and wildlife habitat, natural communities and areas that are managed for a specific conservation value^.

  • Measurable objective: Use assessment, management and strategic plans adopted by each of the DNR's resource managing divisions to guide and prioritize habitat and natural community management (see Appendix Q).
    • Measure: Tracking of work toward accomplishment of goals identified in adopted DNR plans.

Strategy 2 (statewide):

Develop proactive ways to adapt, prepare and mitigate emerging and existing threats to natural and cultural resources due to climate change^.

  • Measurable objective: Identify emerging threats to natural resources due to climate change and determine the appropriate strategy to address them.
    • Measure: List of identified emerging threats and strategies to address them.

Strategy 3 (statewide):

Address priority invasive species.

Strategy 4 (statewide):

Integrate the role of fire in ecosystem management.

  • Measurable objective: Optimize the use of prescribed burning as a management tool to achieve ecological restoration, habitat enhancement and silviculture objectives.
    • Measure: Number of prescribed burns and acres conducted on DNR-managed public lands that meet treatment objectives identified in each burn plan.

Strategy 5 (statewide):

Maintain, enhance, replace and remove infrastructure as needed to reduce impacts to natural resources.

  • Measurable objective: Regularly inspect DNR-managed dams and conduct a road-stream crossing inventory on DNR-managed public lands. Use the information gathered to prioritize dam removals and culvert/bridge replacement projects.
    • Measure: Number of dam inspections completed and resulting infrastructure projects.
    • Measure: Completion of road-stream crossing inventory and number of resulting culvert/bridge projects.

Strategy 6 (statewide):

Protect and restore DNR-managed public lands impacted by degradation caused by unauthorized uses.

  • Measurable objective: Identify areas on DNR-managed public lands where the natural resources have been degraded by illegal uses, prioritize sites for restoration, and secure funding to complete restoration work.
    • Measure: Number and cost of sites restored.

Strategy 7 (statewide):

Identify, protect and interpret cultural resources.

  • Measurable objective: Development and implementation of interpretive plans for state parks, trails, state forests and underwater cultural resources (particularly shipwrecks).
    • Measure: List of plans developed and/or implemented.

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Goal 2: Provide access to outdoor public recreation opportunities

A core responsibility of the DNR is to provide for and develop facilities for outdoor recreation. With recreation as a cornerstone of the Michigan lifestyle, a large public land base is fundamental to providing for the array of recreation pursuits embraced by residents. Whether enjoying opportunities to be physically active, discovering a new favorite recreation activity, or just appreciating the natural beauty of Michigan, getting outdoors is good for overall health and well-being. Access to outdoor recreation is essential in all corners of the state from downtown Detroit to the grasslands and farm fields of mid-Michigan to the vast forests and winding streams of the northern Lower and Upper peninsulas. Providing and improving access to outdoor public recreation opportunities will be accomplished by strategies ranging from anticipating trends in outdoor recreation to strategic land acquisitions to managing our 13,000-plus-mile designated trail network.

Strategy 1 (statewide):

Provide and maintain diverse recreation experiences^ while anticipating and responding to trends in outdoor recreation.

  • Measurable objective: Offer diverse and accessible recreation opportunities to meet and exceed expectations.
    • Measure: Maintain 80% satisfaction (based on 2018 Michigan SCORP survey results), (see Appendix R) with the quality of public outdoor recreation opportunities.

Strategy 2 (statewide):

Ensure appropriate access to large blocks of public land to offer a variety of dispersed and backcountry recreation experiences^.

  • Measurable objective: Prioritize land acquisition efforts on the consolidation of DNR-managed public lands in an effort to reduce fragmentation and provide for an array of dispersed and backcountry recreation uses.
    • Measure: Number of acres of inholdings acquired and mileage reduction of public/private boundary interface.

Strategy 3 (statewide):

Provide public water access to the Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers and streams. (Access includes walk-in fishing sites, carry-down boating access sites, trailered boating access sites and harbor/marina facilities.)

  • Measurable objective: Develop criteria, prioritize and improve public water access to the Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers and streams.
    • Measure: Number of parcels acquired with Great Lakes, inland lake, river or stream access.

Strategy 4 (statewide):

Increase access to diverse recreation opportunities in or near urban areas.

  • Measurable objective: Strategically invest in urban recreation spaces.
    • Measure: Increase satisfaction with the amount and quality of outdoor recreation close to home using 2018 Michigan SCORP survey results as a baseline.

Strategy 5 (southern Lower Peninsula):

In coordination with local units of government, where appropriate, increase public land ownership in areas that have been identified through a DNR analysis as lacking public lands (see Appendix R).

  • Measurable objective: Prioritize land acquisition efforts within areas identified as lacking public land ownership to increase opportunities for public outdoor recreation, including hunting, in southern Michigan.
    • Measure: Number of acres of land acquired within areas identified as lacking public land ownership.

Strategy 6 (statewide):

Manage the more than 13,000-mile state-designated trails network using the 2021 DNR Statewide Trails Plan to guide key metrics and priorities (see Appendix R).

  • Measurable objective: Design and locate trails to meet current and future needs.
    • Measure: Number and mileage of designated water, motorized and nonmotorized trails from the established baseline. 

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Goal 3: Perform responsible natural resource management

The duty to implement a scientifically sound, ecosystem-based strategy for resource management aimed at protecting and enhancing the sustainability, diversity and productivity of Michigan's natural resources is another fundamental obligation of the DNR. Responsible management of natural resource assets involves ensuring timber management and harvests are sustainable, extraction and storage of mineral products and recreation on DNR-managed public lands are accomplished in a way that protects the long-term integrity of the state's natural resources. Aside from the inherent benefits of healthy forests, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities, the active management of these valuable resources also significantly contributes to sectors of Michigan's economy and benefits its residents. The management of the state forest system helps to support a vibrant forest products industry. The underground storage of natural gas in Michigan's unique geology helps to drive down heating costs for residents. Making DNR-managed public lands available for recreation activities such as biking on a trail helps to support small businesses in communities along that path ranging from a bike repair shop to restaurants and hotels. The sustainable management of Michigan's natural resource assets will play a significant role as the world continues to mitigate climate change and shift toward renewable energy sources. This approach to the responsible management of our natural resources will be accomplished by strategies ranging from sustainably managing the vast state forest system to the identification of opportunities for climate change mitigation through using DNR-managed public lands as natural climate solutions.

Strategy 1 (Upper and northern Lower peninsulas):

Sustainably manage and protect the state forest system while also maintaining dual third-party forest certification^.

  • Measurable objective: Manage the state forest annually according to the State Forest Management Plan (which guides sustainable harvest, reforestation work, habitat values and recreation) (see Appendix S) while maintaining dual third-party forest certification.
    • Measure: Number of acres planted, and acres and volume of timber prescribed, prepared and sold annually.

Strategy 2 (statewide):

Facilitate responsible oil and gas, metallic and nonmetallic mineral and underground gas storage development through leasing activities.

  • Measurable objective: Continue to hold regular oil and gas lease auctions and process direct lease requests to make minerals available for production.
    • Measure: Revenue generated and acres leased annually.

Strategy 3 (statewide):

Contribute to a strong and thriving outdoor recreation industry by marketing the abundance and availability of recreation opportunities on DNR-managed public lands.

  • Measurable objective: Highlight DNR-managed public lands and their recreation opportunities in an easily accessible format that is targeted to the public, local units of government, recreation clubs and groups, and recreation industry, among others.
    • Measure: Revenue generated annually by recreation use occurring on DNR-managed lands (for example, overnight camping and state-managed harbor stays and Recreation Passport sales).

Strategy 4 (statewide):

Assess the potential for locating utility-scale solar energy on DNR-managed public lands that have been degraded by past industrial use.

  • Measurable objective: Develop a comprehensive inventory of DNR-managed public lands that contain brownfields, postindustrial sites, or are otherwise degraded, marginal lands and market them for potential renewable energy development.
    • Measure: Number of developed sites and their total production capacity.

Strategy 5 (statewide):

Identify and address opportunities for climate change mitigation associated with natural resources management on DNR-managed public lands.

  • Measurable objective: Conduct a pilot project to determine the potential for DNR-managed public lands to sequester carbon and market the carbon offset credits generated.
    • Measure: Carbon credits^ generated and sold.

DNR strategic initiatives

More specialized, the strategic initiatives build upon the foundation that is laid by the day-to-day work of DNR staff as outlined in the goals, strategies and measurable objectives. These initiatives offer an opportunity to improve upon existing programs and priorities, leverage partnerships in an effort to strengthen and broaden the impacts of the DNR's work, learn about public perceptions and needs, and better plan for the future. An investment of dedicated resources from funding to personnel may be required in order to accomplish the work outlined in these strategic initiatives.

  1. Conduct a comprehensive statewide public survey of the perception of DNR-managed public lands and public land ownership. The results of this survey will be used in the development of the next iteration of the land strategy, due to be submitted to the Legislature in 2027.
  2. Resolve issues of federal funding and management compatibility with facilities, land management and land-use practices to ensure compliance with grant and program requirements.
  3. Update and expand information about known cultural resources on DNR-managed public lands and state bottomlands for inclusion in the State Historic Preservation Office statewide inventory and databases.
  4. Undertake a comprehensive review of DNR-managed public land records to ensure they are current, accurate and can be referenced geographically.
  5. Complete a roads plan to ensure appropriate amounts of motorized and nonmotorized access to DNR-managed public lands, while also considering resource protection, infrastructure maintenance and management access.
  6. Review existing proposed nominations, as required by statute, to dedicate areas of DNR-managed public lands as wilderness areas, wild areas or natural areas.
  7. Work with partners to establish one new "signature park" in a core urban area as a tool for urban revitalization, thus establishing a prototype model of collaboration that can be used in other cities. Considerations will include planning for equal opportunity and inclusive access to outdoor recreation activities for people of all backgrounds and abilities and looking for opportunities to partner with local and regional transportation entities to develop access opportunities.
  8. Work with partners including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry to build a collaboration prototype to use public lands as a basis to foster economic growth, placemaking^ and cultural identity^ in three Michigan communities.

From a strategic approach of acquiring public lands to carrying out the measurable objectives and strategies that will achieve the priority goals of the DNR to the implementation of the progressive strategic initiatives, the DNR is committed to acting on behalf of residents for the benefit of Michigan's public lands, natural resources and communities. The conservation of the state's unparalleled natural resources, the diverse array of recreation opportunities, and the responsibility to sustainably manage Michigan's natural resources depend on the foundation that DNR-managed public lands provide.

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