During these uncertain times, we have been forced to rethink how we work, live and connect with loved ones. Many of us have turned to our state’s parks and outdoor recreation areas to stay healthy and socialize while keeping safe.
The pandemic has only reaffirmed the value of our state’s outdoor spaces as one of its strongest assets. In the spring and summer, we saw record attendance on campgrounds, trails and many of our beloved outdoor spaces.
Despite the renewed attention to the importance of our state’s vast outdoor resources, many Michiganders may not be aware of a state trust fund that has been quietly preserving our state’s beautiful parks, trails and public lands for decades.
This November, Michigan voters will decide on ballot Proposal 1 whether or not to expand the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF), which has been funded for decades by royalties from oil, gas and mining leases on state-owned lands at no cost to taxpayers.
Proposal 1 has widespread and bipartisan support, including over 30 of the state’s leading environmental and conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, Michigan Environmental Council, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and many more. Environmental, conservation, business and community leaders all agree that voting yes on Proposal 1 will allow the MNRTF to continue its legacy of supporting land conservation and public recreation.
Since 1976, over $1.2 billion in trust fund grants have been awarded for public lands across all 83 counties in Michigan. Right here in Detroit, the trust fund has been instrumental in the revitalization of the riverfront, connecting our community with trails like the Dequindre Cut, reinvesting in our crown jewel Belle Isle, and turning the abandoned Globe Building into the Outdoor Adventure Center so thousands of children and families can develop a deeper appreciation for nature and the outdoors, especially the families who can’t visit them in person right now.
Currently, there is a cap on the amount of royalties the trust fund can receive — and that cap has been reached. Proposal 1 will remove the funding cap, ensuring that all future oil, gas and mining royalties will continue to support both our state’s conservation efforts and recreational access without spending any state taxpayer money.
When we invest in outdoor spaces, we invest in our local economy. From tourism to construction, key sectors of our economy benefit from robust outdoor recreation. In fact, of the $25.7 billion of tourism spending in the state in 2018, 15 percent came directly from recreation. This economic impact increases exponentially when you consider these visitors’ spending on food, transportation, retail, lodging and more directly in our local communities.
Not only do these trust fund-supported sites attract visitors, they are also a huge draw for talent that continue to bolster our economy moving forward.
By protecting lands and building parks, MNRTF investments attract visitors and new residents, enrich neighborhoods, and support our state’s economy — from the tip of the Keweenaw to the Detroit riverfront and everywhere in between.
This year, it is crucial that we vote yes on Proposal 1 so we can continue to conserve our great state’s natural beauty today and for future generations. Passing Proposal 1 will ensure that these investments continue to benefit our communities, our economy, and our overall health for decades to come. We ask you to join us in voting yes on Nov. 3 or on your absentee ballot.