State officials have rejected a Michigan National Guard proposal to add some 162,000 acres of state-held land to more than double the size of the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center — but a path to a more modest expansion of the camp was left open.
The military training center in northern lower Michigan, which is more than a century old, sought the expansion to upgrade capabilities in cyber and electronic warfare training, such as the jamming of GPS signals, or the tracking — or prevention of tracking — of troops using cellular or other electronic signals.
National Guard officials repeatedly assured that the activities would be low impact, but the proposal received widespread opposition from surrounding local governments, residents and conservation groups, concerned about noise and potential impacts to local wildlife and nearby waterways.
Why the Camp Grayling expansion was rejected
Most of the property sought for lease for the expansion by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs was ineligible because of its proximity to buffer zones around water bodies, or because the lands were purchased with funds that prohibit the activities planned by the National Guard, Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials stated Friday as they announced the rejection of the lease proposal.
The DNR simultaneously announced a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, indicating the military could apply annually for land-use permits to conduct its exercises on up to 52,000 acres of qualifying property adjacent to Camp Grayling, mostly to its north and south. Under the terms of the memorandum, recreational access on the property would remain in place at all times, and buffer zones around inland lakes and designated trout streams, where no military activity would take place, would be doubled from the 1,500 feet in the Guard’s initial proposal to 3,000 feet.
“We appreciate the many comments we received on this proposal and the commitment people have to public lands,” acting DNR Director Shannon Lott said in a statement.
“Public concerns and feedback from tribal governments, coupled with our own review of the proposal, led us to decide against a 20-year lease on such a significant portion of state-managed land.”
The annual land-use applications by the National Guard would be evaluated under the same regulations that apply to other public events and activities on state-managed land, including individual events, research projects and large gatherings, state officials said.
“While the MOU’s framework doesn’t meet the full vision of our original request, we believe it still provides distance and area required for some low-impact training that will help our service members stay safe and successful on a modern battlefield,” Camp Grayling Cmdr. Col. Scott Meyers said in a statement.
“We respect the DNR’s decision to deny our lease request while providing a way forward to help facilitate training capability for those who wear the uniform, and we appreciate the public’s engagement over the last several months, as well as the feedback we received from tribal governments.”
Anglers of Au Sable remain concerned about Guard activity
Anglers of the Au Sable, a local conservation group opposed to the Camp Grayling expansion, expressed support for the rejected lease, but concern about where things go next.
“We continue to be opposed to the expansion of Camp Grayling by any method,” Anglers President Joe Hemming said. “We support our military but have serious questions about the department’s authority to issue a permit and the need for additional property for its electromagnetic warfare training.
“The Guard needs to improve its operations and relationships with local governments before it gets access to even more state property.”
Hemming said the Guard has never explained why the 230 square miles it already controls is insufficient for the training it wishes to conduct. The anglers’ group is concerned the expanded training could disrupt the local ecology.
“The Guard has not signaled any intent to do any studies to show the impact of its use of electromagnetic signals in training on the insects, birds, mammals and fish in the affected area,” Hemming said.
With significant forest area, Grayling and the surrounding area can accommodate training scenarios notpossible in a desert or open climate in other parts of the country, Meyers said.
“For us, this is all about taking care of our service members who have made the commitment to put their lives on the line in support of our national security,” he said. “We can do that and honor Michigan’s environment.”
Source: Detroit Free Pass