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Trout Unlimited latest to oppose Camp Grayling expansion

Sign warns residents and visitors of ongoing training exercises during Northern Strike on Aug. 12.
Michael Livingston
Sign warns residents and visitors of ongoing "Northern Strike" training exercises on Aug. 12. (Photo: Michael Livingston/IPR)

An influential conservation group is the latest to voice its opposition to an expansion of Camp Grayling, the National Guard training facility in north central Michigan.

Michigan Trout Unlimited said in a statement there isn’t enough written information regarding the scope and impact of the project to green-light the 160,000-acre expansion.

“Given the enormity of the lands proposed, and the myriad pathways for this proposal to impact natural resources, cold-water fish, recreational angling, and these watersheds, Michigan Trout Unlimited has a significant number of potential concerns or objections,” the statement read.

The group represents 19 local chapters and over 8,000 individual members. Read the full statement on the organization's website.

The Michigan National Guard announced in May that it wants to lease additional land from the Department of Natural Resources to use for additional training exercises.

The proposal continues to be met with harsh criticism from both nearby residents and other conservation groups. Organizations including the Sierra Club, Anglers of the Au Sable and Michigan United Conservation Club have also publicly opposed the expansion.

“I hope this is a message of seriousness,” Michigan Trout Unlimited Executive Director Bryan Burroughs said. “I hope it sends a message that if they do proceed … they’ll have a lot of folks with a lot of concerns.”

Local municipalities like the Kalkaska County Board of Commissioners and individual township boards have also passed resolutions opposing the expansion.

The National Guard has previously said the additional land would be used to expand cyber warfare exercises — one of many efforts to help Camp Grayling live up to its title as the "National All-Domain Warfighting Center."

Burroughs said if the guard had been more transparent about its intentions, there may have been more support from his organization. He said, ultimately, the decision to oppose the expansion will help protect the cold-water fish and their ecosystem.

“We ultimately found there was too much very critical information not addressed in the proposal,” Burroughs said. “Whenever you ask the public and the state for land, you really have to justify why you need it and present some alternatives, we didn’t really see that.”

The final decision to approve the lease falls on Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources. It's expected before the end of the year.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.