LANSING – The House Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee heard testimony today from state Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) on his resolution, House Resolution 153, calling on the federal government to take action on hunting camp leases. Dianda is calling on the federal government to renew hunting camp licenses under the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) Recreation Residence Program, or grandfather in the remaining 104 lease agreements for hunting camps in the Upper Peninsula’s Ottawa National Forest. The committee then reported the resolution to the House floor with a recommendation that the full House support the resolution.
“Some of the hunting camps have been in the forest since the 1950s, and they are important to the families they belong to and to the economies of Ontonagon and Gogebic counties,” said Dianda. “It’s estimated that townships will lose more than $35,000 in lease fee revenue, and counties will lose about $10,000 in tax revenue. Local businesses that depend on hunters and tourists could lose even more if the hunting camps are dismantled. We shouldn’t let this happen.”
In the 1950s, the land was owned by the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO). That company offered residents the chance to lease the land. UPPCO sold that land to the USFS in 1992. The USFS offered existing leaseholders the chance to sign a 25-year non-renewable lease or immediately vacate the property. The land currently under private lease accounts for 104 lease holders occupying less than 1,100 acres in the Ottawa National Forest. Currently, 15,570 recreation residences occupy national forest system lands throughout the country under the USFS Recreational Forest System Program allowing single-family cabins.
“Now that the leases are expiring, I think it’s time that the USFS treat these hunting camps the same as they treat the cabins they allow in these forests,” said Dianda. “Hunting camps are part of what makes the U.P. unique and they draw tourists and hunters to our communities. We are always looking to create jobs in my district, and we can’t afford to lose the tourism and recreation jobs these camps contribute. I appreciate my House colleagues’ support for my resolution. I hope the federal government will listen us and act to renew these leases or grandfather in the leases that remain.”