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Further steps taken to acquire Black River Ranch

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(The Center Square) – After months of litigation, an additional $3 million has been secured to buy Black River Ranch in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan.

Through Senate Bill 817, the 8,800 acres of forestland and streams in Cheboygan County might be bought for $18 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund comes from mineral development on state land, not tax dollars, and must be spent on state conservation or recreation projects.

“The great outdoors is our most valuable resource,” said Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan. “It’s only right we continue to safeguard our environment and expand public access. These preservation efforts are key if we want to maintain Michigan’s natural beauty for generations to come.”

The state has been paying attention to Black River Ranch for some time. Last year, the Land and Water Conservation Fund gave $10.6 million toward protecting the forests and cold-water trout streams on the property. The project protects more than 14 miles of the Black River, three lakes and several endangered species.

The ranch’s thousands of acres are some of the last remaining wholly intact tracts of forest land in the lower peninsula, providing habitat for elk, black bear, pine marten and Kirtland’s Warbler.

Currently, the ranch serves as a private hunting and fishing club outside the village of Onaway.

This is not the first time the state has attempted to acquire the property. In 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer awarded $2.3 million to buy the land, but still needed an additional $10 million from the Forest Legacy Program. As early as 1981, the DNR offered $1 million for the land.

Besides Black River Ranch, SB 817 allocated $27.3 million toward 53 state recreation projects provided by the MNRTF.

“Michigan’s wetlands play a crucial role in the health of many other natural resources across the state, and this budget will ensure we have the tools necessary to protect those resources to the fullest extent possible,” Sen. John Cherry, D-Flint. “From natural lands to our park trails and playgrounds, these MNRTF investments will bolster Michigan’s recreational opportunities while protecting land known for its environmental importance and scenic beauty.”

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