Wondering what you can do? Email DNR Director Dan Eichinger at
DNR-Camp-Grayling@Michigan.gov and share your opinion!
Public Land Belongs to The Citizens of Michigan
An Opinion from the AuSable River Property Owners Association:
Talking Points—The Proposed Expansion
Camp Grayling in Northern Michigan is the largest National Guard training center (148,000 acres) in America. Which at 231.25 square miles is the size of Chicago or 111,804 football fields. It spans Crawford, Kalkaska, and Otsego Counties.
The National Guard is requesting an additional 162,000 acres of public land bringing the size of Camp Grayling to over 484 square miles or 150,040,000 football fields or 1.2% of the lower peninsula. Camp Grayling’s Commander, Col. Scott Meyers, and Department of Natural Resources’ spokesperson, Tom Barnes, have been engaged to convince residents that Camp Grayling is suddenly undersized for the electromagnetic warfare training that it has been engaged in for years. Col. Meyers has acknowledged the request size was a number arrived at arbitrarily.
Col. Meyers has yet to justify the need for the extra acreage. One of the suggested plans is for its use in Electronic Warfare Training., which is already being done on the current acreage and being done at other National Guard Training centers that are much smaller in size. Col. Meyers has stated that large portions of the current Camp acreage are not used by the military. In addition, he portrays that the land requested for expansion is “vacant.” That is patently false and here is why. All of the land under question is used by hunters, trappers, fishermen, ATVers, snowmobilers, Nordic skiers, hikers, snowshoers, rockhounds, plant/fungi collectors, photographers, stargazers, backpackers, equestrians, canoers/kayakers and those that seek a quiet respite. These uses may be seasonal or periodic, but they in no way suggest that this area is vacant or abandoned. Even when not present in this area, people traffic in this landscape and waterscape with their minds. This is what personifies Pure Michigan, not a military operation. It is important to note here that users of this area see themselves as stewards of the plant and animal resources. And, defining an area as abandoned and vacant is exactly how colonizers have, historically, justified expansion. Thus, this request for an expansion is in reality a “want” and not a “need.”
The question is why does Camp Grayling need to double its size if Electronic Warfare Training can be done on the current land? The answer appears to be that the proposed public land expansion area would be subleased to private industry as a testing area for electromagnetic warfare or anything else the military might be interested in (DBusiness Magazine May-June 2022 edition). This subleasing effort is being led by Adj. Gen. Paul Rogers, Governor Whitmer’s appointee. The plan is to turn the public land surrounding Grayling, MI, and the restricted airspace above it into a massive, nationally recognized area to test and develop new products, weapons, and technologies. In fact, in October 2022, Camp Grayling had an industry symposium with over 80 businesses and people attending, many dealing with cyber/software companies/electromagnetic warfare. They say there will be an economic benefit, but how if they are only charging dollars to be able to do this?
Concern 1: Lack of Trust and Transparency
In the early 1900’s, Rasmus Hanson granted land for the establishment of Camp Grayling to train Michigan’s National Guard. However, Camp Grayling no longer trains just the Michigan National Guard, now Guard and Reserve units from states across the U.S. and globally, which was not the original intent. This change in the role of Camp Grayling by the Military is an example leading to distrust of the word of the Military as well as the Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). In fact, the scope of activities at Camp Grayling will be significantly increased according to the State of Michigan’s Strategic Plan for the State for Fiscal Years 2023-2027. Camp Grayling will play a major role in the Michigan National All Domain Warfighting Center and in part will engage and host strategic, operational, and tactical testing and demonstration of new equipment, capabilities, and doctrine and the Kelly Johnson All Domain Innovation Center (KJADIC) that will market and engage DoD, industry, and academia to synchronize and maximize joint innovative initiatives. The Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center was established to create a partnership between the Michigan National Guard, industry, DoD research agencies, and academia. Northern Strike will be expanded and include the addition of the Taiwan Armed Forces. Undoubtedly, the well-being of homeowners will most likely be profoundly impacted.
There have been road closures by the military. For example, County Road 612 was recently closed for military firing. County Road 612 is the main road from Grayling to Lovells and Lewiston. Such closures are not appropriate. When asked about future closures in the expansion areas at a public forum Col. Meyers said there would be no closures. Then in the same meeting he said yes there would be closures during training. Then in the next public forum he said no there will not be. Which is correct? This is another example leading to the distrust by citizens of the words of the Military.
New artillery firing points are another issue of distrust. In the original proposed map, at least 5 new artillery firing points were included, one was very close to Lovells. These were for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The justification was that because these systems can fire longer ranges, more space was needed. At the Graying meeting, comments on these firing points were asked of Col. Meyers. The answer was unclear. There were some statements that these were a mistake. At the next meeting that occurred only two weeks later,
the firing points were removed because it was stated that the technology of the artillery systems had advanced. Col. Meyers said that the technology has longer range guns and needs firing stations at 70-90 km rather than Lovells for example which would be 35km out. Which is the correct interpretation? Many of the public believe that they were removed to get the expansion passed and then they will reappear, i.e., they are not permanently gone. This concern is supported by information in the State of Michigan; Strategic Plan for the State for Fiscal Years 2023-2027, which states that by 2024, Camp Grayling becomes a preferred training location for armor and field artillery.
Concern 2: Impacts to the Welfare of the Watersheds.
The proposed expansion will occupy significant portions of the headwaters of the AuSable, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers systems which are the cradles of these Pure Michigan resources. These watershed systems are considered fragile, and it is this fragility that makes these wonderful cultural, recreational, and economic resources for Michigan citizens and beyond. As such they are world class fisheries. In fact, in a promotional Pure Michigan commercial, there is a fly fisherman on a river that looks to be the AuSable.
The fragility of the systems is powerfully demonstrated by the sudden collapse of the trout population in the Au Sable North Branch. The physical, chemical or biological reasons for the collapse are unclear, but one hypothesis considers the collapse to be related to an intense storm that occurred in a time frame not typical for such storms (Long, 2022). Climate change may be the underpinning for this and needs to be considered in maintaining the health of the watersheds.
In terms of pollution, the Military activities have already impacted the watershed. The occurrence of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in rivers, groundwater and lakes is just one example. In many cases these resources are currently unusable. In a 2018 study, the U.S. Geological Survey measured a variety of organic chemicals in the North Branch of the Au Sable to better understand the potential role of pollution on the decline in fish (Brennan and Alvarez, 2020). Twenty-eight chemicals were identified in the river (Long, 2022). Concentrations, not considering synergist effects, were not at threshold levels. But that could be due to the timing of sampling which occurred on the falling limb of the hydrograph after a major storm that caused dilution. Sources for these chemicals are consistent with being from golf courses, homeowners, combustion, automobiles, military, and global sources, however, the importance of a particular source is not clear (Long, 2022).
In addition to the measurements for pollution, there are also concerns about measurements not being made. Thus, full knowledge of the pollution impact of military activities on the river systems is not known. For example, there is a question often posed about possible pollution of groundwater at the impact sites and the potential for a contaminant plume and its future impact on the system. Negative impacts (pollution, habitat disruption and other landscape disturbance) can happen from activities anywhere in the watershed. To show the public that the military wants to be a good steward of the rivers, they have proposed no activities within 1,500 feet of a river. However, this distance has no scientific justification and is an arbitrary number. The lack of measurements and understanding means the environmental legacy of military activities at Camp Grayling is unknown.
The above demonstrates the need to better understand the watershed systems (i.e., the physical, chemical, and biological processes and their interactions) and threats (e.g., some noted in the letter) to the system. It is the watershed system that protects the ribbons of water running through it. The proposed expanded activity can be seen as a threat to the system. Once natural systems are disturbed, they may be disturbed for a long time and most likely will not return to pre-disturbance states (Long, et al., 2010).
For residents and other users of the targeted area, many trails and lake access are already closed during training, some permanently. The level of activities by Camp Grayling have increased to an intensity that when training is in session, homeowners hear the firing of artillery, low flying jets, explosions and machine gun fire. The explosions rattle houses causing objects for all off shelves and drywall nails to pop out.
To summarize, negative impacts of the proposed expansion are to the environment (e.g., pollution, landscape disturbance), ecosystem (e.g., fisheries), recreation (e.g., no fish, trail closures), enjoyment (e.g., noise, visual pollution, all the preceding), economic (e.g., decrease in recreation tourism and effects on restaurants, recreational business, decreased property values, infrastructure degradation (e.g., Duby, 2022).
Concern 3: Viewpoint of Col. Meyers
Because Col. Meyers has been unsuccessful in convincing residents of the need for additional public land, he questions the patriotism and support of the communities, and by extension the entire state, for not rolling over and giving the additional public land to Camp Grayling. If sacrificing public land to the National Guard is the bar measuring patriotism, then Meyers must be reminded that no other state has sacrificed more of its public land in support of the National Guard than Michigan. No county has sacrificed as much public land as Crawford County, home to the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river systems. The communities, county, state have demonstrated patriotism and support to Camp Grayling for over 100 years.
There is also the question of the nature and role of Col. Meyers involvement in the expansion. Col Meyers’ longtime friend, Steve Jacobs, founded Velocity Management Solutions, LLC (VMS). VMS positions itself as the established entry point into the National All Domain Warfighting Center, Camp Grayling Michigan. Col Meyers worked directly with Mr. Jacobs to develop a business in which non-governmental agencies and non-federal entities can access the facilities, training areas, and ranges located at Camp Grayling. This has the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
Public land in Michigan belongs to its citizens, not to the DNR to give away to the National Guard and certainly not to the National Guard to sublease to private industry for testing and weapons development. Military operations of any kind that will in any way detract from citizen’s enjoyment of our public land must not be allowed on additional public land. And consider that the proposed expansion is a threat to the Au Sable, Manistee River, Muskegon ecosystems, which are world class destinations for fishing and four-season recreation opportunities and to the well-being of its homeowners in terms of their enjoyment and protection of this area of Pure Michigan.
Brennan, A.K., and Alvarez, D.A. (2020) Evaluation of Legacy and Emerging Organic Chemicals using Passive Sampling Devices on the North Branch Au Sable River near Lovells, Michigan, June 2018. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5002.
Duby, M. (2022) Camp Grayling Expansion – Please help spread awareness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH9JSuZmuq8.
Facebook (2022) Camp Grayling expansion. https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=camp%20grayling%20expansion
Long et al. (2010) https://www.dropbox.com/s/muwssubghz29i3r/Logging.pdf?dl=0.
Long, D.T. (2022) The 2018 Organic Chemical Sampling on the North Branch of the Au Sable River: A Perspective. The 2022 Au Sable River Data Summit, Kirtland Community College, June, 25, 2022)
State of Michigan (2022) State of Michigan; Strategic Plan for the State for Fiscal Years 2023-2027. https://www.michigan.gov/budget/-/media/Project/Websites/budget/Fiscal/Executive-Budget/Current-Exec-Rec/Current-Supporting/FY23-Strategic-Plan.pdf?rev=fb9e6b34ca424c70bbc1158f87b8b0ae&hash=C399159EC54E265E2EB6C0CAB7048A38&fbclid=IwAR3EpM70E-fnn9qT77m0pbd5uG1dDA1LrEZj-7W9WQbsPXEW_PT-J5mv1Tw
THE ARPOA POSITION
The Au Sable River Property Owners Association (ARPOA) is strongly opposed to the proposed Camp Grayling lease expansion from an area of 230 square miles to that of 480 square miles. The ARPOA Board of Directors voted to take this position at a special meeting after gathering information from listening to various public hearings with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the National Guard at Camp Grayling (NGCG); learning about resolutions against the expansion by townships affected; and discussions with our members, affected property owners, and other conservation groups. The expansion is a threat to the future health and enjoyment of the Manistee, Muskegon, and Au Sable rivers and would be a significant deviation from the mission statement of the MDNR; which is the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.
The information gathered revealed various negative impacts threatening the watersheds that include economic impacts; decreased property values; reduced recreational accessibility; subleasing of the lands for private business testing, a practice mostly unknown to the public; impact on infrastructure; habitat disruption; pollution (both current like PFAS, from the increasing training, and those that have yet to be discovered); and impacts of Electronic Warfare on the ecosystem and public communications.
In sum, ARPOA strongly opposes the expansion, a position not taken lightly as we support a fully ready military. But the proposed expansion request by the NGCG is egregious, posing a significant threat to the headwaters and land surrounding the Au Sable, Manistee, Muskegon Rivers and is unjustified. Our opposition is directly in line with the mission of ARPOA to preserve, protect and enhance the Au Sable River watershed’s great natural endowments of wilderness scenery, unpolluted cold-water, and stable forest habitat for the enjoyment of future generations. It is also in line with the positions taken by our companion associations such as the Anglers of the Au Sable, North Branch Area Foundation, and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs as well as the resolutions from the various townships.
We have sent letters of our position to Mr. Daniel Eichinger (Director, MDNR) with cc’s to Governor Gretchen Whitmer; Mr. Thomas Barnes, MDNR Unit Manager, Grayling; U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters; U.S. Representatives Elissa Slotkin, Jack Bergman, and John Moolenaar; State Representatives Daire Rendon, State Senators Curt VanderWall and Curtis Hertel, and Col. Scott Meyers (Commander Camp Grayling).
Click HERE for Position Resources
PUBLIC LANDS BELONG TO
THE CITIZENS OF MICHIGAN
The Record Eagle, October 21, 2022
An Opinion from Dolph Greenberg, President, AuSable River Property Owners Association
Camp Grayling in Northern Michigan is the largest National Guard training center (148,000 acres) in America. At public forums hosted primarily by concerned local communities, Camp Grayling’s Commander, Col. Scott Meyers, and Department of Natural Resources’ spokesperson, Tom Barnes, have been engaged to convince residents Camp Grayling is suddenly undersized for the electromagnetic warfare training that it has been engaged in for years. Col. Meyers is requesting an additional 162,000 acres of public forest for training, which he acknowledged, a number arrived at arbitrarily.
Since Camp Grayling is the largest training center and other Guard installations are conducting similar training on much less land, why does Camp Grayling need to double its size? When asked (CBS news, Cadillac, MI) if the proposed land expansion area would be subleased to private industry as a testing area, Col. Meyers responded, “I won’t rule it out.” DBusiness Magazine (May-June 2022 edition) reported that in 2019, Adj. Gen. Paul Rogers, a Governor Whitmer’s cabinet appointee, began working to develop a plan to turn public land that surrounds Grayling, MI, and the restricted airspace above it into a massive, nationally recognized area to test and develop new products, weapons, and technologies. Subleases would be at inexpensive rates. Col. Meyers has failed to mention this at any public forum.
Because Col. Meyers has been unsuccessful in convincing residents of the need for additional public land, he is questioning the patriotism and support of the communities, and by extension the entire state, for not rolling over and giving the additional land to Camp Grayling. If sacrificing public land to the National Guard is the bar measuring patriotism, then Meyers must be reminded that no other state has sacrificed more of its public land in support of the National Guard than Michigan. No county has sacrificed as much public land as Crawford County, home to the Manistee and Au Sable Rivers. The communities, county, and state have demonstrated patriotism for and support of Camp Grayling for over 100 years.
Public land in Michigan belongs to its citizens, not to the DNR to give away to the National Guard and certainly not to the National Guard to sublease to private industry for testing and weapons development. The proposed expansion is a threat to the Au Sable and Manistee River ecosystems, which are world-class destinations for fishing and four-season recreation. It is also a threat to river property owners’ enjoyment and their continued protection of this area of “Pure Michigan.” The potential for the land to be used in ways other than proposed is a final reason why military operations must not be allowed on additional Michigan public lands
DNR Director Dan Eichinger, a Governor Whitmer’s cabinet appointee, has the final authority to approve the request for the additional state land. Thus, the DNR must be reminded of its responsibility to manage, conserve, and protect our public land for public use and enjoyment. If you oppose the proposed expansion, please e-mail Director Eichinger (DNR-Camp-Grayling@Michigan.gov).