Michigan’s Public Land Management Strategy and PILT

MDNR officials explain new Public Land Management Strategy and PILT rules to northern county commissioners.

Public land management in Michigan was the topic of a recent presentation to the Michigan Northern Counties Association (MNCA) by Kerry Wieber and Steve Sutton, both with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. MNCA is an organization of county commissioners in northern-lower Michigan. Michigan State University Extension educator John Amrhein provides program support for MNCA.

Three key topics were addressed in the presentation: Michigan’s new Public Land Management Strategy, engagement of local units of government and payment in lieu of taxes.

The Public Land Management Strategy was called for by Governor Snyder to answer questions regarding DNR-managed public lands. The strategy is designed to address values associated with public lands, locations of public lands, how those public lands are being utilized and how public land management will differ in the future. The strategy also calls for collaboration with MEDC Regions to use public lands to assist in meeting regional economic prosperity initiatives. Key goals of the strategy include ensuring recreational opportunities, fostering growth and stability of land based natural resource economies and protecting those natural and cultural resources.

Increased engagement with local units of government is a key element of the strategy. Open houses, county meetings, regional MEDC meetings, an advisory committee and significant public outreach through press releases and social media have already been implemented. In the future, use of regional coordinators for land management and county and township board notification of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant applications, proposed land acquisitions and proposed land disposals will be used to enhance collaboration between the MDNR and local units of government.

Payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) is the process used to collect “property taxes” from other units of government. The presence of public lands in a local governmental unit brings with it costs to provide services to those who use the public lands. In some local units, the percentage of land in public ownership is significant, so PILT dollars are important to provide for local services. Recent state budget reductions have created problems with state PILT payments. PA 603 and 604 were passed to resolve some of these issues. Inflationary adjustments have been made for PILT payments on lands that reverted to the state due to tax foreclosure. Lands purchased with restricted funds will have PILT payments made 50 percent from the fund and the other 50 percent from the state general fund. PILT payments for land purchased from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) will come entirely from the MNRTF. The two new laws require the legislature to make full and timely appropriations for PILT payments, and require the Department of Treasury to make full and timely payments to the local units of government.

The MDNR manages land for the citizens of the state. The new strategy will promote collaboration with local units of government, private landowners and other critical partners to achieve desired outcomes with publicly-owned lands in Michigan.

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