Pigeon River & Beyond - Back Country Horsemen, Michigan

Dick Kleinhardt's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee

December 10, 2008




I would like to thank Madame Chairman Senator McManus and the committee for the opportunity to testify today.


I come to you today speaking on behalf of the 80,000 recreational equine trail riders here in Michigan.  For the most part public knowledge of the recent mandate by Director Humphries relating to the virtual closing of the Pigeon River Country State Forest to horseback riding did not become apparent until this past spring.


The impact of such a decision has been huge and devastating with total disregard for our "right to use" our state land as well as total disregard to landowners who purchased land up by the Pigeon to be able to ride out their backyard to enjoy our state land.  Literally hundreds of trails and two tracks have been closed down including the 15 remote campsites that were designated for horses where my family has enjoyed camping over the past 25 years.  With 118,000 acres in the Pigeon divided by 15, this would equal 7,866 acres per campsite.  Hardly a negative environmental impact! One of the most resounding impacts of this order is the devastating impact to the Michigan economy.  I can't understand how our Governor would allow this to happen.  Michigan is already the laughing stock of the country.  These businesses depend on summer horse traffic.  We drop big bucks whenever we head north from fuel, restaurants shopping etc.


The DNR made a valiant attempt to "sell" their justification of this land use order but it failed in every aspect.  In earlier meetings held by the DNR they predicted that there would be resistance.  They cited that they would need a counter balance; maybe 3 or 4 people.  This is a list of their erroneous claims:

1.            User conflict, truth is I've never had a conflict with a biker, hiker, fisherman hunter or any other horseback rider in 25 years.

2.            Noxious weeds; truth is we have 6 scientific studies that debunk this idea.

3.            Horses are driving the elk from the forest; truth is according to Tom Toumin, ceo, of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation he found this laughable because that's exactly how they get close to elk while hunting for them out west.

4.           PRC is more special than other state forests; truth is

     they should all be held to the same high regard.


5.            Federal funding was in jeopardy for unregulated   equestrian use according to an official field pre audit survey; truth is after seeking help from 12 state reps. 4 state senators and Congressman Dave Camp's office we learned that an official field survey in fact was not filed.  In fact, Deputy Director Mindy Koch in a recent magazine article stated, "The DNR has yet to receive any complaints from Federal Officials about conflicting usage". Federal Funds were not in jeopardy.


It's interesting to note that prior to the land use order the DNR did not have any law enforcement present in the PRC and it was only after the May 8th signing that they then hired an officer to keep the good people out!


The big question is what could possible motivate the DNR to impose this oppressive land use order?  Even though we testified at the NRC meeting, we now know that the decision had already been made; it was a token exercise in futility.  Public comment periods and deliberations sound so American, so democratic yet it was just window dressing to appease the public.


We've learned that a year ago last March 07 that the Michigan Resource Stewards had already designed what would later become a 'carte blanche' endorsement by the

NRC.  I submit to you for the public record their explicit plan which came to fruition.  Who are the Resource Stewards? The Resource Stewards are basically comprised of retired DNR employees, environmentalists, with a greenie agenda.  Since they are retired they devote much of their time trying to micro-manage the DNR'S agenda.  Sheila Jacobson, wife of Bob Jacobson, a member of this group, made the comment at the May 8th NRC meeting that "the Pigeon River State Forest must be kept from the consumers" use!  The next obvious question is who will be next?


I've always believed in government of, by and for the people.  This is supposed to be the land of the free, home of the brave.  I'm appalled as a veteran and citizen of this country to be treated this way.


There should be sound scientific data and supportive evidence to justify this radical land use order.  As citizens of this state, we deserve better.  I'm speaking not just for me   but for our children and our grandchildren.


This land use order has to be reversed.  Due to the time constraints today, I've only shared the high points.

There is so much more information on the issue.  I hope and pray this committee would do the right things and correct the wrong that has been done.


Respectfully Submitted,

Richard Kleinhardt

Clare, Michigan