State plans sale of surplus land
By ANDREA BYL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Looking for 20 acres of rolling hills in Lake County, 80-acres of wetlands
south of Beaverton or 15 acres of forest in Cherry Valley Township?
They‟re all up for auction and private sale as part of the Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) land consolidation strategy review process.
Since the 1940s, the state has accumulated pieces of land through tax reversion
when owners failed to pay taxes, and by other means, said Ed Meadows, manager of real
estate services for the department.
About three years ago, the department decided to look at its holdings to determine
if they are essential to the DNR mission, he said. It‟s an in-depth process that takes at
least a year to complete.
Land is evaluated on four basic criteria: If it‟s located outside the boundaries of
state forests, parks or game areas; if it has resource potential; how much the land is used
for public recreation; and if the state acquired it other than by purchase.
Parcels are also evaluated by the departments of Environmental Quality and
History, Arts and Library to make sure no historic value is overlooked before opening the
analysis up for public comment.
Kerry Wieber, chair of the DNR land review team, said local opinion has changed
the recommendation to sell in some situations.
In both Oceana and Baraga counties, for example, the public knew how to access
land up for review, which the department previously had listed as inaccessible. Because
of that knowledge, the DNR reversed its decision to sell.
“We definitely value the input the public can provide on this process,” Wieber
said. “We‟ve made a lot of changes based on public input.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs, an organization representing more than 500
conservation groups, has had a member of its land consolidation committee attend nearly
every public meeting, said Erin Mcdonough, an MUCC policy specialist.
The organization adopted a resolution in 2005 opposing the sale of any parcel
larger than 40-acres with public access or any land with water resources, Mcdonough
“We don‟t want to see them get rid of any resources that have valuable public
access that we‟ll never get back again,” she said. “Sometimes a 40-acre parcel by itself
with a river is worth more than adding to a larger parcel.”
Mcdonough said, overall, the DNR is doing a good job in determining which land
to sell because the process involves so much input.
If a parcel is approved for sale, it‟s first offered to a local government or
conservation organization for public recreation. If neither is interested in buying the plot,
the sale goes public.
This year, more than 400 acres are up for sale, in 18 plots in Berrien, Dickinson,
Lake and Gladwin counties.
Meadows cited examples of the type of plots most commonly sold, often where
the state owns only a small area of land.
“Let‟s say that in 1942 we had a 40-acre plot in Gladwin County that tax-reverted
to the state, and we added it to the state holdings,” he said. “And let‟s say sometime in
the „60s the state came in and put in a road that went through the land, leaving six to 10
acres on other side of the road.”
That parcel is outside the property line and would be evaluated for sale, Meadows
said. “We aren‟t talking about wholesale disposal or big sales of land.”
Land locked in by privately owned plots is another example of parcels not useful
to the DNR because they can‟t be accessed, he said.
For example several 40-acre plots in Dickerson County‟s Segola Township are
surrounded by forest industry land and are accessible only by boat or on foot. No road
runs to those areas.
If purchased by private owners, the land is added to the local tax roll, and all sale
proceeds go into a fund to purchase other land for the state, he said.
However, the state prefers land exchange, Meadows said. Some owners with
hunting land in Northern Michigan exchange it for property closer to where they live.
Bids for the parcels in Berrien, Dickinson, Lake and Gladwin counties must be
postmarked by Jan. 3 and the auction begins Jan. 12.
That will be the first auction in the land consolidation process. However, parcels
not sold at auction are available for direct purchase in Clare, Montmorency and Midland
counties. Information on all the parcels can be viewed at the DNR Web site,