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DNR eyes over 9,000 acres in Pigeon River Country for public use

Pigeon River Country is home to Michigan's elk herd. It's now the site of the first-ever carbon credit project on state land.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Pigeon River Country is home to Michigan's elk herd. It's now the site of the first-ever carbon credit project on state land. (Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

The state Department of Natural Resources is looking to acquire large swaths of land in northeast Michigan this year.

Cheboygan County’s Black River Ranch and Doe Lake were listed among 53 other properties recommended for purchase by the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board at its Dec. 13 meeting.

The fund is used annually to purchase land for the state or individual towns and cities for outdoor recreation or environmental protection.

“It does great things for forest management, as well as wildlife habitat and conservation in general, when we can fill in those holes. So, that's exactly what you're seeing,” said DNR Grant Manager Jon Mayes.

The Black River Ranch, located on the southern edge of the village of Onaway, is about 8,850 acres and contains about 14 miles of Black River, East Branch Black River and Stewart Creek as well as three inland lakes.

The Doe Lake property, located northeast of Gaylord, is a sinkhole known for its wetland habitats. It’s listed as over 500 acres.

The larger area known as Pigeon River Country is also home to Michigan’s one and only elk herd, which often attracts tourists to Otsego County.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands. It’s funded through interest and earnings on funds derived from the revenues of state-owned oil, gas and minerals.

This year, the MNRTF Board was tasked with considering a total of 123 applications seeking over $51.9 million in funding. It settled on $17.5 million for acquisition grants and $9.8 million for development grants.

“No other state has a constitutionally protected acquisition fund, like the MNRTF, to purchase land in partnership with municipalities and rural communities for public recreational purposes,” said Trust Fund Board Chair Steve Hamp in a press release. “No other state has the same fund for the development and improvement of existing recreational facilities, creating and improving beaches, parks, marinas, hunting preserves, kayak launches, stretches of prime fishing rivers and lakes, trail systems and much more.”

The Forest Resource Division is also eyeing about one-hundred acres along the Betsie River in Benzie County.

The full list of recommendations is available on the DNR website.

Next, the list of recommendations will need approval from the state legislature which should happen in the spring. Upon approval, the legislature forwards a bill to the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for her signature.

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