DNR yields to public and will not allow drilling under prized land at Hartwick Pines

There will be no drilling for oil under the largest remaining stand of old growth white pines in the Lower Peninsula.

Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh announced Thursday at a meeting of the Natural Resources Commission that the parcel of Hartwick Pines State Park that includes old growth white pines, some of them 400 years old, was being pulled from an auction that would have allowed drilling exploration underneath them.

The DNR is still considering auctioning off oil and mineral rights under about 20 percent of the park, but that section of the park doesn’t include the old growth forest.

The possibility of drilling drew an uproar from environmental groups after Bridge first reported the land underneath Hartwick Pines was nominated to be leased at auction Oct. 29.

No surface development was to be allowed, and the drilling underneath the virgin pines was unlikely to cause damage. But the leasing of oil rights underneath trees that were standing when the first European stepped foot in the area became a symbol of the tension between business interests and the state’s promotion of its image as Pure Michigan.

Just last week, Creagh responded to that criticism by writing a guest column in Bridge that defended mineral exploration underneath the park.

But state officials were swayed by a flurry of letters sent by residents after the Bridge article on the possible auction, including a letter from two grandchildren of Karen Hartwick, who gave the land to the state in 1927.

According to an email to Bridge from DNR spokesperson Debbie Munson Badini:

“Public comments regarding these parcels included information from two grandchildren of Karen Hartwick. Karen Hartwick initially gifted the land to the state in 1927. Upon review of the information received from these grandchildren, the DNR will remove approximately 7,849 acres from the auction to adhere to the spirit and intent of the generous gift of land from Ms. Hartwick. Staff are reviewing an additional 1,886 acres being offered within Hartwick Pines - land not donated by Ms. Hartwick. Those additional parcels may or may not be removed from the auction, depending upon the result of that review.”

The state’s reversal drew praise from a conservation group.

"We appreciate Director Creagh's respect for the Hartwick family's wishes, and thank him for making the right decision to protect this one-of-a-kind park," Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council, said in a news release. "Personally, I'm thrilled that the experience of standing beneath the park's towering white pines will remain unchanged for visitors to enjoy."

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Mark And Tina Hansen
Fri, 09/12/2014 - 4:34pm
Bunch of whining cry Babys.
Jay Buckley
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 6:25am
Amazing stuff, and yet MDEQ is allowing an oil well to be drilled in my residential subdivsion. I love the trees too but are they more important than peoples homes?
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 1:28pm
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 9:21am
That is great news! Now, the other 1,886 acres needs to come off the auction block!
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 1:28pm
So though no damage would have been done, it was dismissed because of the 'appearance' of it. Symbolism over substance is what is making meaningful dialogue on important issues near impossible.
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 3:15pm
The environment trumps cheap gas every time!! Finally common sense prevails! Its Not all about the Benjamins!
Sat, 09/13/2014 - 6:39pm
This is great news. It is time the public becomes aware of all the drilling that has happened and all that is scheduled in the future. We need to protect our environment as well as eliminate any drilling in residential areas.
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 1:25am
Too bad! The voice of a vocal minority can overide the silent majority! I would like to know how much gas and oil hypocrites like the Hartwicks and the other cry babies use! Too bad we can't shut them off! I have four oil wells and 3 gas wells on other peoples property behind my house and I don't have any complaints.. Too bad this doesn't come to a vote of the public!
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 8:20am
Absolutely! The public should have NO SAY in how we manage our public lands and minerals. Unless they agree with Vince.
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 9:03am
Not everything should be for sale. I think a public vote would agree. Drilling, fracking and the average guy is still seeing his fuel costs rise. Latest health study from Pa. area shows health issues with residents living in proximity to frack sites. Somebody is making big bucks others keep paying the price. I'm thinking that this could be the new "black lung" for our time. Polluted water, chemicals in the air. Lets keep MI above ground resources in good condition.
Mary Ellen
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 9:06am
Thank God! One of a few times when the environment won over capitalism
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 11:59am
Forester, Your name says it all! I did not say the public should have no say, in fact I stated too bad the public does not have a say, the MAJORITY of the public, not just the few that can spend time to go to go to Lansing to these hearings and get paid to do so by the state. Sue: Prove to me one instance where fracking has polluted a body of water in the state of Michigan! I believe in strict management of our natural resources, but not the scare tactics of uninformed individuals pushing their own agenda! There has to be a middle ground attained to produce Michigan's natural resources, But that is not possible when folks don't want wind generators on land close to their little half acre with a mobile home on it (no, I have nothing against mobile homes, they are only what some people can afford!) How many solar cells do you have on your house?
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 2:48pm
Google fracking water usage and read even the producers statements regards how many millions of gal of h2o it takes. Can't be used or returned to aquifer as is now unusable for human consumption. Producers are working on ways to reuse but in the meantime? Sounds like polluted water to me.
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 2:38pm
So nice to know that our government is sensitive to the wishes of the Majority of the people who care enough to speak up. For those who have no feelings about the issue, or couldn't be bothered, hopefully there are other issues which motivate you to make your voice heard remembering we all bear a responsibility for the government we elect. Personally, I am pleased with the decision not to drill under The Pines. No one has yet been able to explain to me what the large bubbles in our lake were last year when they were pressure testing the pipes for fracking, or why a lake which was always very productive for fishing no longer is. May be no connection just a bizarre coincidence, but until we have more facts, I feel a conservative approach is called for. It isn't as if the resource is going anywhere.
Sun, 09/14/2014 - 9:25pm
Tam: Don't blame me, I didn't vote for Obummer! In regards to your lake, Leaves and decomposing vegetation cause methane gas bubbles in many lakes! As far as lakes with no more Fish, one of the biggest problems are the lot owners who want the greenest, prettiest looking, lawns on the lake. They fertilize, weed and feed and water their lawns with reverence. Not knowing that properties within hundreds of feet of a lake feed its water table. The pipes they pressure test before fracking are the pipes laying on the ground used to connect the frack equipment to the well head. The well undergoes pressure testing before the well is perforated ( holes put thru the pipe to allow gas and oil to enter the well) There are also many electronic logs run to check the integrity of the well bore and cement. It is not as slip shod operation as a lot of people would like to make people think! In the 1940's fracking was done by putting dynamite in the bottom of the well and letting her rip. There was no control of where the pressure of the explosion went or how much pipe was split in the process. The new fracking procedures are very scientifically controlled and monitored and some of them do not use water at all! I wish they conducted organized forums on well fracking to help educate the concerned public of the procedures and safety practices that are in place. I am sorry to say that is impossible because of people who attend those forums who have the sole purpose to disrupt them. We have people who put natural gas in their household water so they can light their faucets to show it burn! We had a mayor from Texas speak on the evils of fracking and what happens when a well is fracked. When it was investigated, the town he was mayor of had no issues or damage from hundreds of wells fracked around it! I have preached enough! Nuf said
Mon, 09/15/2014 - 10:01pm
Good luck to all the above with your gas and oil wells. Greed and stupidity is a scary combination. We can only hope your water goes to shit before all the rest of ours. I won't debate so say what you want.. you who support fracking in Michigan are complete fools. Not worth the time arguing the point... to bad you can't fix stupid.
Tue, 09/16/2014 - 9:56am
Kate: Typical attitude of an un educated anti fracker, when they arn't agreed with they call people names.... Can't fix ignorant either I guess!
Wed, 10/08/2014 - 5:22pm
the mich dnr what a joke they remind me of the mafia they take what they want no matter what the price to anyone we need to abolish them before there is nothing left of our wilderness they dont realize we do not own the land or waterways they own us
Chased by a bear
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 3:21pm
I hate trolls.