U.P. lawmakers support Natural Resources Trust Fund ballot proposal

LANSING, Mich. — The Upper Peninsula’s members of the state Legislature on Monday announced their support for a proposal on November’s general election ballot that would reform the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to allow more dollars to be used for recreational improvement projects each year.

“The Michigan NRTF has served its original purpose well since its establishment nearly five decades ago,” said Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “These reforms are timely to help ensure that today’s needs are better funded, which is why I support this ballot proposal to change the state constitution. We should be focused on taking better care of the attractions and assets we have, including our parks, trails and water access. This proposal will provide needed flexibility while allowing use of the funds for generations to come.”

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights. The fund’s dollars are constitutionally restricted to recreation improvements and land acquisitions. The process is competitive, and applications are scored on criteria developed by the fund’s board.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars are instrumental in helping our local U.P. communities invest in their parks and recreational facilities,” said Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette. “Without this match from the state, so many of our important projects would not be able to happen if it fell on local government to fund them on their own.”

Regardless of need, current law limits a maximum of 25% of the NRTF funding to be used for redevelopment or maintenance projects, hampering upkeep efforts. The proposal would add “renovation and redevelopment” alongside “development” as an allowable use for NRTF dollars and change the percentage of funds made available for these projects from a maximum of 25% to a minimum of 25% to match the percentage available for land acquisition projects.

The proposal would also remove the funding cap on the NRTF and, once the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund reaches its cap, direct all revenue from the sale or lease of state-owned oil, gas and minerals to the NRTF.

“We are in support of this,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock. “There are many projects and a long list of recreational needs throughout the U.P., and specifically the 110th District, that the trust fund dollars can be used to help come to completion.”

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, who represents portions of the state’s Upper Peninsula, agreed — stressing the importance of maintenance and upkeep of the state’s outdoor activities.

“I support the measure because it will only provide more access to Michigan’s fantastic outdoors,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Proper maintenance is a key part of providing safe, accessible trails and facilities and will also help save money for other projects in the long run.”

The NRTF was established in 1976 under the Kammer Recreational Trust Fund Act and was later added to the Michigan Constitution under Article 9, Section 35, providing funding for high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities throughout Michigan.

In 2018, the Legislature approved measures that have brought the proposed changes to the consideration of voters in November of this year.

“There’s a reason the Michigan Legislature voted unanimously to place this amendment on the November 2020 ballot,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. “This much-needed revision in the state constitution is crucial in creating safe and accessible opportunities for our Michigan families to enjoy the outdoors, protecting our natural resources and water resources, and stimulating our local economies.”

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