Pigeon River & Beyond - Back Country Horsemen, Michigan


Gongwer News Service --  Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The Pigeon River Area was the topic of discussion at Wednesday's Senate Appropriations Natural Resources Subcommittee meeting with several House members saying the area should be open for broader use by horseback riders.

The area was put under restricted public use for horseback riding and camping by the Department of Natural Resources in early May (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 13, 2008).

Rep. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) testified before the committee and said it is critical to open up the area once more for equestrian use. Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer (R-Bellaire) added he was concerned of the economic impact from the loss of horse drivers, because those equestrians use local businesses and pump money into the local economy.

The DNR also testified, and maintained its previous position, that the Pigeon River Area is an important wilderness area that should be maintained in its originally intended state, adding 280 miles of equestrian trails were still available for public use.

"Pigeon River is considered a unique state forest," DNR officials said.   The region was the subject of major controversy three decades ago when supporters and opponents argued over allowing oil and natural gas drilling in the area, one of the last in the Lower Peninsula with an elk herd.

DNR spokesperson Mary Dettloff said opportunities were made available to the groups looking to use the area, and other opportunities would be opening up soon as well. Ms. Detloff also said it is important to protect Pigeon River.

Norma Lane, president of Shiawassee Trail Riders said she felt her organization was dealt with "extremely shabbily.

"We worked very hard to get to use this land," Ms. Lane said. "We want to this land use order reversed."

Note:  Mary Dettloff was NOT at the Senate Appropriations Meeting.   Several others were there in support of the horse people.  Most are not mentioned in this article.