UPDATE: Natural Resources Trust Fund Grants Appropriated for Public Land, Recreation

As of Friday, July 1, the Michigan House Appropriations Committee has released the funding for 22 public land acquisitions and 95 recreation development projects that were approved by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in December. This includes $1.7 million for Lake Huron Coastal Preserve, a partner project between Huron Pines and Alabaster Township to preserve 145 acres of frontage in Iosco County.

This past December, the MNRTF Board recommended a historic $45.6 million in projects. Since then, 91 projects have been eagerly awaiting the funding to be approved by the Michigan Legislature. As staffing shortages and supply chain delays continue, the availability of these funds was more important than ever. Heart of the Lakes, its members and partners have been advocating for the passage of this funding. There was concern that SB 1028 would not be considered until after the legislature’s summer recess, but thanks to your dedication, it was approved with a vote of 101-5.

The appropriations were made with the passage Senate Bill 1028 by a vote of 101-5 and coincided with the approval of the state budget for fiscal year 2022-2023. See that bill here.

Thank you to all our supporters who helped move this forward.


Huron Pines Position Statement: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

In December of 2021, the Trust Fund Board approved a record high of 22 acquisition projects and 95 development projects. The bill was quickly approved by the Michigan Senate but has been in the House Appropriations Committee since early May.

With a limited number of sessions left before the legislature breaks for summer, Huron Pines urges the legislature to take action immediately to appropriate funding for MNRTF approved projects. A delay in passage will have far reaching negative consequences to local communities in Michigan who have followed all of the appropriate processes for project approval. Michigan communities cannot and should not have to shoulder the burden of delay — which stands to seriously derail project implementation, and which will be exacerbated by the continuously rising construction costs, supply chain delays and labor shortages currently impacting the US.

A scene from the Lake Huron Coastal Preserve property, one of the projects approved for full funding by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in December.

Therefore, Huron Pines calls on our elected leaders to work on behalf of the people and communities of Michigan and move the recommended slate of Trust Fund projects forward immediately.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has been in place since 1976. The Fund provides grants to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase land (or rights to land) for public recreation, or for protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty, and to develop public outdoor recreation facilities. Trust Fund dollars come from oil, gas and other mineral lease royalty payments, they are not generated from taxpayer or general fund dollars.

On November 6, 1984, Michigan residents voted in favor of Proposal B, which amended the State Constitution to require that oil, gas, and other mineral lease and royalty payments from state land be placed into the Trust Fund, with proceeds used to both acquire and develop public recreation lands. To implement the constitutional amendment, the Legislature passed the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Act of 1985 (P.A. 101 of 1985, Act 101).

The MNRTF is a critical and unique fund that allows land acquisition and outdoor recreation development to ensure natural resource opportunities for local communities and is intended to benefit all Michiganders. To date, every county in the state has benefitted from the Trust Fund. Huron Pines believes this successful program should be a model for other parts of the country to emulate.

In 2020, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to the fund, enabling a larger proportion of MNRTF dollars to be used for renovation and maintenance of assets like trails, fishing piers, interpretive centers, campgrounds, and more. The measure also removed the $500 million cap on the MNRTF, allowing the growth of the Trust Fund to support more projects that benefit the people of Michigan. 

The Thomas Stafford Dog Park in Alpena, a MNRTF-funded project.

Projects supported by the Trust Fund go through a rigorous review process whereby the community applying for funding works with local partners to develop a concept, receives feedback on the idea from DNR Trust Fund staff, formally applies for funding and has their project scored against other applicants from across the state. The competitive scoring is then reviewed by the independent Trust Fund Board, appointed to their respective staggered terms by the Governor at the time. In December of each year, the Trust Fund Board approves a slate of projects for funding. The appropriation for this funding is then made by the legislature, typically in March to May of each year.

In order for a project to be considered for funding, local communities have gone through public input sessions, identified projects, earmarked matching funding, and put the time and resources into the application process. Upon approval by the Board, approved projects and the communities that are leading them must wait for funding to be appropriated by the Michigan legislature. With a dedicated pot of funding that is not tied to general fund dollars and which will revert back into the MNRTF if not appropriated, there is no reason for delays in appropriations for approved projects. As a Fund dedicated to the improvement of public lands for all Michiganders, politics do not have a place in delaying funding of already approved projects.

Delays in appropriations result in rising project costs, particularly product costs, which are assumed in project budgets during the application process and require bids to lock in prices in a timely manner after project approval. Funding delays also negatively impact project construction bid schedules, cost estimates, timing of matching funds, and changes in real estate costs. In some cases, land acquisition has been achieved through a loan and the applicant (or a nonprofit partner working with them) is holding that loan for reimbursement. In these cases, delays in funding result in additional loan interest, which can be significant, into the tens of thousands of dollars, on projects with million dollar plus price tags.

— Huron Pines

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.