Now that the Governor has elected to sign the Land Cap Bill (SB-248) into law today, it is not too soon to begin discussing the legislatively-mandated two-year process necessary to allow for the removal of the cap.
As most of you know by now, the version of SB-248 which has been signed into law establishes a limit on the number of acres which can be held in State of Michigan ownership and management in the northern lower and upper peninsulas.
The goal of the cap removal should be a priority for the same reasons which have been discussed in detail here and elsewhere. In addition to those reasons, it is also worthy of note that this cap was voted into law by a majority of representatives whose districts were unaffected by the cap. As has been pointed out by MUCC and others, House members who represented the majority of northern Michigan acreage and the majority of the population of this area voted in opposition to the bill.
Our purpose here is not to revisit the provisions and circumstances associated with the bill’s public policy content, but instead to encourage the timely development of the strategic planning process which will be required going forward. For this effort to be successful it will need to be developed as an ongoing effort which defines public land acquisition and disposal strategies. This should then be disseminated to and through the general public, user/stakeholder groups which include both the conservation community and local units of government, as well as legislative representatives.
Since this process will need to be driven by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this represents a significant organizational opportunity for the DNR’s new Director Keith Creagh. In order for this two-year time-line to be achieved, it will require that this initiative be made a priority which is adequately staffed and funded. Previous DNR public land acquisition and disposal strategies will need to be revisited and integrated into this broader public outreach initiative.
We will not attempt to define how this effort should be initiated, but will say that considerable emphasis should be placed on the outcomes and expectations of those legislators who will ultimately determine whether or not this process has met the threshold set forth in the legislation. It will also be incumbent on those of us who seek to see the cap removed at the end of the two-year period to both help and encourage this process.
The two-year countdown clock has already begun ticking.