Sunday, November 15, 2009

Legislature to Override DNR on Pigeon River Use?

horseback riders on fall trail
(photo by Hamilton Conservation Authority
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based on a news article in the Lansing State Journal

A heated debate is taking place concerning the access for equestrians in the Pigeon River State Forest. Pigeon River is located in Cheboygan, Otsego and Montmorency Counties. The 118,000-acre woodland is home to the state elk herd, and is managed by the Michigan DNR. Over the past few years, the DNR has reduced the number of trails that are open for horseback riders. And therein is the problem.

Horse lovers do not like being restricted to a few trails and gravel roads. Sportsmen say that horses are causing environmental damage and erosion. When quotas for horse use were imposed last year the Pigeon River and Beyond Back Country Horsemen of Michigan decided to take the issue to the legislature.

Bills have been introduced in both houses of the legislature which would override the DNRs decisions and reopen the trails to horses. The opposition is led by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, who point out that taking authority to manage the forest away from the DNR could jeopardize $25 million in federal funds.

Equestrians say that the closures were not based on any sound science, while the sportsmen maintain that the land was purchased largely with hunter money and must be managed with that use as a priority.

The debate is one which generates plenty of heat. Following the original article are many comments on both sides of the issue.

See Legislature debates horse access in forests
See Pigeon River Country
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