Opinion | Why Michigan land conservation leaders support Proposal 1

(Shutterstock photo by Mark Baldwin)

Friends and neighbors:

The cure for today’s often alarming news cycle is a simple one – spend time outdoors.  While most of us have trails, parks or natural areas close at hand to enjoy, there are many who aren’t so fortunate and whose access is limited.

We have an opportunity to change that this November.

We’re beyond grateful to represent just a few of the more than 30 conservation and environmental organizations endorsing Proposal 1 to renew our commitment to Michigan’s conservation legacy.

For decades, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been protecting our drinking water sources, wildlife habitats and outdoor spaces by receiving oil and gas royalties and directing them towards land acquisition and public recreation projects in all 83 counties across Michigan. From Monroe to Ironwood, the MNRTF has been instrumental in protecting and providing access to the very places that make Michigan unique.

That’s where the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund makes the greatest difference.

Collectively, we have directly supported dozens of MNRTF applications through our public agency partners, resulting in thousands of acres of protected public land. Land conservation is both our job and our mission. We are voting for Proposal 1 because it furthers this mission.

Proposal 1 doubles down on our commitment to protecting our natural resources and outdoor spaces. As currently established in Michigan’s constitution, once both the State Park Endowment Fund and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund reach their funding caps, all future oil and gas revenue will go to the State’s General Fund – meaning we would lose this revenue source for good. Proposal 1 will amend the constitution to remove the funding cap on the MNRTF and ensure ALL future mineral revenue will go to the protection of and access to our natural resources. 

Proposal 1 adjusts the current funding formula but does not alter the commitment to land acquisition and protection. The current constitutional language guarantees at least 25 percent of annual expenditures be used for land acquisition – that is not changing. However, in current language only up to 25 percent of expenditures can go to public access and facilities. By adjusting the funding formula to guarantee at least 25 percent of funds go to public access & facilities, we are guaranteeing that at least half of all MNRTF dollars go directly to protecting and increasing access to our treasured outdoor spaces.

Our lives are made up of choices, and those choices are even more powerful during times of uncertainty and tumultuous change. We have the power to support the things we care about and we can positively impact Michigan’s natural resources with our voices, votes and actions in the coming weeks. 

We are supporting Proposal 1 because we believe deeply in the protection and conservation of Michigan’s natural lands as they exist today. Yet, we also believe that future generations deserve access to our lands to support, understand and increase stewardship of our precious natural resources so they can continue to prosper through a progression of tomorrows. 

These values, beliefs and actions in concert, will help create a new generation of Michiganders as committed to our natural areas as we all have been.

For more information about Prop 1 and a full list of endorsements, check out www.miwaterwildlifeparks.com 

In partnership - 

Andrea Denham, Executive Director, Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy

Brad Jensen, Executive Director, Huron Pines

Chris Bunch, Executive Director, Six Rivers Land Conservancy

Diana Kern, Executive Director, Legacy Land Conservancy

Glen Chown, Executive Director, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Greg Yankee, Executive Director, Little Forks Conservancy

Helen Taylor, State Director of the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Joe Engel, Executive Director, Land Conservancy of West Michigan

Jonathan Jarosz, Executive Director, Heart of the Lakes

Ryan Postema, Executive Director, Chikaming Open Lands

Thomas Nelson, Executive Director, Leelanau Conservancy

Zachary Branigan, Executive Director, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy


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Mark Meadows
Tue, 10/20/2020 - 11:47pm

This OpEd continues to mislead the public regarding the impact on the operation of the MNRTF if Prop 1 is passed. First of all the cap will be lifted in about 35 years.
In the interim, because the proposal limits by definition the corpus of the trust, It will have steadily decreasing revenue that will be available to meet its purposes. Even in good investment years the trust fund should be able to earn 5 to 6% on investments. Considering inflation, It will be earning about $25-30 million per year and will not be able to earn more. The proposal requires the earnings to be spent annually and what that amount will buy in 2021 is more than it will buy in 2022 and way more than it will buy in a decade or two or three. The proposal does not consider the impact of inflationary costs. It is seriously flawed. Vote no on Proposal 20-1