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Tensions over Camp Grayling land expansion continue

Courtesy of the Michigan National Guard

Local officials in northern Michigan say the state's denial of a 162,000 acre expansion of Camp Grayling in April wasn’t really a victory for those who opposed it.

The state and Michigan National Guard agreed on separate land-use contract, or Memorandum of Understanding, days before the expansion was denied.

The contract allows the National Guard to receive permits for up to 52,000 acres of land for cyber and electronic warfare training.

Jim Knight is a Bear Lake Township Trustee in Kalkaska County. He says the contract is too vague and it’s unclear who would be held liable if something goes wrong on public land.

"We're just not comfortable with Camp Grayling’s environmental record," said Knight. "And the fact that the state would give them more land and not held them more accountable."

In an email to WCMU, a spokesperson for the Michigan National Guard says they’re still working through exactly how the training can be accomplished and don’t have any plans to present to the public this summer.

"The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the DNR defines, for five years, the broad conditions under which land use permits could be issued," said Ed Golder of the Michigan DNR. "Individual land use permits could be more restrictive than the conditions defined in the MOU."

Knight added that he fears the National Guard's presence will scare away tourists who are recreating, one the biggest draws to Kalkaska county.

"We fear that they will not come back because they really don't know why they're there. It's just all of a sudden they made a wrong turn, and they will go somewhere else," said Knight.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, we note the Michigan DNR is a financial supporter of this station.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.