David Schoenow, a medical doctor from the upper peninsula, approached the DNR with a land trade proposal. The Schoenow family owns a large block of property in Bismarck Twp. of Presque Isle County and he proposed obtaining adjacent state owned land for property they own in McMillan Twp. of Luce County.
In a complex proposal the state was to obtain 560 acres in 2 parcels in Luce County. The state was to buy 120 acres in Luce County for $72,000 and receive 120 acres in 2 parcels as a gift. In exchange 5 parcels totaling 320 acres, adjacent to the Schoenow property, would be given to them. The DNR listed the Luce County property as being “excellent hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing opportunities”. Three parcels of state land in Presque Isle County appear to be landlocked with no public access.
From the DNR write up of the proposed transaction it appeared to be win-win for both parties but there was a big problem that they failed to mention. Two parcels destined for disposal were 2 40 acre parcels, adjacent to May Lake, both with public access with county roadway frontage. The two parcels are connected corner to corner.
The 40’s are rolling hardwoods of oak, maple, aspen and pine. One 40 contains a wet land marsh. There is a beautiful overlook of May Lake. They contain bountiful populations of deer, Wild Turkeys, grouse and squirrels. A colony of flying squirrels live there. They offer excellent recreational opportunities to the public and are widely used. The remains of an old CCC camp is located on one of the 40’s.
Bruce Shaw of Leonard, who owns property in the May Lake area became away of the proposed transaction. He collected about 160 signatures from local residents and property owners that requested that the DNR retain those 2 40’s to remain open to the public. He followed up by making a presentation before the Natural Resources Commission at their July meeting in Big Rapids and delivered the petitions. The public and Mr. Shaw be damned! The trade and purchases went through intact.
The DNR claims how important public input is into the land consolidation process. There is absolutely no valid reason why the trade could not have been negotiated so as to retain these 2 40’s for their highly recreational, wildlife, ascetic and property values. In their place we have obtained nondescript property in the upper peninsula that will see very little public use.
Brian Kuhr of Traverse City, a fellow MWTHA member first brought this to our attention. He has hunted and recreated on these 2 40’s for 23 years. He is disgusted and discouraged over his loss after 23 years of tradition and memories. Something very special to him is gone. In the minutes of the July NRC meeting there was no mention of any action taken on this transaction. On August 28 a letter was sent to Mindy Koch, DNR Resource Management Director, asking what action was taken. In an October 5 response she stated that the exchange supports the DNR land consolidation goals and that the director approved the transaction at the July meeting. She also sent the minutes of the meeting. The only reference to this transaction was from commissioner Madigan from the UP who stated “was a good transaction because it consolidated state forest property.”
Our organization was present at the July NRC meeting to give a presentation on a pending hunting and fishing license increase proposal. We voiced our opposition to disposing of those two 40 acre parcels.
These are but examples of what we are confronted with. If you like many of us have a special place tucked away within state forests you had better keep an eye on it. The next time that you visit you may be greeted with No Trespassing signs. And you thought that these state forests belong to us.
There is more to be this saga that will be shared in a future issue.