DNR trust fund grants delayed due to legislative disagreement

Call representatives to complain

by BETH ALTENA

John Short, Plainfield Township Parks and Recreation Department director, was one of many individuals involved in parks and recreation in Michigan receiving an e-mail from the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) alerting him to a new development in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant approval processed dished up by our leaders in Lansing.

The e-mail calls for immediate action regarding legislative behavior in the timely approval of House Bill (HB) 5364, which is the legislation to authorize appropriations for the current round of grants recommended by the Trust Fund Board several months ago.

The MRPA e-mail states, “The House passed HB 5364 and it was then sent to the Senate. The Senate approved HB 5364 but amended the original bill by removing the DNR’s four eco-regional land consolidation projects that were recommended for appropriation by the Trust Fund Board. Because the original HB 5364 was amended by the Senate, it must now return to the House floor for approval.”

According to the Michigan DNR, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been in place since 1976. It provides financial assistance to local governments and the DNR to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

The MNRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of state-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas. For eligibility, MNRTF and Land and Water Conservation Fund grants require approved five-year recreation plans.

According to the MRPA, “The legislature has never removed a recommended project in the 35-year history of the program and it is a very dangerous precedent. If the House passes the Senate-amended version of HB 5364, we can expect the legislature to add and subtract projects in the future that have not been subject to the MNRTF review process. This is a big deal because it compromises the grant approval process and the integrity of the Trust Fund Grant program.”

“Action is needed: Please call your state representative and ask them to vote No on the Senate-amended version of HB 5364 and to retain the bill as originally approved.” The current state representative for this area is Peter MacGregor, whose number in Lansing is (517) 373-0218.

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