Pigeon River & Beyond - Back Country Horsemen, Michigan

Horse Trails are in Danger in Michigan

Equestrian News

http://www.saddleliteriders.com/equestrian-news

The Concept of Management in the Pigeon River Country has closed all horseback riding trails except for one trail through the PRC that is maintained by the Michigan Trail Riders.  The PRC has stated that we can ride on vehicle access roads.  In addition, they have closed all offsite camping within the PRC.  There were 15 offsites within  113,000 acres.

We are very concerned about the safety of riding roads shared by vehicles.  In addition, this will effectively limit horseback riding within this forest.

We are asking your support to contact the governor and express your support for horseback riding within the PRC.  We ask that you request that horseback riding be allowed on two track roads, fire lanes and ability to cross berms in order to go from one two track to another. We ask that you request the DNR to maintain designated trails within the PRC and include several existing loop trails for riding.

We ask that you remind the Governor of the positive economic impact horses and horseback riding has on Michigan.

Please send your responses by April 8th.

This is a link directly to the Governors’ office.  It is called Share your opinion.  It is very easy to fill out.  Please consider including this link in your forwarding emails as well as using the address below in sending letters to the Governor at her office in Lansing:

http://www.michigan.gov/gov/0,1607,7-168-21995-65331–,00.html

Mailing address:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, PO Box 30013, Lansing, MI  48909

This is the email for letters to be sent to the DNR  glodent@michigan.gov  Teresa Gloden

The next NRC meeting is April 8th so letters and emails sent before then would be great.  Chris said she heard the horse and bike sections will not see not see final action sections will not see final action until May but we don't know that for sure, so write now before April meeting and write again before May meeting.

It is still not too late to make a voice be heard.  See below for ideas for your letter writing.  Help us to make an impact.  Numbers count-even if you do not actively ride in the Pigeon River area — Limited access for riding will continue to be an issue throughout the state.  Save a place for us and our children.

Pari    pgreene@agh.org

NRC to decide limits on recreational use of Pigeon River Country trails 

The Cheboygan News, April 8, 2008

The meeting will discuss a land-use order drafted to give specific guidelines as to how the 118,000-acre Pigeon River Country could be used by the public, while still maintaining the wild character of the vast wilderness.

Although Thursday's meeting will discuss the land use order it will be for information only, a final decision on the land use order won't come until sometime in May.

“I recently approved the Pigeon River Country State Forest concept of management that attempts to accommodate multiple users and their interests, while protecting the wild beauty of the area,” said DNR Director Rebecca Humphries. “This concept is a management framework for current and future recreation in the Pigeon River Country, and is the result of a variety of user groups who worked with us to resolve concerns. I appreciate the efforts of all these groups.”

The land-use order addresses three specific recreational aspects of the Pigeon River Country State Forest: Camping with horses, other riding or pack animals; trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals; and bicycling.

Under the regulations set in the pending land use order, camping with horses or other riding or pack animals will be restricted to the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp, and Johnson's Crossing Trail Camp, noted DNR Press Secretary Mary Dettloff.

Trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals will also be restricted to specific roads and pathways.

A person riding or leading a horse, other riding animal or pack animal will be restricted to the north spur of the Shore-to-Shore Riding-Hiking Trail; a county road; a forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map; or a service trail road posted open by the DNR, explained Dettloff. This would provide over 280 miles of riding opportunities.

Bicycling in the Pigeon River Country will be restricted to the High Country Pathway, the Shingle Mill Pathway and the Pickerel Lake Pathway; a county road; a state forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map, providing 300 miles for bicycling.

“These regulations are necessary so that multiple recreational users can enjoy the Pigeon River Country State Forest with minimal conflict,” Humphries said. “They are also necessary to protect the wild character of the area, and for the DNR to remain in compliance with federal grant fund requirements associated with the acquisition and management of the Pigeon River Country.”

Humphries said it is important to note that recreational activities can still be enjoyed in the Pigeon River Country, but that they will be restricted to certain areas.

“We want to accommodate the users who have enjoyed this area, and who have helped through volunteer efforts to maintain it,” she said. “But we also wanted to make sure that the Pigeon River Country remains the ‘Big Wild' for recreational activities that have been enjoyed for decades, such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding and bicycling. This state forest area belongs to the public, and we are charged with best managing it for multiple public recreational uses.”

For more information on the proposed land use order, visit NRC section of the DNR's Web site at
www.michigan.gov/nrc.

Hundreds attend Gaylord rally to

demand government accountability

Weekly Choice.com / By Mike Dunn / April 9, 2008

http://www.weeklychoice.com/site/content/News/News_Item.asp?content_ID=472

“This is a government by the people and for the people;

   if we don’t get involved, changes won’t be made.”

 -- Heidi Lang of the Antrim Conservation District

GAYLORD – Several hundred people packed the Knights of Columbus Hall in Gaylord on Saturday to express frustration about the direction they see the state government taking. The people who attended the rally were mostly part of “user groups” affected by recent regulations implemented by the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Environmental Quality, or both state agencies.
Mike Meriwether of the Antrim Conservation District was the moderator of the meeting. He said the purpose of the rally wasn’t to bash the DNR or the DEQ, but to provide a forum for people to express their frustrations and to be a catalyst for user groups to have their voices heard in Lansing.
“The goal is to apply some pressure legislatively,” Meriwether, a Central Lake forester, said after the two-and-a-half hour rally ended. “We had a number of state representatives here. They’re very well aware of the frustrations that the user groups are facing and they’re very supportive of our efforts.”

State representatives Kevin Elsenheimer (R-Bellaire), Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), Darwin Booher (R-Evart) and Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) were all in attendance on Saturday along with former state representative Allen Lowe of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Casperson addressed the crowd briefly, encouraging them to “stand arm in arm” in their effort to make the government more accountable to the people.
“Sticking together is the way to get things done,” Casperson told those in attendance, drawing cheers.
Heidi Lang, a soil erosion officer with the Antrim Conservation District, seemed to speak for many in the crowd when she said change was needed at the state level.
Lang expressed personal frustration in dealing with what she termed government bureaucracy. It used to be that Lang could work directly with DNR and DEQ field personnel to fix problems relating to soil conversation and other environmental issues in Antrim County.
Because of recent changes “at the top level,” Lang is no longer able to work directly with field personnel. The result has been a negative impact on natural resources.
Lang cited a situation where a shoreline property suffered irreparable erosion because it took the state more than two years to act on a permit request to implement a bio-engineering solution for arresting the erosion.
“In the end, there was two feet of shoreline lost,” she said. “We could have had the right fix in a timely manner and it didn’t happen.”
Lang said that “common sense, science and a commitment to natural resources” must be employed to repair the present disconnect between people and the state government.
There were several issues brought up at the meeting by people representing various user groups. The issue of the transporting of waste from Bay Harbor to a deep injection well east of Alba was among the top button topics brought up by several people at the rally.
A topical issue of concern for people in Otsego County is a proposal by the DNR to limit horseback riders to certain trails within the Pigeon River State Forest.

The DNR has proposed limiting horses to the so-called “blue trails” within the 118,000-acre forest and that has a number of trail riders up in arms. Other sources of frustration for many are the closing of three campgrounds within the state forest and an increase in the fee to use the remaining campgrounds to $22 per night.
Elizabeth Edwards, a member of the Michigan Trail Riders Association, spoke emotionally about some of the changes that have taken place in the state forest. She related tales of taking her children and grandchildren on horseback through the trails since the 1970s and seeing things like a fawn being born or coming upon bull elk in a clearing.
“If the trails are restricted, these are things the kids won’t see,” said Edwards, who was visibly crying.
Carol Hyzer, a retired state employee and an MTRA member who resides in Grayling, noted that the MTRA spent more than $200,000 to build campsite at locations within the state forest that were chosen by the DNR. Hyzer said she personally helped to build many of the campgrounds along with fellow trail riders. Now the DNR is closing some of those sites.
Hyzer said the decision by the DNR will be costly in terms of tourism dollars.
“We have people who come from Missouri, Kentucky and other states every year to use these trails,” she told reporters after the meeting. “If they restrict the use of the trails and reduce the number of campgrounds, the people will stop coming. They have a number of alternatives. They don’t have to come here and spend their money.”

Steve Tomaski of Johannesburg, a member of the Farm Bureau equine advisory council, said that it’s not the presence of horses on the trails of the state forest that is impacting the movement of elk herds. Rather, it’s “the mismanagement of food sources for a non-native species.”
Tomaski added that “restricting the use of natural resources has served a select few at the expense of many,” drawing an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
One dissenting voice at Saturday’s rally was that Mike Brown of Gaylord. Though Brown is not a member of the Pigeon River Advisory Council, he attends their meetings and has kept himself abreast of the current developments.
Brown told those at Saturday’s meeting that the proposals by the DNR were not made without research and input. The proposed changes have been the result of a process that has taken nearly three years. During that time, there have been a number of different committees formed and the DNR has sought feedback from the public, including trail riders. An MTRA member from Alpena is a part of the advisory council, Brown added, and she was asked to “spread the word and find out what the people think.”
Brown also noted that from the beginning there been regulations in place governing the use of trails within the Pigeon River, even if those regulations have not always been enforced.
Rory Mattson of the Delta Conservation District in the Upper Peninsula was one of the featured speakers at Saturday’s rally. Mattson was a driving force behind a similar rally that was held in Marquette where 400 people were in attendance.

Mattson addressed concerns about the use and misuse of tax dollars at the state level and how more money should be invested in the field to protect and preserve natural resources and less money spent on bureaucratic waste in Lansing. Mattson wants to see the impacted user groups throughout the state come together as a united force “to make Lansing sit up and take notice.”
“The goal is transparency in finances and the management agenda within these two agencies,” Mattson told reporters after the meeting, referring to the DNR and the DEQ.
The Gaylord rally was the second meeting in a series of meetings planned at various locations in Michigan. According to the Outspoken Sportsman website, the purpose of the meetings is “unite all the user groups interested in the protection and management of our Natural Resources.”
“People want to know where their dollars are being spent,” Meriwether said, adding that the state raises user fees and reduces services at the same time, causing resentment and frustration among many state residents. If these concerns aren’t addressed, tourism will be negatively affected.
“This is a government by the people and for the people; if we don’t get involved, changes won’t be made,” Lang said. “If we come together with one voice, maybe we can make a difference.”

 
Posted By admin

 

Forest Plans Prompt Protest:  Access to trails, campsites at issue in Pigeon River

April 9, 2008
 
GAYLORD — An estimated 400 people attended Saturday’s Michigan Natural Resources Rally, mostly expressing concerns regarding government natural resource cuts.

Hosted by Antrim Conservation District and various other sportsmen and conservation groups, the rally focused on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding finances and administrative management services.

According to Heidi Lang, Antrim Conservation District soil erosion officer who was one of the hosts, mostly “horse people” attended the standing-room-only forum.

Speakers discussed the DNR closing campsites and trails for horses and closing trails for hikers. 
 
“They’re using the gates that these people paid for to lock them out,” Lang contended.

“That’s exactly right,” said Kathy Biernacki, a member of the Otsego County Mounted Division who was at the meeting.

According to a Natural Resources Commission (NRC) news release, a proposed land use order will be amended to address the public’s use of the Pigeon River Country State Forest at tomorrow’s, NRC meeting in Lansing.

The order, which will be reviewed for information only, will discuss how multiple users can enjoy recreation in the 118,000-acre state forest tract. (See related story.)

According to the release, the order will address:

• camping with horses, other riding or pack animals;

• trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals; and,

• bicycling.

Eric Isaacson of Grayling, Northern Chapter of the Michigan Mountain Biking Association president was an important part of the decision making for the land use order.

According to Isaacson, representatives from user groups, mountain bicyclists, equestrians, biologists, naturalists, a large cross reference of people, spent two weeks working with the DNR mapping and figuring out these restricted areas.

A facilitator from Michigan State University, organized the 16-18 attendees of the Pigeon River Country work group.

“The Pigeon River Forest is the most unique piece of state-owned property in the country,” said Isaacson. “We have to be very careful of where users can go.”

According to Isaacson, a couple of campgrounds were closed for budgetary reasons. He believes there was no cause for Saturday’s rally, which he did not attend.

“Normally you have a handful of people who ruin it for everybody,” he said.

Though Isaacson hasn’t always agreed with decisions made by the DNR, he’s pleased with the updated land use order.

 “This time I think they (DNR) really listened to the user groups,” he said.

However, Lang contested, when the DNR closed the Pinney Bridge State Campground in Jordan River, North Country Trail Association offered to completely maintain the campsite, Lang maintained.

“They (DNR) said no,” she said.

Lang doesn’t blame the field personnel for the changes; she holds the upper echelon for these “policies and procedures.”

“We don’t have adequate field staff,” said Lang.

Following the meeting, the Antrim Conservation District has been inundated with telephone calls from concerned citizens asking “What’s next?” she said.

“People are pretty concerned, pretty upset,” said Lang. “We’re thinking of doing a meeting in Lansing, probably soon.”

Though she’s not looking for 1,000 people to rally in Lansing, Lang said the next step is to gather everyone together — “a dozen people who represent all of the groups.”

“We need the people in Lansing to understand that we need change,” she said. “Our natural resources depend on it.”

Though the majority in attendance at Saturday’s meeting were citizens with interest in horses, Biernacki said she felt like a lot of their questions went unanswered.

“There was nothing really definite set,” she said. “Have they shut down the trails? Are they going to shut down the trails? Who do we contact?”

Biernacki was pleased with the turnout of horse riders.

Contact Jil Schult at 748-4518 or jil@gaylordheraldtimes.com.

Natural Resources Commission to review Pigeon River plan

LANSING — A proposed land use order will be amended to address the public’s use of the Pigeon River Country State Forest at Thursday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing. The order will discuss how multiple users can enjoy recreation in the 118,000-acre state forest tract in northeast lower Michigan, while protecting the wild character of the Pigeon River Country.

The order will be considered for action by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Rebecca Humphries at the May meeting of the NRC.

“I recently approved the Pigeon River Country State Forest concept of management that attempts to accommodate multiple users and their interests, while protecting the wild beauty of the area,” said Humphries. “This concept is a management framework for current and future recreation in the Pigeon River Country, and is the result of a variety of user groups who worked with us to resolve concerns. I appreciate the efforts of all these groups.”

The land use order, which will be reviewed for information only at the April NRC meeting, addresses three specific recreational aspects of the Pigeon River Country State Forest: camping with horses, other riding or pack animals; trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals; and bicycling. (See related story.)

“These regulations are necessary so that multiple recreational users can enjoy the Pigeon River Country State Forest with minimal conflict,” Humphries said. “They are also necessary to protect the wild character of the area, and for the DNR to remain in compliance with federal grant fund requirements associated with the acquisition and management of the Pigeon River Country.”

Humphries said it is important to note that recreational activities can still be enjoyed in the Pigeon River Country, but that they will be restricted to certain areas.

“We want to accommodate the users who have enjoyed this area, and who have helped through volunteer efforts to maintain it,” Humphries said. “But we also wanted to make sure that the Pigeon River Country remains the ‘Big Wild’ for recreational activities that have been enjoyed for decades, such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding and bicycling. This state forest area belongs to the public, and we are charged with best managing it for multiple public recreational uses.”

For more information on the proposed land use order, visit NRC section of the DNR’s Web site at

www.michigan.gov/nrc.

All materials for the April 10 meeting, including the proposed land use order, are available in the agenda for the meeting.

Proposed restrictions:

• Camping with horses or other riding or pack animals will be restricted under the land use orders to the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp, and Johnson’s Crossing Trail Camp.

• Trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals will be restricted to certain roads and pathways. A person riding or leading a horse, other riding animal or pack animal will be restricted to the north spur of the Shore to Shore Riding-Hiking Trail; a county road; a forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map; or a service trail road posted open by the DNR, providing over 280 miles of riding opportunities.

• Bicycling in the Pigeon River Country will be restricted to the High Country Pathway, the Shingle Mill Pathway and the Pickerel Lake Pathway; a county road; a state forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map, providing 300 miles for bicycling.
 

DNR proposes trail rules for Pigeon River<

April 12, 2008

Proposal would set aside trails for bikers, riders

BY SHERI McWHIRTER
smcwhirter@record-eagle.com

GAYLORD -- Changes could be in store for horseback riders and mountain bikers in the Pigeon River Country State Forest if state officials approve new proposed rules.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants to keep horseback riders to certain trails and campgrounds, while setting aside other trails for bicyclists. Some forest users contend it will infringe on their right to traverse public land, but state officials say changes will benefit the forest.

DNR Director Rebecca Humphries will decide next month whether to adopt the proposal, after it was discussed Thursday at the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing.

Campers who travel by horseback may be restricted to just a couple of places in the forest, and could see a loss of 15 campsites. Also, only the northern spur of the Shore-to-Shore Riding Trail may be open to horseback riders, along with county roads, designated forest roads and certain service trails, for a total of about 280 miles.

That's a far cry from the wide open spaces where horseback riders currently meander in the 118,000-acre state forest.

"People who go there don't want to road ride. They want to be in the woods. They don't cause any more damage than the elk herd," said Connie Kleinhardt of Clare, who has ridden horses in the forest for 20 years.

It feels like the state is clamping down on horseback riders and doesn't want them there at all, she said.

That's not the case, but horse-riders can't run rampant, state officials said.

Lax enforcement there allowed horseback riders to grow accustomed to going cross-country and making unauthorized trails, said Mindy Koch, DNR resource management deputy.

"We know we need to get more control over the equestrian use. We know there's been some abuse, going cross-country and creating new bridle trails," she said.

Numerous trails of any type detract from the wild nature of the forest, which is specially managed to maintain that character and avoid resource degradation, Koch said.

"We're not trying to take anything away, but maintain the Pigeon as a special place," she said.

Also, biking in the forest could be restricted to the High Country, Shingle Mill and Pickerel Lake pathways, plus county roads and designated state forest roads, for a total of about 300 miles.

"I think the new rules will work and accommodate everybody," said Eric Isaacsen of Grayling, president of the northern chapter of the Michigan Mountain Biking Association.

Letter to Humphries from our Representatives:

APRIL 8TH 2008

TO MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
DIRECTOR REBECCA HUMPHRIES

Dear Director Humphries,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, I appreciate you doing so.

It is our understanding that the department of Natural Resources is currently determining whether or not to keep open a number of equine trails in pigeon River Forest.
Recently we have been contacted by a number of constituents in our respective district concerning this issue. Specifically, they have conveyed comments, sentiments and support to keep these trails open.
As you are aware, recreational opportunities have been diminished with the closure of 20 state forest campgrounds in northern Michigan.
Future efforts to reduce these opportunities will only prove to be a detriment to those communities that rely on tourism for their income.
We merely wanted to convey the sentiments of our constituents to you as the department deliberates on this important issue. Your willingness to take our constituents' perspectives into consideration would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time and attention. Please feel free to contact us with any further questions or comments.

Sincerely,


Kevin A. Elsenheimer               Joel Sheltrown                           Tom Casperson
State Representative            State Representative                 State Representative
105th  House District           103rd House District                  108th House District

DNR needs to start helping horse riders, too

by Howard Meyerson | The Grand Rapids Press / Friday May 02, 2008 / MLive.com

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the DNR's decision to restrict horse use in the 112,953-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest was a fair one, that the agency was correct in its desire to recapture some of the forest's wild feeling by limiting where horses, mountain bikers and snowmobilers could go.

That hasn't changed.

What has changed is my sense of how much the DNR needs to do to reasonably accommodate horseback riders, particularly those they are encouraging to ride on state lands other than the PRCSF. 

They need to do it pronto.

The decisions go to the Natural Resources Commission next week for final approval. If all goes as expected, equestrians will no longer be able to go cross-country in that forest. They will be required to stick to about 270 miles of two-track, forest road and county road there.

That's no small number, by any stretch, but vehicular traffic is allowed on a fair amount of it and riding horses on roads, even low volume traffic roads, is not like riding cross-country where there is no traffic.

"We've gone from unlimited use and no rules, in our perception, to being shut down," said Bevin Clayton of Alpena. Clayton is an ER physician who likes to ride with his daughter. The Pigeon is where they ride.

"It appears to us that we've been told: 'We don't want you. We don't care about you,' " he said.

Difference of opinion
In part, that is because equestrians such as Clayton had hoped to have a year to work with the DNR to create a trail system where they might ride in the forest. Some hoped for a bridle fee system like ones in Wisconsin or Minnesota, which took in $176,000 from riders over the year, Clayton said.

"What we were asking for is to set rules and bridle fees, Clayton said. "But unfortunately, the way this was handled, was it was rammed down our throats."

Carrie Barr is another rider who would say the same. She lives near Lansing, works with 4H kids and enjoys riding the woods of the PRCSF. She rides with a small group regularly and is disappointed about the loss of access.

"I don't dispute the land needs to be managed," she said. "Nor that there are groups or individuals that misuse it. But my answer to that is that they need to be dealt with more harshly."

Maybe so. And maybe too late.

What I found significant in talking with both riders was the antipathy they had regarding the alternatives available to them.

The DNR has made it clear to the media in the past few weeks that riders are welcome to ride or camp on all other state's forests, almost 3.9 million acres in total.

Both knew of the 500-plus mile Shore to Shore Trail where horses have been allowed, but neither knew of the Black Mountain Recreation Area in Cheboygan County just north, which has 30 miles of trail open to horses, and horse camp nearby.

That's one of 64 state forest pathways in the lower and upper peninsulas where horses are allowed. Granted, several are too short to be worthwhile.

But equestrians are also allowed to ride cross-country and camp in those host forests. That also was not known. And judging from the tenor of the heated letters I received after that last column, it appears that many equestrians don't realize their options.

Perhaps with good reason. The information isn't there.

It isn't on the DNR Web site, nor printed in the DNR's Michigan Recreation & Camping Guide. That's the publication that lists state park and state forest camps, pathways and facilities. It specifies what activities are allowed in each.

A casual observer easily comes away believing that horseback riding is not allowed in most places where it is.

"To be honest, the public is not that aware that they are able to ride these pathways," said Robin Pearson, the DNR's recreation specialist in the Gaylord office. "I don't know why the brochure is set up that way, but it is something that isn't well known."

Visit the DNR website and you see that someone at the agency thought about providing clear and direct links to crucial information for campers, boaters, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, off-road vehicle uses, state park visitors, hunters, fishers and tourists.

But not horseback riders.

What there is -- and it took looking around quite a bit -- a list of places for horse use in southern Michigan. All are in state parks and recreation areas.

But how about information for riding up north, where those state forests are located?

Not a thing.

"We have some work to do, education-wise," Pearson said. "We need to help people learn that there are a multitude of places they can discover, ride and play besides the Pigeon River forest."

I'll say. And riders have a job to do, too.

The Pigeon River decision will most certainly feel like a door is closing, but the shakeup should make clear that another, even bigger one is opening. When riders are done being angry, hopefully they will see the same.

See more in Howard Meyerson
 

Natural Resources Commission to review Pigeon River plan (MDNR)

Contact:  Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014
Agency: Natural Resources

April 3, 2008

A proposed land use order will be amended to address the public's use of the Pigeon River Country State Forest at the April 10 Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing. The order will discuss how multiple users can enjoy recreation in the 118,000-acre state forest tract in northeast lower Michigan, while protecting the wild character of the Pigeon River Country.

The order will be considered for action by Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries at the May meeting of the NRC.

"I recently approved the Pigeon River Country State Forest concept of management that attempts to accommodate multiple users and their interests, while protecting the wild beauty of the area," said Humphries. "This concept is a management framework for current and future recreation in the Pigeon River Country, and is the result of a variety of user groups who worked with us to resolve concerns. I appreciate the efforts of all these groups."

The land use order, which will be reviewed for information only at the April NRC meeting, addresses three specific recreational aspects of the Pigeon River Country State Forest: camping with horses, other riding or pack animals; trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals; and bicycling.

Camping with horses or other riding or pack animals will be restricted under the land use orders to the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp, and Johnson's Crossing Trail Camp.

Trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals will be restricted to certain roads and pathways. A person riding or leading a horse, other riding animal or pack animal will be restricted to the north spur of the Shore to Shore Riding-Hiking Trail; a county road; a forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map; or a service trail road posted open by the DNR, providing over 280 miles of riding opportunities.

Bicycling in the Pigeon River Country will be restricted to the High Country Pathway, the Shingle Mill Pathway and the Pickerel Lake Pathway; a county road; a state forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map, providing 300 miles for bicycling.

"These regulations are necessary so that multiple recreational users can enjoy the Pigeon River Country State Forest with minimal conflict," Humphries said. "They are also necessary to protect the wild character of the area, and for the DNR to remain in compliance with federal grant fund requirements associated with the acquisition and management of the Pigeon River Country."

Humphries said it is important to note that recreational activities can still be enjoyed in the Pigeon River Country, but that they will be restricted to certain areas.

"We want to accommodate the users who have enjoyed this area, and who have helped through volunteer efforts to maintain it," Humphries said. "But we also wanted to make sure that the Pigeon River Country remains the 'Big Wild' for recreational activities that have been enjoyed for decades, such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding and bicycling. This state forest area belongs to the public, and we are charged with best managing it for multiple public recreational uses."

For more information on the proposed land use order, please visit the NRC section of the DNR's Web site at www.michigan.gov/nrc. All materials for the April 10 meeting, including the proposed land use order, are available in the agenda for the meeting.

Natural Resources Commission Agenda

Efforts are underway to prohibit riding in various state land areas, such as Pigeon River.  Voice your concern at the 10:00 a.m. committee meeting and at the 4:00 public comment period at the following meeting!
 
NATURAL RESOURCES COMMISSION

AGENDA

November 8, 2007

Diagnostic Center or Population and Animal Health
4125 Beaumont Road
Lansing
  If you would like further information on Agenda items or would like to address the Commission, please contact Teresa Gloden at 517-373-2352, or e-mail:  glodent@michigan.gov

http://www.michiganhorsesports.com/pages/farms.html

 

NOTE from Michigan Horse Council:

Important meeting on equestrian and recreational trails on May 13th

The house committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resouces is having a meeting on May 13 on changes in recreational access (including the reduction of equestrian access) to the Pigeon River Country. The meeting is at 10:30 a.m. in Room 521 of the House Office Building. The House Office Building is located at 124 N. Capitol Ave.; Lansing, MI. Those who cannot attend can email the chairperson of the committee : Rep. Sheltrown at joelsheltrown@house.mi.gov to let him hear your thoughts on the Pigeon River Country reduction of horse trails and camping and on a reduction of horse trails generally. Rep Casperson is the minority party vice chair. He is from the UP and is a strong supporter of citizen's rights to recreation in state owned lands. You could also email him at tomcasperson@house.mi.gov.  It is important that the equestrians' voice is heard.  If you are a trail rider, please take the time to write if you cannot attend.

Thank you

Marilyn Graff, MHC Communications Chair

Recap of the NRC Commission held on May 8, 2008

The following is a brief recap of the NRC Commission held on May 8, 2008 where Director Humphries signed the Land Use Orders for the revised Concept of Management.

Minutes by Cynthia Kieliszewski
 
Read as follows: 
 
There was a good group of people to represent horse riders at the NRC
meeting.  Rep Casperson came in and stood at the back.  The Chair of the NRC
immediately announced that Tom was in the room.
During the public speaking session several of the PRC Advisory council  got
up and spoke.  They referenced letter from 1991 that they had sent to the
DNR which they said ‘predictedÂ’ what the horse people would do.  One said
there was a phenomenal increase in horseback riding in the Pigeon. Another
said that horse riders ride ‘any way they desire” and horse riders do not
follow the rules and horse riders exhibited abusive behavior.
It was very clear that the PRC Advisory Council members were and have been
dead set against any horse riding in the Pigeon.
Many horse riders spoke but it didn't change the outcome that was
preordained.  Director Humphries signed the Land Use order.
We spoke to Rep Casperson and he is advising us to get as many people as
possible to come to the May 13th meeting to show our support to the Chairman
  He said the next step is to have a law submitted to the House and Senate
that supersedes what the DNR has done.  HE said this is how politics is done
  The legislature cannot stop the DNR/ DEQ, etc. from passing injunctions or
amendments. When the voting public objects, they go to their elected
representatives.  Then the representatives recourse is to create a law that
‘trumps’ what the DNR/DEQ, etc. have implemented.
So, can you pass the word that it is very, very, important to have as many
horse people at this meeting as possible?  Apparently, the Chairman of this
committee has some authority to make Director Humphries not implement the
Land Use Order.  Rep Casperson said it is critical that there are many horse
people there.
In addition, he suggested we continue to contact our state representatives
to let them know what the DNR has been doing.  He also said we should
contact Mike Lahti,  Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  This
man has the ability to withhold funds from the DNR.  Tom said it was a long
shot but the more involvement we can get on the floor, the better.
This will also help when we want the Right to Ride bill introduced.
 

DNR Director Signs Land Use Order to Regulate Pigeon River Country State Forest

Contact:  Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014

Agency: Natural Resources

May 9, 2008

A land use order designed to retain the wild character of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, while managing the use of the forest by multiple groups, was signed by DNR Director Rebecca Humphries at Thursday's Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing.

The order regulates equestrian camping and riding, and bicycling within the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The restrictions are needed to implement and enforce the recommendations outlined in the recently updated Pigeon River County Concept of Management. A link to the Concept of Management is available online to read on the DNR's Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnrpigeonriver.

Camping with horses or other riding or pack animals will be restricted under the land use orders to the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp, and Johnson's Crossing Trail Camp.

Trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals will be restricted to certain roads and pathways. A person riding or leading a horse, other riding animal or pack animal will be restricted to the north spur of the Shore to Shore Riding-Hiking Trail; a county road; a forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map; or a service trail road posted open by the DNR, providing over 280 miles of riding opportunities.

Bicycling in the Pigeon River Country will be restricted to the High Country Pathway, the Shingle Mill Pathway and the Pickerel Lake Pathway; a county road; a state forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map, providing 300 miles for bicycling.

"These land use orders will help us preserve the wild character of this particular area and will help the department achieve greater compatibility with federal grant fund requirements associated with the acquisition and management of the Pigeon River Country," Humphries said. "These regulations will allow for many different outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the Pigeon River Country while keeping with the original intent of 'the Big Wild,' and that is to preserve the natural and wild character of this special part of Michigan."

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

 

DNR Director Signs Land Use Order to regulate Pigeon River Country State Forest<

Outdoor News Daily

A land use order designed to retain the wild character of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, while managing the use of the forest by multiple groups, was signed by DNR Director Rebecca Humphries at Thursday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing.

The order regulates equestrian camping and riding, and bicycling within the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The restrictions are needed to implement and enforce the recommendations outlined in the recently updated Pigeon River County Concept of Management. A link to the Concept of Management is available online to read on the DNR’s Web site.

Camping with horses or other riding or pack animals will be restricted under the land use orders to the Elk Hill Equestrian State Forest Campground and Trail Camp, and Johnson’s Crossing Trail Camp.

Trail riding with horses, other riding or pack animals will be
restricted to certain roads and pathways. A person riding or leading a
horse, other riding animal or pack animal will be restricted to the
north spur of the Shore to Shore Riding-Hiking Trail; a county road; a
forest road designated and illustrated as open on the Pigeon River
Country State Forest access map; or a service trail road posted open by
the DNR, providing over 280 miles of riding opportunities.

Bicycling in the Pigeon River Country will be restricted to the High
Country Pathway, the Shingle Mill Pathway and the Pickerel Lake Pathway;
a county road; a state forest road designated and illustrated as open on
the Pigeon River Country State Forest access map, providing 300 miles
for bicycling.

“These land use orders will help us preserve the wild character of
this particular area and will help the department achieve greater
compatibility with federal grant fund requirements associated with the
acquisition and management of the Pigeon River Country,” Humphries
said. “These regulations will allow for many different outdoor
enthusiasts to enjoy the Pigeon River Country while keeping with the
original intent of ‘the Big Wild,’ and that is to preserve the
natural and wild character of this special part of Michigan.”

 

House Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources

Representative Sheltrown, Chairman,
House Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation & Natural Resources
 
Re: May 13, 2008, Committee Hearing re Pigeon River Country State Forest Concept of Management Plan  
 
I am writing as Chairman of the Legislative, Land Use & Environmental Committee of the Michigan Horse Council (MHC) regarding the recent reduction of equestrian access to the Pigeon River Country State Forest (PRCSF) lands.  I was a member of the PRCSF Work Group representing equestrians who were concerned with provisions in the Concept of Management Plan for the PRCSF approved by the Department of Natural Resources.  That Plan significantly reduced access by equestrians in the PRCSF. 
 
By way of background: In 2005, a review and update of the Concept of Management was requested by the NRC since there had not been a thorough review and modifications to the Concept since 1973. The NRC appointed a 10-person Steering Committee to create a process to update the Concept of Management. Seven subcommittees were created under the Steering Committee, each representing a chapter of the Concept of Management.  They were represented by diverse interest groups and were charged with providing recommendations to the Steering Committee to modify the Concept of Management.  
 
Unfortunately, one major and fast-growing user group was not represented on either the 10-person Steering Committee appointed by the MDNR or on any of the 7 subcommittees.  There were no equestrians.  None at all.  Equestrian interests were, therefore, not seriously considered in the review and modifications to the Concept of Management Plan for the Pigeon River Country State Forest.
 
The MHC did not know anything about the changes proposed to the Concept of Management Plan until November 2007, too late to have meaningful input into the Plan. When word finally got out, there was a barrage of objections filed, the majority by equestrians, and the DNR decided to establish a Work Group to provide additional comments related to cycle and equestrian uses. This Work Group consisted of representatives from the equestrian and mountain bike users groups (3 each), the PRC Advisory Council, the PRC Association, hunting, fishing and trapping user groups, Resource Stewards, and the DNR. It met twice at the Pigeon. My understanding of the problem related to horses is that for about three weeks in the fall, during the elk rutting season in mid-September/early October, there is a major influx of equestrians who ride out and about to view this spectacle. During the rest of the year, the number of equestrians riding in the Pigeon is not a problem.

As a result of the Work Group meetings, the Plan now includes three new loops for equestrians out of the Elk Hill Campground, and, while better than nothing, it's about the only concession that was made to equestrians. Rejected was the suggestion to keep most service roads open to equestrians, even though no real justification was given for closing them to horses. Rejected were several less restrictive measures proposed to address the issue. Rejected was the request to study the problem for a year before taking any action so as to arrive at a less radical solution for handling the glut of riders during that brief time in the fall, as well as to address any other management or environmental concerns that might be identified during that time. The DNR also rejected out-of-hand recently-published peer-reviewed scientific studies that conclude the presence of horses on the trails were not responsible for the spread of invasive non-native species.
 
The DNR's new order takes horses off all but a very select few of the Pigeon's service roads (equestrians are allowed only on those service roads needed to complete the three new loops referenced below). All off-trail riding is strictly prohibited. Horses are confined to the shore to shore trail, forest roads that are marked for equestrian use and public roads. In addition, a few select service road sections and 2-track forest roads are combined to create three new loops for horses out of the Elk Hill campground. The Johnson*s Crossing Trail Campground remains open for equestrian use. The 10 Elk Hill campsites that are in the Equestrian Campground proper have been retained, but the 15 outlying campsites at Elk Hill have been closed
 
To say the revisions to the PRCSF Concept of Management were not unanimous is an understatement. The DNR's position that there is an apparent lack of understanding amongst the users of the PRCSF is debatable. As the Work Group MHC representative, I view it not as a lack of understanding, but as a disagreement regarding the validity of the basis for removing equestrians from the trails they have historically ridden. It appears to me these DNR decisions are the result of reliance on "bad science" and either an improper procedure, or no procedure at all, for making these kinds of specific determinations in modifying the Plan.
 
One issue for consideration is whether the National Environmental Procedures Act (NEPA) is applicable to the state's management of lands acquired with Pittman Robertson Act funds and, if applicable, the legality of closing trails to equestrians on lands purchased with these federal funds without compliance with NEPA's requirements, which include an environmental impact analysis.
 
Even if NEPA is held not to be applicable, I believe Michigan citizens (and ultimately Michigan's tourism economy) would benefit from a state law that requires the MDNR to have a procedure similar to that in NEPA, including conducting an environmental impact analysis, before it can close recreational trails on state lands to equestrians (or any other user group, for that matter). 
 
As I understand it, it is the DNR's position that the general rule is that lands purchased all or partially with Pittman Robertson Act funds are not open to equestrians (or any other user group except perhaps hikers) unless as a designated special exception, and that such special exception designation can be removed at any time. I find no such broad hard-and-fast restriction in the Pittman Robertson Act, nor does the Act require lands contiguous, but not purchased with Pittman Robertson Act funds, to be managed as if they had been.  My understanding of DNR policy is that it requires both Pittman Robertson and all contiguous public lands to be managed as if they were all purchased by Pittman Robertson funds, or so I was told in the Pigeon River Country Work Group meeting.
 
It is the Michigan Horse Council's position that any state administrative rules that make it the general rule to exclude equestrians on Pittman Robertson Act lands should be regarded as unnecessarily restrictive, unless such an exclusion is supported by a NEPA or other review that includes an environmental impact analysis.  For example, scientific evidence does not support the position of the DNR that horses spread invasive non-native plant species. Nor is the use of horses on Michigan trails -- even remote, back-country trails -- incompatible with the protection of fish and wildlife.  The general rule should be that horses, just as hikers, shall be permitted on all Michigan trailways unless there is some cognizable reason for their exclusion.  And there should be a procedure similar to NEPA's with which the state is required to comply in making that determination.
 
The results of the 2007 Equine Survey recently completed clearly demonstrates how very economically important this industry is to the state, both as a part of agriculture and in the tourism industry.  Pigeon River Country State Forest is a vacation destination for trail riders both from inside and outside of Michigan.  The recent restrictions placed on equestrians by the MDNR is not supportable under any reasonable impact analysis and will likely have a discernible negative impact on the PRCSF as a travel destination for equestrians.  If the DNR applies such unfounded discrimination against equestrians to other state recreational lands, whether by ignorance or by influence of competing user groups, the considerable tourism dollars equestrians spend in Michigan will increasingly go elsewhere.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
M. Jean Ligon,
Chair, Legislative, Land Use & Environmental Committee
Michigan Horse Council

The following letter was written by Matt Stahl

...and was read at the
May 13th hearing of theTourism/Outdoor Recreation Committee:
 
12 May 2008
 
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in regards to the recent proceedings happening with the Pigeon River State Forest lands from the viewpoint of a local businessman, land owner and resident of the State of Michigan.
 
It has come to my attention on Saturday, 10 May 2008 that further obtrusive rules are being added to further restrict the rights of the people of Michigan, of which the above mentioned land is supposed to be for.  Further limitations and restrictions on public lands, whether in the Pigeon River State Forest, or anywhere in our State, will only lead to further disenfranchising of the people from their State.  The economic impacts will be felt by us here locally, the communities that surround the state forest lands, and we can ill afford any further setbacks to any areas in Michigan.  I do not ride horse, so I do not write to you in defense of any "one" standpoint.  I write to you as a citizen of Michigan, and the United States of America.  I would like to be physically there to present my voice to you, however my own personal economic status prohibits me from taking such a trip, as does my physical status, as I am in need of a second surgery to remove a degenerative disk in my lower back.
 
The actions of some in our government to further restrict uses of our "public" lands brings sorrow to my heart, as I continue to see our basic freedoms torn from us year by year.  They were never granted the authorities they now claim to possess from the Only source of which they could, we the people of the State of Michigan, but rather continue to heap upon themselves the power to do as they "deem fit".  The great sacrifices of those who have gone on before us, laying down their own selves to deliver people from such rule of governing, has long been spat upon and trodden under foot, and forgotten.
 
My fellow citizens, where does it end?  The more power they take, the more they will want.  If this is allowed to proceed, then what body of state forest land is next, and what further restrictions will follow?  Public land apparently isn't truly public land anymore.
 
Sincerely, 
 
Matthew Stahl
REMAX Lake County
3948 S. Straits Hwy. PO Box 652
Indian River, MI  49749
231-238-4820

Rebuttal by Dick Kleinhardt

GAYLORD NRC RALLY  
 
by Dick Kleinhardt
 
After seeing a very one sided post on the Michigan Sportsman.com website, I would like to give my rebuttal to that post!
 
I am a dairy farmer, veteran, hunter, fisherman and horseback rider!  I spoke at he Gaylord Rally which was portrayed as hostile.  Passionate yes, hostile no!  When my rights are being messed with I tend to voice my opinions.  When asked if anyone was present representing the DNR, the room was silent.  After the meeting I had an opportunity to intercept Mr. O'Neill as he was walking out the door.  I introduced myself and as we were talking a newspaper guy was doing that scribbly stuff!  The bottom line is that he told me, and I quote,"We have a lot of pressure from "fringe groups" and that you  horse people should just stay out of the Pigeon and ride the heck out of the 400 and some odd thousand acres!" I told him that was insulting and arrogant to not only me personally, but to my family and friends who have enjoyed riding the PRC for more than 20 years!  I told him that it was our land, belonging to the people, not the DNR!  I also told the crowd that I've been in contact with  Nugent's folks and Mr. Ted is not going to be thrilled!!!!!!!!!!! We've always regarded our state forests as a privilege and right to ride!  Furthermore, I heard that there were other DNR folks there and they were instructed  not to  identify themselves, wear anything with DNR on it; and just  sit there and record names of the individuals that were speaking!  WOW!!!!!  Is this America or where am I???
 
The DNR is coming up with all of these erroneous claims i.e. Noxious weeds, Elk leaving the forest as a result of horses pushing them, 17 sections deemed incompatible with horses, 53,000 acres not harmonious with horses, Pittman Robertson and on and on it goes!  We have scientific data refuting all these allegations!  We have been camping legally in some 15 remote campsites that were approved by the DNR, not just anywhere and everywhere as was miss-stated by the spinsters!  Tourism will take a huge hit as well, we drop big dollars into the surrounding communities!
 
The bottom line here ladies and gentlemen is that this is a pre-destined intentionally exclusionary elitist agenda targeting horses!  Mr. Jacobson wondered what the legislators thought of the Gaylord Rally!!!!  Let me tell you what they thought of it; They thought enough of it to hold a special committee hearing chaired by Rep. Joel Sheltrown (D) who is the Chairman of the House Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and NRC Committee.  I had the opportunity this past Tuesday, May 13th, as did my fellow comrades to let the truth be told -our side of the story was finally heard.  The DNR testified 1st and was caught in the usual spin cycle.
 
I would encourage any and all outdoor enthusiasts to stand up and be counted.  This  is our land to enjoy RESPONSIBLY!   Call your legislators; right now it's the horse issue; it's only a matter of time and they will be dealing with your land rights!
 
Dick Kleinhardt 

If you care to read the entire thread on MI-Sportsman forum, or post your own comments, click here.