LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher’s legislation to bring more accountability and oversight to the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) project recommendation and approval process was signed on Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.
“The Natural Resources Trust Fund uses restricted dollars to provide funds for recreational development projects and acquisitions,” said Booher, R-Evart. “While I am generally supportive of the local development projects, I sponsored this reform measure to bring more accountability and transparency to the process, particularly when state purchases are involved.”
Senate Bill 1238, now Public Act 619 of 2012, requires the NRTF board to review and score parcels individually and publish bimonthly status reports for each project on its website.
“This ensures proper legislative oversight of state funds by banning the use of vague ‘ecoregions’ and requiring a submission of a full, detailed list of prospective projects for approval,” Booher said. “I strongly oppose the ecoregions process because it does not specifically identify what land would be purchased and for what cost per project. The state’s request in 2012 was for $4.4 million for such ecoregions – in addition to a total of $7 million sitting in an ecoregions fund – without giving lawmakers the information necessary for us to determine if it was a good use of state resources.”
PA 619 also requires all project and acquisitions to have been approved by the local unit of government through a resolution to ensure there is local support for the project.
“These reforms will not change the process for local purchases or development projects,” Booher said. “The changes will require a detailed, transparent process for all state purchases by ending the policy of essentially writing blank checks to the state to buy land however it sees fit.
“This is especially important in Northern Michigan, where I continually hear from residents about access issues on public lands and how the state handles land it already owns.”