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Conservation groups voice opposition to proposed Camp Grayling expansion

Grayling Army Airfield
Public Domain
Grayling Army Airfield

Camp Grayling is already the largest National Guard training base in the country, but the Michigan National Guard wants to double the base’s size by leasing 250 square miles of public land. The Guard said expansion would allow for more military training on land, in the air, water, and cyberspace.

Conservation groups and local residents voiced their opposition to the expansion Dec. 8, citing potential environmental and economic impacts.

Jim Knight is a trustee with Bear Lake Township in Kalkaska County. He said his township doesn’t oppose the military, but the Guard has not proven to be a good neighbor.

“Public land is for the citizens of our state. There are tens of thousands who come to these areas to recreate..." Knight said. "Now Camp Grayling says they need more. Northern Michigan has given more than any other state to the military in the country. So why would we trust the Guard leadership? Have they proven to be good stewards?”

Amy Trotter is the executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. She says Michigan relies on outdoor recreation to support its economy, and the expansion could threaten recreational opportunities.

“There are so many details that are still unknown to the public [about the expansion], and it's important that those are brought to light as well before any decision to proceed is made," Trotter said. "Our public lands and our wildlife deserve proper care and management, not the militarization of these assets.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is expected to make a decision on the lease sometime next year. Trotter said the new MDNR director will likely not impact decision-making.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.