LOCAL VOICE: 35th birthday of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

By Erin McDonough, Executive Director

Michigan United Conservation Clubs

Ever heard of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund?

Chances are you probably haven't. But chances are very good that you've benefited directly from it.

The premise behind the MNRTF is simple: Companies that benefit by extracting oil and gas from Michigan's public lands should pay a royalty to those who actually own those resources -- which are you and I, the citizens of the state of Michigan.

The MNRTF was established in 1976 and established a land trust fund that's subsidized by royalties from oil and gas leases on Michigan's public lands.

The creation of the trust fund was one of the nation's most innovative and ground-breaking pieces of legislation; a partnership between industry and conservation. Since being established, the MNRTF has provided more than $800 million in funding for approved projects and purchases.

What is it that MNRTF money can be spent on? Well, the Fund has a set of guidelines. The six program goals are to: protect natural resources; provide public access to Michigan's waterways; improve outdoor recreation in urban areas; stimulate Michigan's economy through recreational-related tourism; meet community needs for outdoor recreation, and; invest funds in projects that will yield the best long-term public recreation return.

How has the MNRTF benefitted your community? Well, the Detroit region has benefited greatly from the Trust Fund, with major investments seen throughout Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, St. Clair, and Monroe counties. Combined, the counties have received over $180 million, in over 300 MNRTF grants. Oakland County ranks 1st in number of grants received state-wide and 2nd in grant dollars awarded; while Wayne county ranks 2nd in grants and 1st in dollars. The diverse and popular Milliken State Park in Detroit was acquired and developed through two Trust Fund grants totaling $20,450,000. Bald Mountain Park in Lake Orion was made possible by $5,00,000 in MNRTF grants.

The MNRTF makes Michigan's outdoors a better place and it's not just important to Michigan's hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts; it's important for all Michiganders.

As you can imagine, in these economic times, the MNRTF is often a target of legislation designed to open up the fund for expanded uses. As more and more of these issues come to light, it's important to understand the history and intended purpose for which the MNRTF was created. It wasn't meant to fund road repairs, pay for pet projects or fill gaps in a budget.

The MNRTF is a fund created by the use of non-renewable resources from Michigan's great outdoors. And the royalties paid on those activities should be put back into improving Michigan's great outdoors for future generations. Without it, both large (such as the purchase of a nearly 6,500 acre addition to the Pigeon River Country State Forest and the creation of Verona State Game Area) and small projects (such as small town parks, rail trails, boat launches, fishing platforms, and play-scapes) would not be available to Michigan residents today.

Your community may have the opportunity to take advantage of this funding. To learn more visit www.michigan.gov/MNRTF.

Published: Thu, Feb 16, 2012

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