February 06, 2023
By Fly Fisherman Staff
A plan to more than double the size of a National Guard training center near Grayling, Michigan, has drawn condemnation from the group Anglers of the Au Sable. The proposed expansion to Camp Grayling would add 253 square miles of land to the current size of 231 square miles, swallowing state land that has until now been publicly accessible and managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The state lands include the fragile watersheds of the Manistee and Au Sable rivers, two of the most iconic trout rivers east of the Mississippi.
According to a letter sent from Joe Hemming, president of Anglers of the Au Sable, to the director of the DNR and to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others, the DNR has no precedent or authority to transfer public lands to the National Guard. The statutory mission of the DNR is to “protect and conserve the natural resources of this state.”
According to Anglers: “22% of land requested is either of critical, or of a high, conservation priority. In addition, more than 134 miles of rivers and streams are included in the proposed expansion as well as over 71,000 acres of wetlands habitat. This is unacceptable and unnecessary . . . these special rivers demand the highest level of protection. Access to water, the joy of experiencing these special watersheds in quiet and solitude, the protection of the wetlands, small creeks, and streams, which feed these wonderful rivers, all are at risk with this unnecessary proposed expansion.”
This is not the first time Anglers of the Au Sable has fought to protect these historic rivers. The 1,200-member conservation group has a 35-year history of defending the Au Sable and Manistee rivers, most notably halting oil and gas exploration under the storied Mason Tract, as well as preventing discharge of contaminants into the headwaters of the Au Sable.
In 2019 President Joe Hemming was named Fly Fisherman’s Conservationist of the Year after a successful six-year litigation that resulted in the closure of a commercial fish farm on the Au Sable that was leased from the county for $1 per year, and given permits by the state to discharge effluent directly into the river, just upstream from the “Holy Waters” of the Au Sable.
The DNR will accept public comment on proposed Camp Grayling expansion through Feb. 8. Click here to comment.