Thursday, December 18, 2008

MUCC works to stop raid on Natural Resources Trust Fund

a news release of Michigan United Conservation Club

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) slammed a proposal to siphon constitutionally-protected dollars out of Natural Resources Trust Fund to transportation infrastructure projects as it urged Governor Granholm to denounce the idea and reached out to sportsmen and conservationists across Michigan.

A transportation funding task force created by the legislature in 2007 released a final report of recommendations in November which contains a surface infrastructure funding recommendation that would "[r]edirect all or a portion of the Natural Resources Trust Fund to transportation." MUCC Executive Director Dennis Muchmore likened the proposal to past failures to raid the constitutionally-protected Trust Fund, but cautioned against taking the recommendation lightly. "Sportsmen, conservationists, and general recreational users of Michigan's natural resources are faced with the undermining of one of our real success stories," said Muchmore. "The Trust Fund is Michigan's crown jewel for providing access and development of natural resources, and these resources provide unmatched recreational opportunities in addition to tourism and job creation."

Since the mid-1970s, Michigan's Natural Resources Trust Fund has aided state and local units of government with grants to acquire or develop recreational property for the general use and enjoyment of all the citizens of our state. The Trust Fund began with the passage of PA 204 of 1976, deriving its funding from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned mineral rights. In 1985, 1994, and 2002 Michigan voters strengthened the Trust Fund with amendments that were approved overwhelmingly. Just recently, $48.5 Million in grants was awarded to entities throughout the state for rehabilitation and improved access to Michigan's natural resources.

Muchmore agreed that Michigan is in need of improvements to transportation infrastructure, but said raiding the Trust Fund would eliminate Michigan's largest program that assists local communities with significant means to protect and restore natural areas. "Trust Fund grants create broader access for use of Michigan's natural resources while also creating local jobs through restoration projects that ultimately attract jobs due to improved communities. The Trust Fund is an investment in our natural resources as well as our communities and quality of life."

MUCC is currently reaching out to national and state-based conservation organizations as well as the general public for support in stopping the transportation task force's recommendation to raid the trust fund. "Sportsmen and women in Michigan make up 43% of the voting population in Michigan. We spend $3.4 billion each year on our activities. The legislature should strongly consider both the economic and social impact a raid on the Trust Fund would mean to us and all the local communities involved," said Muchmore.

See Michigan United Conservation Club
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