house resolution no.153

Reps. Prestin, Markkanen, Neyer, Beson, Rigas and Alexander offered the following resolution:

A resolution to oppose the designation of additional federal wilderness areas in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and to urge the United States Congress to declare the entire city of Ann Arbor a wilderness area.

Whereas, The National Wilderness Preservation System, established under the Wilderness Act of 1964, is made up of more than 800 national wilderness areas, which are defined as “area[s] of undeveloped Federal land retaining [their] primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation.” National wilderness areas must be formally designated by Congress and are subject to specific management restrictions which generally aim to preserve them in their natural condition; and

Whereas, Sixteen national wilderness areas have already been designated in Michigan, including the Beaver Basin, Big Island Lake, Delirium, Horseshoe Bay, Huron Islands, Isle Royale, Mackinac, McCormick, Michigan Islands, Nordhouse Dunes, Rock River Canyon, Round Island, Seney, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Sturgeon River Gorge, and Sylvania wildernesses. These areas cover more than 290,000 acres of land throughout the state; and

Whereas, There is an effort underway to ask Congress to designate four more national wilderness areas in the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, including the Ehlco Area, the Trap Hills, the Norwich Plains, and an addition to the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness. Together, these areas would add approximately 51,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System in Michigan; and

Whereas, In the Record of Decision for the 2006 Ottawa National Forest Management Plan, the areas proposed for wilderness designation were determined by the National Forest Service to lack wilderness characteristics. In their decision, the Regional Forester reported that the Ehlco Area, the only area reviewed that met the roadless area criteria, had “no features or conditions that warrant a recommendation for wilderness study” and had “low to moderate wilderness potential”; and

Whereas, There is little evidence that designating additional wilderness areas would result in improving the ecological health of the Ottawa National Forest. Once wilderness restrictions go into effect, opportunities to practice scientifically proven silvicultural treatments such as selective thinning, harvesting, and planting; prescribed burning; and invasive species management are limited. These practices have been crucial in helping to restore these areas to the quality they are today; and

Whereas, Potential economic development would be limited by wilderness designation. Local communities currently benefit from economic returns related to timber harvests and tourism in the Ottawa National Forest. In 2019, the United States Forest Service reported that the Ottawa National Forest supported an estimated 980 jobs, which resulted in more than 45.5 million dollars of direct income to local communities; and

Whereas, Recreational users currently enjoy a wide range of activities in the Ottawa National Forest, such as hiking, wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing, camping, motorized trail activities, and boating. Wilderness designation would significantly limit recreational activities to these areas by prohibiting motorized equipment and mechanical transport. Additionally, enforcing such restrictions could increase the burden on entities charged with managing those lands; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives, That we oppose the designation of additional federal wilderness areas in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and be it further

Resolved, That we urge the United States Congress to enact legislation declaring the entire city of Ann Arbor a wilderness area, subject to the same restrictions as other wilderness; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and members of the Michigan congressional delegation.