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Stop the Raid on Natural Resources Trust Fund Dollars Available for Trails Projects

Action
Michigan bicyclists ask the Governor and Michigan Legislature to:

  • Oppose all current legislation making changes to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund


Status
1/24/13 – HB 4106 (Genetski) was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources
2/20/13 – SB 214 (Casperson) was referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes
3/7/13 – SJR Q (Casperson) was referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, and Great Lakes
3/19/13 – SB 229 (Moolenaar) was reported favorably to the Senate Committee of the Whole
4/17/13 – HB 4578 (Shirkey) was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources

Issue
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, created in 1976 and placed within the State Constitution in 1984 was created to provide a source of funding for the acquisition or development of lands for resource protection and public outdoor recreation. Funding is derived from royalties from the sale and lease of mineral rights (mostly oil and gas) on State-owned land. It is one of the major sources of funding for trail acquisition and development.

Most Michigan trails have garnered their funding for acquisition and development at least in part, from the Natural Resources Trust Fund, including such notable examples as the Little Traverse Wheelway, the North Central State Trail, and the 11 existing trails along the proposed 250+ mile Great Lake to Lake Trail from South Haven to Port Huron. While trail entities have gladly shared this fund with many other allowable project types, such as conservancy lands, parks, marinas, and nature centers, trails have still been awarded a total of $168 million since the inception of the fund. Some of the crucial trail projects now being submitted to the Trust Fund board are those which connect trails together into longer-distance routes and networks.

There have been several bills introduced in this legislative session which would add new project types to the allowable expenditures from the Trust Fund, resulting in less funding for existing project categories. With grant decisions made by a Governor-appointed Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, there may be pressure to award funds in the new project categories. The following bills add new project categories: HB 4106 and SB 229 (dredging of Great Lakes harbors); SB 214 and SJR Q (development and maintenance of roads on state-owned land, infrastructure related to natural resources-based industries, including timber harvesting and mining; and maintenance of trails); and HB 4578 (development of public recreation facilities, including road or highway rest area facilities that are designated as official state welcome centers or state recreation tourism centers). In addition, SJR Q would make constitutional changes to the current funding formula, changing the cap on the State Parks Endowment Fund from $800 million to $400 million. Another change to the funding formula would be enacted by HB 4578 which would allow funding after the $800 million cap of the State Parks Endowment Fund to flow to the Michigan Transportation Fund. Additionally, HB 4578 provides that the Director of the Department of Transportation could designate one or more of the roads within state parks or highway rest areas as state recreation areas in order to be eligible to use the funds.

An Attorney General opinion issued April 22nd affirmed that the Natural Resources Trust Fund cannot be used for maintenance of public recreation facilities, including the dredging of existing harbors. The opinion further stated that for the Legislature to pass a bill allowing maintenance activities would substantially change the scope of the constitutional language adopted by the people. SJR Q, if adopted by both houses of the Legislature by a 2/3 vote, would put a ballot question before the people to change the scope of the Natural Resources Trust Fund.









    

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