A guest post by Northern MI residents Fred Dodge & Roger Dale
The Michigan National Guard wants to DOUBLE the size of its training facility at Camp Grayling. As the largest National Guard training facility in the United States by far, Camp Grayling currently spans 148,000 acres or almost 240 square miles in northern Michigan. If approved, this proposal will more than double the amount of state-occupied land to almost 500 square miles.
Opposition to the proposed 162,000-acre addition is overwhelming and, in today’s polarized society, is shockingly nonpartisan. Local residents, over 40 township/county governments, state reps and senators, our district congressman, veteran Jack Bergman, and literally every conservation group are emphatically against the land grab, which is proposed as a 20-year, no-cost lease from the DNR. Conservation concerns include potential chemical warfare pollutants, experimental weapons testing, and environmental changes affecting the region’s plentiful wildlife and abundant vegetation.
Meet DNR Director Shannon Lott. She’s the ONE person in the DNR who has the power to make a critical decision that can forever change the landscape of Northern Michigan.
How is it that ONE unelected bureaucrat is in the position of deciding for hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents the fate of some of the most pristine, public-owned state forests, lakes, and rivers in all of Northern Michigan?
And why, at every turn, does Director Lott appear determined, even eager, to accommodate ONE general’s request while ignoring the pleas and sound arguments of thousands of Michigan residents who continue to steadfastly oppose this massive land grab?
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One of the more vocal opponents is a combat veteran and retired Lt. Colonel in the National Guard–Mike McNamara, who recently said, “As a retired Lieutenant Colonel and former Deputy Post Commander, if I thought for one minute this would save just one soldier’s life, I’d be 100% behind this expansion. But this expansion proposal is NOT about that.”
Surprisingly, there has been little in the way of a detailed explanation for why they need the significant additional land mass. They say it is required to properly train for expected new warfare, which includes low-impact cyber, electromagnetic warfare, and unmanned aircraft that necessitate long distances. Yet, many argue that the Camp’s current acreage is underutilized. Camp Grayling in Northern Michigan is already tens of thousands of acres larger than other states’ National Guard Training Areas. In other words, National Guard units in ALL other states achieve the same degree of combat preparedness, and they ALL do so on a fraction of the amount of land currently accessible to Michigan’s National Guard at Camp Grayling.
For example, in a typical year, Fort Indiantown Gap in Central Pennsylvania trains 113,000 National Guardsmen/women on just 18,000 acres. By contrast, Camp Grayling trains only 10,000-15,000 Guardsmen/women on 148,000 acres. On average, Camp Grayling only uses 50-70 percent of its state-leased land.
Why do they need another 162,000 acres?
Without any detailed methodology and lacking an updated land use plan or DOD studies, we are left with unanswered questions about this massive land grab. Even current MNG leadership said last year, “There’s still plenty of room for more interest.” As General Rogers says, “They’re nowhere near the point of having to turn people away because of how much land there is to support demand.”
So, what is this ginormous land grab about? As covered in DBusiness Magazine (May-June ’22), politicians in Lansing and their appointed military bureaucrats want to militarize the pristine forests, lakes and rivers of our “Great Lakes State” by turning Northern Michigan into a national and potentially global destination where private industry can sublease our state forest land from the National Guard to test and develop unproven weapons and technologies.
Under the leadership of Major General Paul Rogers, Michigan packaged its four different National Guard training centers into one offering—The National All-Domain Warfighting CENTER (NADWC). This rebranding effort targets private contractors who want to experiment with untested warfare technologies and practices, allowing MNG to market a “resource that can be harvested.”
Gary Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, arranged several grants from the Military and DOD for MI-based defense contractors. Local defense contractors such as Virtual Sandtable, EOTech, ORB, and Velocity Mgt Solutions have all successfully tested at Camp Grayling. None of these entities has suggested that more space is necessary.
In addition, economically, Michigan residents are getting little if any return on their leased land yet bearing the risk of environmental issues. One recent MNG rental charged what Meyers calls a “disgustingly low rate” of $150 for 3000-acre daily usage, a bargain level rate which is part of General Rogers’ “selling points” to private contractors.
PFAS contamination (a carcinogenic “forever toxin”) in the iconic AuSable River is one example of what can happen when the military and private industry test unproven products in and around ecologically sensitive Northern Michigan watersheds.
For many years, Camp Grayling enjoyed broad community support and a healthy relationship, giving reciprocal economic benefits. In 2016, however, locals learned that PFAS were discovered at the Camp and in the local water supply. While the firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals is no longer used, MNG has shown an “inability to take timely action to investigate, mitigate and remediate significant areas of contamination.”
Given this growing distrust and the increasing opposition to the massive expansion, the community’s special relationship with the camp has been weakened measurably. Interestingly, in 2014, the National Guard decided against moving forward with a planned expansion based in part on a lack of local support. Recently, DNR Director–Shannon Lott–who will make the final decision on the expansion proposal, said the massive new acreage request should be reduced based on a preliminary review.
In sum, with the near-universal opposition and since the Guard has failed to make its case while offering no transparency, the DNR should refuse this land grab. How did it even get this far?
44 Local Governments In 7 Nearby or Surrounding Counties Have Publicly Voted to Oppose the Proposed Expansion of Camp Grayling:
This poor process to decide such a massive land rights request is a microcosm of what is going on throughout the state and country. Unelected bureaucrats and the ruling class are making important decisions that impact thousands of lives without proper transparency.
Local State Representatives sent a letter to Gov. Whitmer recently demanding a seat at the decision table since it impacts their constituents. According to Michigan Constitution, Section 52, Article IV, “The conservation and development of the natural resources are declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of health, safety, and general welfare of the people. The legislature SHALL provide for the protection of the air, water, and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment, and destruction.”
A letter has been circulating warning citizens who may own property and/or recreate in an area impacted by the proposed expansion of the Camp Grayling military base of the serious consequences of this massive military base expansion in northern MI
Stop Camp Grayling Expansion Letter Copy by 100PercentFedUp on Scribd
Let us hope and pray the unelected officials at the DNR in their backroom make the right decision in favor of WE, THE PEOPLE!
G0 to 230 Is Enough! to get more information about the proposed Camp Grayling expansion and to find out how you can help stop this project.
You can also call or email MI Rep. Ken Borton (R), whose district will be one of the most affected by the expansion. *Warning*…Rep. Borton has proven to be more of a special interest legislator, but it’s worth a call to let him know how you feel about the expansion of Camp Grayling and the takeover of this pristine northern MI property:
*Full disclosure: My family owns property near the proposed expansion. I’ve been traveling to this remote area of northern Michigan for most of my life. My family makes the long trek to northern Michigan to get away from the noise and traffic in the lower part of Michigan, where our primary home is located. While I wholeheartedly support our US Military, I am very much opposed to doubling the size of the largest military base in the United States. Camp Grayling’s National Guard base is already the largest in the US. The government takeover of an additional 162,000 acres of land where so many residents and visitors hunt, camp, and fish and where people like me go simply to get away and enjoy the peace and quiet of northern Michigan must be stopped.