Learn more about DNR public land review in 10 Michigan counties at virtual meetings Tuesday, Wednesday

Contact: Scott Whitcomb, 231-373-3007 or Kerry Wieber, 517-643-1256
Agency: Natural Resources

March 8, 2021

Residents interested in proposed actions in those areas invited to offer feedback by March 19

Alpena, Berrien, Branch, Cass, Charlevoix, Chippewa, Dickinson, Leelanau, Gogebic and St. Joseph. If you spend time hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, birding or otherwise enjoying the outdoors on public lands in these counties, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants your attention.

The DNR has completed review of this first group of counties as part of the department’s multiyear state land review process and is determining which parcels best meet its goal of delivering broad public access to quality outdoor recreation opportunities, while also protecting the natural and cultural resources on those lands.

“We set out to carefully evaluate the more than 15,500 acres that are prescribed for review in these 10 counties, and then either retain them as important to the DNR mission, protect them through conservation partners, use them to trade to consolidate state ownership, or make them available for sale to the public through auction,” said Scott Whitcomb, DNR senior adviser for wildlife and public lands.

“It’s a long-term, detailed process that helps ensure the DNR is focused on the lands with the greatest conservation, recreation and resource management potential on behalf of the residents of Michigan,” Whitcomb said. “Now that the review is complete for this first group of counties, the next important step is to hear from the public – the people who know these local areas and use them in a variety of ways – about their ideas on the initial recommendations.”

The classification label for each parcel may be based, in part, on the natural or cultural resources present on the land; how the land is used, accessed or managed; and whether the land contributes to the DNR’s mission. The DNR’s initial recommended classifications break down as follows: retain (73.7%), offer to alternate conservation partner (6.8%), exchange (1.1%) or dispose (18.4%).

Use the interactive map to see DNR recommendations and submit your comments.

Virtual public meetings March 9, 10

The DNR is offering two virtual public meetings: Tuesday, March 9, and Wednesday, March 10. Participate in either meeting by following the given Microsoft Teams link. You don’t have to have Microsoft Teams on your computer or smart device to join, but please note that each link is specific to its meeting date and time, and the links will not be live or accessible until each meeting is “opened” by the moderator. Anyone without access to a computer may call in using the phone number provided.

For those unable to participate, the public meetings will be recorded and made available on the DNR's State Land Review webpage (linked at Michigan.gov/PublicLands), along with additional updates that will be posted throughout the process. For special accommodations requests, contact Kerry Wieber at 517-643-1256.

More opportunities for public feedback

Aside from at public meetings and through the interactive map, feedback on these initial recommendations for this first group of counties can be submitted via email through March 19 at DNR-StateLandReview@Michigan.gov.

All comments received will be taken into consideration as DNR staff develops final recommendations for the DNR director’s consideration and decision, which will occur at a public meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

DNR land managers already are at work on the initial phases of review for the second group of 10 counties. Those recommendations are expected to be available for public review early this summer.

About the state land review process

With nearly 4.6 million acres of public lands to take care of, the DNR makes many decisions about how best to manage the state parks, trails, game and wildlife areas, forests and developed facilities (like boat launches and fish hatcheries) that belong to the people of Michigan.

In 2013, the DNR developed a public land strategy aimed at guiding public land ownership and maximizing benefits to residents and the state’s natural resources. That strategy called for DNR land managers – using an approach that cuts across different land uses and multiple management levels and perspectives – to review approximately 240,000 acres of public land statewide to determine their contribution to meeting the DNR’s mission. That 240,000 acres includes parcels that are 1.) 200 acres or smaller in size, or 2.) difficult to manage due to irregular shape resulting in a significant shared private-public boundary. The strategy calling for this review was approved in September 2018, and work began in early 2020 to determine next steps. The formal review of the first group of counties began last fall.

DNR land managers decided on a county-by-county approach, with all counties placed into one of eight groups for review. The DNR team will review the groups one at a time in order to work through the evaluation, public review and final recommendation process for each group. A single group review will take about five to six months to complete, and the DNR expects to get through all 83 counties by the end of 2023.

Watch the DNR's State Land Review webpage for news and progress updates.