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Senate passes bill that politicizes Natural Resources Trust Fund

May 24, 2017
Legislation passed Wednesday by the state Senate would change longstanding practices for managing the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund that have proven effective at keeping the fund's allocations nonpartisan and above the political fray over its four-decade history of purchasing and developing high-value outdoor recreation sites across the state, the Michigan Environmental Council said.

Among several worrisome provisions, Senate Bill 280 would force Michigan residents to pay more for recreation projects by requiring the Department of Natural Resources to apply and be rejected for MNRTF funding before it could use other available funding sources for outdoor recreation projects, such as federal dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund or the Forest Legacy Fund.

It would also authorize the DNR to use MNRTF funds to re-purchase lands already acquired with federal dollars for public use, in an effort to open those lands to off-road vehicles and other uses that would be incompatible with current recreational uses and damaging to ecological resources.

"Wasting trust fund dollars on land already in public hands would be fiscally irresponsible and contrary to the fund's purpose, which is to expand and improve opportunities for Michigan residents to enjoy the outdoors," said Chris Kolb, MEC president. "It's one many provisions in this bill that just don't make much sense and raise a fundamental question: Why are lawmakers messing with a system that has worked remarkably well for more than 40 years?"

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