MIDLAND—The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking to prevent any development on some 390,000 acres of prime Upper Peninsula property, according to a report by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

DNR officials are seeking $20 million with which to purchase a “forest conservation easement” that would prohibit any development on the broad expanse of property that spans ten UP counties.

A Hawaiian education trust currently owns the coveted tracts, but plans to liquidate its Michigan holdings sometime this fall, said Diane Katz, director of science, environment, and technology policy for the Mackinac Center and author of the report.

While there’s no evidence that DNR officials are acting with nefarious purpose, Katz said, “the citizens of Michigan and the environment fare better with more, not less, property under private control.”

“The state already has more land than it can adequately care for, and no good reason to relentlessly acquire more,” said Katz.

The “easement” purchase would not confer outright ownership of the property to the state. The land itself would have to be sold to another buyer willing to cede land management to the DNR. Agency officials acknowledge having held talks with The Nature Conservancy as a potential partner.

The DNR already controls 4.5 million acres of Michigan land, or 12 percent of all land statewide. More than 20 percent of all Michigan property is held by federal, state and local units of government.

“The DNR’s latest land grab proposal exemplifies the bungling expansion of the Public Trust Doctrine,” said Katz. This doctrine has mutated into a ready excuse to subsume private property under government control.”

Katz’s report, “Land Grab: State Wrong on Development Rights,” is posted at http://www.mackinac.org/4578. The article is scheduled for publication in the October Michigan Privatization Report.

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