Michigan voters have an unprecedented opportunity to protect our great outdoors on this fall’s ballot. Proposal 1 enshrines in the state constitution a long-term funding source that protects our clean water sources, wildlife habitats, and beloved state parks, for generations to come — without a dime of taxpayer money.
More than 30 of the state’s leading environmental and conservation organizations support Proposal 1, including the Michigan Environmental Council, The Nature Conservancy, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Heart of the Lakes (Association of Land Conservancies), the Michigan Recreation & Parks Association, and the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, because we believe protecting Michigan’s outdoors is core to who we are as a state.
Since 1976, the MNRTF has received royalties paid by the oil, gas and mining industries from mineral extraction on state-owned land and reinvested them back into our natural resources. Today, the law puts a ceiling on how much funding the Trust Fund can receive, and that cap was reached in 2011. As a result, these royalties now go to the State Park Endowment Fund (SPEF) — but that has a cap, too. When the SPEF reaches its cap, the funds will be allocated into the state’s general fund, where the state Legislature could use them however it wants.
Proposal 1 would remove the cap on the Trust Fund for good, guaranteeing that all future royalties go toward conservation and recreation. This amendment would constitutionally insulate the protection of our invaluable natural resources from partisan gridlock and empower the Trust Fund to expand access to our outdoor spaces in perpetuity.
Some have expressed concern that we shouldn’t protect these funds now, preferring to allow a future legislature to decide whether to continue the work of the MNRTF. But this ignores history.
The Trust Fund was originally created as an ordinary law, not a constitutional amendment. Its goal was to use dollars from our nonrenewable resources to create something beautiful and lasting. Time and time again, the Legislature raided those funds for other priorities, undermining their purpose. Michiganders determined that was unacceptable and voted to dedicate these funds to conservation in our constitution. We have since reaffirmed that decision by increasing the Fund’s cap twice, each time with overwhelming support.
The bottom line is this: If we don’t prioritize land protection and conservation now, we could lose this revenue source for good.
As Michiganders, we’re lucky enough to have our kids play on the shores of the Great Lakes. We hike endless miles of free and accessible trails across the state. And each fall we travel to see changing leaves or to hunt and fish amidst some of our country’s most beautiful landscapes.
During these difficult times, more Michiganders than ever are getting outside to stay healthy and connected. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has made protecting these lands and preserving these recreational opportunities possible. Voting Yes on Proposal 1 will ensure we continue that legacy.
As environmentalists, conservationists and, most importantly, Michiganders, we urge you all to join us in voting yes on Proposal 1 to protect our water, wildlife and parks. This funding, drawn from our natural resources, should be invested back into outdoor spaces that ALL our citizens can enjoy, now and for decades to come.
Helen Taylor is the state director at the The Nature Conservancy. Amy Trotter is the executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Conan Smith is the president and CEO of the Michigan Environmental Council.