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2021-2027 Public Land Strategy

Why public lands matter

Department mission

The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

The department strives to protect resources, ensure sustainable recreation use and enjoyment, enable strong natural resources-based economies, improve and build strong relationships and partnerships, and foster effective business practices and good governance.

Mountain biking on a scenic forest trail. A family beach trip on a summer day. Heading to the woods to take part in Michigan's time-honored hunting tradition. Camping by the lake. Bird watching in a wetland area. Exploring the state's rich history among towering white pines, limestone cliffs and Great Lakes shorelines.

If you enjoy these activities, or the countless other outdoor opportunities woven into the fabric of our lives as Michiganders, chances are you have experienced the power of public lands.

The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for taking care of the approximately 4.6 million acres of public lands that are owned by Michigan residents. Those lands include state forests, game and wildlife areas, state parks, trails and other DNR-managed public lands. Public lands also exist at the federal, state and local level, but this strategy focuses exclusively on DNR-managed public lands. These are the "public lands" referred to throughout this plan. Management of public lands is not accomplished by the department alone. It is achieved through collaboration with members of the public, many stakeholders, conservation partners, and the various industries - timber, oil and gas, sand, gravel and more - that rely on the sustainably managed natural resources Michigan's public lands offer.

This strategy provides a framework for the conservation and stewardship of DNR-managed public lands to ensure their best use for the benefit of Michigan residents, visitors and the state's natural and cultural resources. It provides goals, strategies and measurable objectives to guide us in:

  • Protecting and preserving Michigan's natural and cultural resources.
  • Providing spaces for quality outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • Performing responsible natural resource management.

When lands are well taken care of, they strengthen the state in several ways. For example, public lands support Michigan's environmental well-being with healthy forests protecting and promoting water quality. Additionally, caring for vegetation protects against erosion. They provide residents with ample outdoor recreation opportunities - often very close to home - to be physically active, clear away mental stress and discover new pursuits. These public lands also play a key role in Michigan's economic health by enhancing local and regional economies.

Careful and thoughtful oversight of DNR-managed public lands has led Michigan to not only be a great place to live and work, but to be regarded as one of America's favorite travel destinations - no matter the time of year. Whether there's snow on our trails, or our forests are ablaze with fall color, residents and tourists of all abilities get to have incredible experiences on public lands through diverse and inclusive outdoor recreation opportunities.

The long-term efforts resulting from this plan will foster cultural and natural resources appreciation, help build a healthy environment, provide spaces for people to get outdoors, protect and preserve Michigan's woods and waters, and create a strong land-based economy. The benefits of such management of public lands will extend to Michigan residents, visitors and future generations.

Economic value of public lands

DNR-managed public lands play a significant role in supporting many aspects of Michigan's economy:

  • Michigan's state parks, which draw 28 million visitors each year, act as a catalyst to attract out-of-state tourists and provide a focal point for activities that drive local economies.
  • Home to many tourist attractions - known for both their unique natural beauty and rich history - DNR-managed public lands are the backbone of Michigan's $20 billion-plus tourism industry.
  • Harbors and boating access sites on DNR-managed public lands also provide access to the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams for boating, which has an economic impact of more than $7 billion a year in Michigan.
  • Michigan's state game and wildlife areas, state forests and state parks offer abundant places to hunt, fish and watch wildlife, all activities that help drive the state's economy. Hunting contributes almost $9 billion and fishing contributes more than $2 billion annually.
  • State forest land supplies about 20% of the timber consumed by the forest products industry statewide. The industry contributes $20.2 billion and more than 91,000 jobs to the economy annually.
  • Approximately 599,000 acres of DNR-managed mineral rights are leased for mineral exploration and extraction. The mineral extraction industry contributes over $20 million and 5,000 jobs to the Michigan economy annually.

Sources: Appendix E

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