Hartwick Pines State Park – which is in my opinion one of Michigan’s coolest parks – would be opened to slant drilling if the proposal by oil & gas interests on the table is accepted by the DNR. Bridge Magazine has a feature titled Oil lease proposed under 400-year-old virgin pines that begins:
About 9,700 acres of Hartwick Pines State Park and surrounding land near Grayling are on a list of parcels nominated by oil and gas companies for lease of mineral rights. The lease of those parcels, which include the largest remaining old growth white pine trees south of the Mackinac Bridge as well as the rest of one of Michigan’s most popular parks, is likely to be included in a Department of Natural Resources auction Oct. 29.
No development would be allowed on the ground surface. But the leases open the possibility of slant or horizontal drilling under trees that have grown since the first Europeans stepped foot in the region.
While mineral exploration deep below the surface isn’t likely to harm the trees, the possibility of drilling raises concerns about the boom of oil rigs at a beloved state park, and is symbolic of the occasional tension in the state between business interests and Pure Michigan.
“There are some special places in the state that oil and gas development should not be happening,” said Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League for Conservation Voters. “And Hartwick Pines is one of them.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is accepting public comments on its decision to lease mineral rights in Hartwick Pines State Park through September 5th.
The Michigan LCV has established a petition if you want to weigh in. They note that Hartwick Pines is home to some of the few forests that were protected from Michigan’s logging boom and holds the largest contiguous stand of old-growth white pine in the Lower Peninsula. The park is also home to the East Branch of the legendary Au Sable River, a blue-ribbon trout stream.