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Allow the Hunting Camps in the Ottawa National Forest to Stay

This petition had 2,401 supporters


Throughout all four seasons in the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, over 100 hunting camps are utilized by people from various walks of life as a peaceful place to recreate, hunt, fish, hike and spend time together.

These camps (cabins to those unfamiliar to the term “camp” in the U.P.) reside on small parcels of land currently leased from the United States Forest Service. When the leases were originally granted for individuals to build camps the land was owned by the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) and the leases were year-to-year with a good history of annual renewal.

The National Forest Service purchased the land in 1992 from UPPCO as UPPCO opted to sell all of these segments as a whole rather than parcel them out to individual leaseholders, despite interest from leaseholders to purchase the land.

Before the land was transferred to the Forest Service, lessees were given two choices: sign a 25-year non-renewable lease or remove your camp now. The Forest Service honored this lease agreement but say they cannot renew the leases after December 31, 2016 stating it is National Forest policy not to lease parcels of land to individuals to build camps on.

The Forest Service has also stated they want the land to be available for everyone to use, not just those with leased camps.  The fact is, in most areas, the people with camps are the only ones leaving footprints in the snow.  The Ottawa is nearly 1,000,000 acres in size, and there are roughly 100 leased camps remaining, which occupy about one acre each.  That equates to less than .0001% of the forest. 

In less than 1 year these families have to destroy, remove or burn their idyllic hunting camps from land they enjoy. Many of these camps have been handed down to multiple generations.

Recreation has always been a valid use of Forest Service lands.  People lucky enough to hold one of these leases do not see it as a frivolous undertaking.  There is an understood obligation that all lease holders accept that they are stewards of the land.  

Hundreds of people have made a lot of memories and traditions throughout the years building these camps and spending quality time with family and friends at them, teaching children about the outdoors, enjoying the seclusion and serenity of the woods, fishing and canoeing the free-flowing rivers. They appreciate the opportunity they have.

These camp leaseholders aren’t utilizing these camps for free. They pay lease payments and taxes to the local townships in Ontonagon County. The local economies in these areas are struggling and the loss of these camps means over $35,000 in lost revenue to the townships. When people come to their camps from outside the area they spend money in local businesses: gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants and donate to hunters’ raffles and fundraisers.

These camps have also saved the lives of people stranded in the woods and sheltered people fishing and canoeing the rivers from storms.

For more information and to see and hear stories from the camps visit the website upariver.net

Please help by telling the United States National Forest how important it is for these hunting camps to remain in the Ottawa National Forest.

 



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