GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Another group has come out against the National Guard’s request to expand Camp Grayling in Northern Michigan.
Last week, the Otsego County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the National Guard’s proposal to lease more than 160,000 acres of surrounding forest land from the Department of Natural Resources. According to the proposal, the National Guard needs more space to conduct training exercises on “drone operation, cyber, electronic warfare, space and communication system installation.”
“The U.S. military has transitioned from training for counter-insurgency to training for large-scale combat operations in response to new and emerging global threats. The resultant military readiness training now requires immersive, multi-domain exercises which integrate land, air, maritime, cyber and space domains over greater distances than those afforded with Camp Grayling’s current size,” the proposal reads.
County commissioner Dana Wingo told the Petoskey News-Review she believes it’s not necessary and has concerns about the type of training exercises that would be hypothetically conducted, which allegedly would include using microwaves and electromagnetics.
“They have more than enough acreage (including some) that they aren’t utilizing,” Wingo said. “Also, there has not been enough research on the kind of training and effects of that activity. They need to do research and show us the findings.”
According to the proposal, the DNR would retain ownership of the land and manage it, leasing it to the National Guard on a 20-year agreement. The proposal also gives the DNR the right to void the agreement if department officials believe the camp oversteps the use conditions of the property.
The National Guard also says most of the land will remain open to public access, including hunting, camping, fishing and off-road vehicle trails. It would not use any permanent fencing and would not conduct any training sessions within 1,500 feet of any river.
Also, as part of the plan, the National Guard said it would communicate with the public when certain areas may need to be closed to the public and would make a point to not schedule any training sessions during regular firearms deer season in November.
The Otsego County Board of Commissions isn’t the first organization to come out against the plan. According to the Crawford County Avalanche, the Grayling Charter Township Board of Trustees voted to oppose the plan last month and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy sent a sternly worded letter urging the DNR to reject the plan until the National Guard shows a better effort to address PFAS pollution currently on the base.
Regardless, neither Otsego County nor EGLE plays a deciding role in whether the proposal is accepted. The DNR is expected to have a decision on the expansion proposal later this year.