A reorganization of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Management Division will move authority of state forest campgrounds and trails to the Parks and Recreation Division, but what the change will mean for users remains unclear, the Grand Rapids Press reported.
The shakeup will split the Forest Management Division into the newly created Forest Resources Division and an Office of Land Management, which will oversee oil, gas and mineral responsibilities, as well as real estate work currently in the Finance and Operations Division, said DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff.
The changeover, slated for Jan. 8, is designed for more efficient management of the state’s resources and to allow state foresters to focus on the timber industry.
“The (DNR) director felt like the (Forest Management) Division was too big,” Dettloff said. “We feel like (forest recreation programs) would be better in the Parks and Recreation Division, where they can manage the parks and trails with the state park system.”
DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson said he is unsure how the shift will impact the management of rustic forest campgrounds and trails, which include pathways for snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, horses, mountain bikes and hikers.
He said it is too early to determine how putting state forest and park facilities
under one division might impact funding, as they currently receive revenue from different sources.
“That is still unclear, how that is going to work,” he said. “We’re just sorting things out.
“The belief is that this change will make things more efficient. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day, that efficiency.”
Industry Comments Vary
Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, said forestry officials play a key role in managing the state’s vast trail network, helping to route trails and oversee grooming. The MSA will focus on how those relationships — between its 69 volunteer clubs and state officials — transfer to the Parks and Recreation Division, he said.
Manson said that while the MSA remains open-minded about the change, there are a few questions it is concerned with, including: “Is Parks now going to be overseeing and working with our 69 partners? How are they going to be doing that with limited personnel?” Manson asked.
“This is the third time in the last 20 years that the department has reorganized and put the snowmobile trails in the Parks and Recreation department. We’re not upset about it, we’re just watching to see how the (DNR) director handles it.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs believes “on paper, the change makes sense,” said Amy Trotter, MUCC’s resource policy manager. Moving the state forest trails and campsites to the Parks and Recreation
Division could tie those facilities in with marketing efforts, the reservation system, and funding used for state parks, she said.
“Where I’m cautiously optimistic is in how the working relationship between the forestry division and the wildlife division will go,” Trotter said.
MUCC will want to ensure state forest officials continue to manage timber harvest to promote increased quality habitat for the state’s game species and to allow for effective ways the public can engage in forestry decisions.