Environment
9:00 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Just how much land should the state of Michigan own?

Of all the land in Michigan, the state owns a little less than 7 and a half percent.  That’s about four and a half million acres. And, some people think that’s too much. Some people think it’s not enough. Regardless, every few years, there’s a new call to take a look at how much land is owned by the state, and how it’s being used.

Governor Snyder signed a law recently that limits how much land the state can acquire while the state Department of Natural Resources conducts a study of what the state has and how it’s used.

“The state itself owns millions of acres of land, let alone cooperating with the private sector and there’s no cohesive strategy on how we manage our resources for both terrestrial things like – land-based things, but also aquatic. So one of the things I’d like to see in the special message is setting the framework of how we’re going to evolve over the next few years to have comprehensive strategy for how we’re going to manage land and aquatic resources in the state of Michigan," the Governor said recently.

The state’s been acquiring this property for more than 150 years. The state got a lot of this land in the 1880s and 90s as loggers turned to farming clear-cut acres –failed, and failed to pay their taxes. The state acquired more land from unpaid taxes during the Great Depression.

A lot of it now is state parks, forests and recreation areas. The state manages this land with a few purposes in mind like recreation and habitat preservation. And, some of the land is used for extracting natural resources like timber, gas drilling, and mining.

The state also bought a lot of this land from money raised by leasing drilling and mining rights.

Governor Snyder’s idea is, maybe, the state can strategically sell and acquire property to do things like create a Lake Huron to Lake Michigan trail system for bikers and hikers. They’d stop and camp or use hotels and restaurants along the way.

But those decisions have implications – especially to the real estate market.  And to local governments that might or might not derive some tax benefits based on what happens.

We can expect to hear more from Governor Snyder about how the state plans to manage the land it owns when he delivers a special message on the environment this fall.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the state of Michigan owns 20 percent of the land in Michigan. It is actually 7.4 percent. This story has been updated. We apologize for the error.