Proposal 1 on the 2020 Michigan ballot will allow voters to choose how revenues will be spent by the state that derive from the sale of mineral, oil and gas leases on state lands and the royalties paid for their subsequent development. Currently, the Natural Resources Trust Fund and the State Parks Endowment Fund receive these revenues and commit funding to the management of natural resources and state parks. These funds are capped at $500 million and $800 million, respectively, however.
After reaching those caps — which may not happen for decades — these revenues from state leases and royalties would go into the state’s general fund to be allocated by the Legislature on any priority of its choosing. Proposal 1 would change that and constitutionally require that these revenues be dedicated to building up these endowment funds and thereby bind their use to conservation and outdoor recreational purposes.
Specifically, Proposal 1 would remove the $500 million cap on the NRTF and require all future revenues to be dedicated to this fund in perpetuity after the SPEF also reaches its $800 million cap. It would also require a minimum portion of spending through these funds to go towards maintenance and renovation of state park facilities.
Revenue from leases and royalties are generated by lands owned by the public and voters may want to bind them to purposes that benefit the public. If voters want revenues and royalties from mineral, oil, and natural gas leasing and development restricted to these purposes, to continue building the balances of trust funds dedicated to these purposes, and want the state to spend more on developing what it already owns, they should vote “yes.”
In addition to these points, a portion of the groups that have publicly committed to a “yes” vote include The Nature Conservancy – Michigan, Ducks Unlimited, Environment Michigan, Michigan Forest Products Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wild Turkey Foundation and DTE Energy. The primary arguments these organizations use in support of Proposal 1 focus on increasing flexibility in funding of land conservation, increased public access to natural areas and a long-term commitment on the part of the state to reinvest resource-based revenues to resource-focused management.
If voters want the Legislature to eventually have control of mineral, oil and gas lease and royalty revenues or think the purposes of these funds will be served within the current limits on these funds, they should vote “no.”
In addition to these points, organizations and groups that have publicly committed to a “no” vote include the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, the Green Party of Michigan, the North Oakland Democratic Club and the Michigan Land Conservancy. The general theme of their arguments against Proposal 1 centers on a desire to cease the state’s reliance on fossil fuel and mining revenues, especially for the management of natural areas, and that these funds ought to spend more on land acquisition.
 “Michigan Proposal 1, Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment” (Ballotpedia, 2020), https://perma.cc/M5UW-QAX4.