The U.S. Forest Service estimated that in 2017 Michigan had over 20.3 million acres of forested lands — more than 56% of the state’s 36.2 million total land acres. The state of Michigan owns and manages about 4.6 million acres, which is 12% of Michigan’s total land mass and includes about 21% of the state’s forested lands. The state has added more than 64,000 acres to its holdings over the past two decades.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing 103 state parks and recreation areas and 140 state forest campgrounds, as well as about 306,000 acres of recreational land. In addition to funding from the NRTF and SPEF, state parks, conservation efforts and recreational activities are funded by revenues from entrance fees, hunting and fishing licenses, annual taxes on snowmobiles and boats, taxes on fuel, and user fees, such as charging people for camping, and any other funding the legislature makes available for these purposes.
Currently, the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Department reports approximately $278 million in required spending for “primary infrastructure needs.” This appears to indicate a decreasing level of infrastructure repair needs, given the department reported a $300 million spending need in 2004.
Despite this apparent ability of the DNR to keep up with the repair and maintenance of this infrastructure in recent years, it is still important to recognize that unforeseen events could impact the department’s ability to maintain this level of support in the future. While the Legislature could direct general fund spending to this purpose, the NRTF may be a more suitable means to meet these needs over the long term.
As part of the DNR’s FY 2021 Capital Outlay Five-Year Plan, the Parks and Recreation Department describes a plan to both “explore the use of partnerships and alternate funding sources, including State General Fund” and to “focus on the sustainable contraction of park infrastructure” to develop a state park system that is “viable and self-sufficient.” It describes an investment strategy that allows for reduction of infrastructure in some locations and the redevelopment and expansion of other locations. Expansions or reductions of specific facilities would be based on demand levels and the ability of existing and new revenue streams to fund those activities.
So, state administrators, responsible for maintaining Michigan’s state parks and recreational areas, appear to have ideas and plans to spend additional revenue if Proposal 1 is approved and leads to more money being made available for these purposes.
Proposal 1 would also make more money available to take care of the state’s existing assets. As mentioned, it requires the SPEF to spend a minimum of 20% on development and improvement of the parks. Currently, there is no minimum requirement. Proposal 1 would require the NRTF to spend more on development too, and some of this could be used for local parks, where needs are harder to assess but likely widespread and ongoing. This fund, currently restricted to not devoting more than 25% to development spending, under Proposal 1’s changes, would instead be required to spend at least 25% on development. This may mean proportionally less money from growing trust and endowment funds go to other allowable uses, though the NRTF would retain its requirement to spend at least 25% on acquisition of more land and rights in land.
 “Forests of Michigan, 2017” (U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2018), https://perma.cc/MHP5-2AKP; “United States Summary: 2010” (U.S. Census Bureau, Sept. 2012), 405, https://perma.cc/S55D-TULZ.
 “Forests of Michigan, 2017” (U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2018), https://perma.cc/MHP5-2AKP; “State of Michigan: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (State of Michigan, March 6, 2020), 314, https://perma.cc/7X73-J4JS; Diane S. Katz, “Michigan’s Primary Land-Use Plan Is a Failure” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Sept. 2, 2003), https://perma.cc/L2CB-NMRN.
 “State of Michigan: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (State of Michigan, March 6, 2020), 250, https://perma. cc/7X73-J4JS.
 “Park System” (Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2020), https://perma.cc/G8V3-7ZR2.
 “Michigan Public Act 166 of 2020” (State of Michigan, Sept. 30, 2020), 252, https://perma.cc/KE99-8NHW.
 “FY 2021 Capital Outlay Five-Year Plan” (Michigan Department of Natural Resources), 27–28, https://perma.cc/ PEZ8-BN78.
 “Starting March 1, Residents Will Pay $12 for Recreation Passport; First Increase in Seven Years” (Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Jan. 15, 2020), https://perma.cc/M64B-HZZV.