LANSING – State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) has introduced House resolution 153 calling on the federal government to renew hunting camp leases 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.
“Some of the hunting camps have been in the forest since the 1950s, when the land was privately owned and people were given the chance to lease the land,” said Dianda. “Now the land is owned by the United States Forest Service (USFS), and the leases are expiring. I am simply asking federal officials to consider the economic impact on our communities, and to treat these hunting camps the same as they treat the single-family cabins they allow people to own in designated areas of national forests.”
Loss of the hunting camps will severely impact the local economies of Ontonagon and Gogebic counties. 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.
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 holder 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.
“What’s fair for cabin owners is fair for hunting camp owners and for the communities that rely on the income they generate,” said Dianda. “I hope the USFS agrees so that we can continue the long tradition of these U.P. hunting camps.”