The Kirtland's warbler is one species that benefits from Michigan's healthy jack pine forests.

GUEST OPINION: Allowing new DNR land uses will benefit us all


By Doug Needham, Michigan Aggregates Association

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources does a fantastic job managing land, forests and water across our great state. Locally, beautiful parks like the Brighton Recreation Area and Bishop Lake are fine examples of the DNR’s efforts to improve our quality of life.

Genoa Township is also home to the DNR’s Tree Improvement Center. At its nursery there, the state’s environmental experts have planted millions of trees over 50 years to help reforest areas around Michigan. The program is so beneficial to our state that they are now seeking to expand the nursery to neighboring property, also owned by the DNR, for the planting of Jack Pine and Red Pine trees. This not only helps our environment, but also increases habitat for key birds, such as the Kirtland’s Warbler.

That’s where another important natural resource comes in: aggregates. In order to expand the nursery, currently unusable neighboring land must be contoured and flattened to make it suitable for planting tree seedlings.

The DNR is now seeking partnerships with aggregate companies to remove deposits of sand and gravel from the property in the short term to prepare it for planting. The result would be an expanded, publicly accessible recreation area that serves local residents while producing new trees for our entire state.

Additionally, while Michigan residents would benefit from this new supply of sand and gravel, — which is necessary for rebuilding road, bridge and water infrastructure — our environmental funds would benefit from new leasing fees paid to the state by aggregate mining firms.

Our member companies stand ready to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, local governments and area residents to ensure a smooth mining process that strictly follows all water, air, noise and traffic regulations. When completed, expanded local recreation opportunities, improved infrastructure and restored Michigan forests will benefit our state for decades to come.

Doug Needham is executive director of the Michigan Aggregates Association

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  1. I attended the DNR information meeting. Here’s what we know -” It was a mistake to do business as usual, clear cutting 127 acres without notifying adjacent residents, no public hearings, meeting and planning with them for greater transparency “. Not a good beginning. Here’s what we don’t know 1. How many years this project will take in it’s gravel pit form, ten? More? 2. How may tons of gravel volume will be removed from the site? Once DNR sells leases, they step away and any litigation for poisoned wells, property damage, plummeting house values, health impacts such as cancer from silica, are are against a private company that can declare bankruptcy and close shop, and leave our community to deal with the consequences and costs. The risks far outweigh the benefits, unless you are Doug Needham, Executive Director for Michigan Aggregates Assoc and registered lobbyist for mining industry.

  2. So, Mr. Doug Needham, registered lobbyist for the Michigan Aggregates Association, is also a expert on the Kirtland’s Warbler? The same Kirtland’s Warbler that is NOT an endangered species? I would like to see his degree and background. He paints a rosy picture of how the DNR makes fine examples of efforts to improve our quality of life. I have to ask how mining gravel in the middle of a residential area for a MINIMUM of 10 years would improve anyone’s quality of life. The ensuing perpetual cloud of carcinogenic silica dust alone, flies in the face of that comment. The carcinogenic cloud will never cease as long as the wind blows. Even after the mining stops for the day or weekend. Let me not forget to mention the continual noise and clouds of diesel fumes of loaders, trucks, gravel crushers filling the air, sunup to sundown daily. Let me not forget to mention the plethora of gravel trucks clogging our 2 lane roads filled with school busses and neighbors going to and from work, grocery shopping and shuttling children to and from school related events.
    Mr. Doug Needham, registered lobbyist for the Michigan Aggregates Association, tells us that planting jack pines and red pines will help our environment? I would like to submit that the 100 acre, 100 year old dense deciduous forest that was decimated by the DNR, would have done more than his gravel mine will do, to help our environment. I would also like to submit that the decimated deciduous forest, left alone, would have done more to help our environment than a sparsely planted coniferous tree farm. Mr. Doug Needham, registered lobbyist for the Michigan Aggregates Association, tells us that the forest was “unusable”. I would like to submit that this forest was teeming with wildlife “using” it as a home. “Using” it to birth and raise their young, from the great raptors above to the tiniest of creatures in the undergrowth. It was not “unusable”. Let me not forget the dozens of hunters who “used” this great forest to hunt game. Public land…Their land…Our land!

  3. Since when does putting a loud and polluting gravel mine in the middle of a residential area “benefit us all”? Only an enterprise bent on making money and blind to the cost to the community would make such an outrageous claim. Lee Burton

  4. Based on the number of people who attended the public meetings who were adamantly opposed to this plan, it would be a travesty to allow this to move forward as it is currently being proposed. This article was written by the Executive Director of Michigan Aggregates Association so it is understandable that Mr. Needham would suggest that this is a perfect usage of this land and will benefit everyone.
    Everyone except for those who don’t want their lifestyle turned upside down due to issues such as silica dust, increased traffic and noise. It will be many years before the above negative issues will come to a halt so I sympathize with anyone who lives in that area.

  5. More wooded public space would be great. I cannot understand why they would take an existing woodland, clear cut it, and then need to mine it to make it suitable for tree nursing. Why wouldn’t they have just left it and purchased other agricultural land (or do a swap) that’s already suited for the use while adding acreage to the system? What did they do with the old trees?

    Whose decision was it to clear cut the land? Why wasn’t there public outreach for that if this was their plan the whole time? That’s my problem with all of this, what’s already been done.
    But now that it’s done, leaving it a clearcut wasteland does no good either. Didn’t they privatize the existing tree farm too? It really doesn’t seem like they truly had a plan. Perhaps some arborists can chime-in on why it makes sense to clearcut a forest only to have to mine it to make it suitable for new trees.

    As for the gravel pit, perhaps the adjacent HOAs would like to tender an offer for that land so they can have the control they seek.

  6. Well Said Cindy! Your comments reflect the opinion of hundreds (if not thousands) of residents who will be negatively affected, and put at risk, if this debacle is allowed to proceed.

  7. Mr. Needham fails to recognize how much taxpayers’ money has gone towards forcing aggregate mining operations to abide by the agreements they’ve made with communities over the years. We know this first hand in Livingston County. Brighton Township has an abandoned gravel pit that was promised to be developed into a beautiful subdivision and township park years ago. It still sits as an eyesore and has dragged Brighton Township into litigation for decades. The DNR’s proposed mining operation in Genoa Township has no Class A roads to use; exposes thousands of people to silica sand and diesel fumes; create dangerous road conditions; has no guarantee on hours of operation and will cost the community millions of dollars in lost home values and potentially increased Genoa Township taxes to monitor and enforce the operations. Having a mining operation in a community is never a “walk in the park”.

  8. Well said Cindy! Your comments reflect the opinion hundreds (of not thousands) of residents who will be negatively affected if this debacle is allowed to proceed.

  9. Well Mr. Needham, since you are part of Michigan Aggregate, and not part of the actual community this will affect, your opinion is nonsensical.
    Perhaps you should come and buy my home for true market value before this debacle starts, and have gravel trains in your backyard, beep beep beep all day, silica dust flying everywhere, your windows closed all the time and your house and outdoor living spaces covered in the same. Then of course there are the gravel trains clogging traffic on roads not ready to carry their heavy loads.
    10 years Mr Needham!! That is how long your so called short term conditions will be. That’s the minimum lease. They can renew. This gravel mining could go on for a couple decades.
    This silly Fairy Tale of a seed orchard with walking paths and birds singing is YEARS off, IF it ever happens. Because we all know that can change and the DNR can decide to sell the property at the end of the mining to housing development.
    No one worried about the animals and birds displaced when they clear cut the 127 acres. We had the Fairy Tale before that.
    So let’s see, property values plummeting as much as 35%, health issues due to silica dust (cancer), traffic issues on main bus routes and gravel trains passing schools. I’m sure I missed something. Possible water table disruptions. Not to mention those of us with homes immediately next to these sites can and probably will experience foundation issues and well issues.
    A seed orchard that produces any sort of a Fairy Tale atmosphere is 20-30 years off.
    Let’s talk about how this will ruin Oak Pointe Golf course with the dust, and the numerous State Park walking and biking trails, Bishop Lake, the Campgrounds, Chilson Pond and the Horse Campgrounds, the riding stables, and numerous outdoor recreation areas surrounding these proposed Gravel Pit Sites.
    This is right in the middle of a RECREATIONAL AND RESIDENTIAL area surrounded by hundred and hundreds of homes.
    In the meantime, they will have ruined the lives of thousands of residents and plummeted them into health risks and financial ruin with the drop in property value.
    Come sit where I am Mr Needham. This is my backyard, NOT YOURS.
    I actually love being outdoors and enjoying fresh air, wildlife and a life I’ve spent 20 years building here.
    Go pedal the Fairy Tale someplace else. I’m not buying it, and neither is anyone else that knows the WHOLE truth.

  10. This is such garbage. I’m guessing his opinion would be different it was his property values being threatened and his children’s lungs breathing in the cancer-causing silica and his neighborhood being torn up and subject to the dust , trucks and noise. Call it an educated guess by someone who is building their dream home 100 yards away from the proposed blight. I will campaign against anyone who has the power to stop this travesty and refuses.

  11. The additional park-like land really is not a benefit to the area since it is adjacent to the Brighton Recreation Area and not far from several other parks in the area, including Huron Meadows Metro Park, Kensington Metro Park, Island Lake Recreation Area, and more. Plus neighbors are skeptical that such a park-like area will ever actually materialize or that it will materialize decades in the future after years of dust, noise, pollution, traffic, and other problems. The only people going to benefit here are the gravel miners..

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