Michigan Land Use Institute

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New Report Champions Natural Rivers Program

Institute publishes fact sheets

August 1, 1999 | By Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Michigan's wild, wooded rivers are among the state's most treasured natural features and most valued natural resources. Yet it's been 11 years since local communities used their ability, under the state's pioneering Natural River Act, to protect more of these world-class waterways.

Fourteen rivers — including the Au Sable, Betsie, Boardman, Jordan, and Pere Marquette — currently benefit from how the Act uses zoning to keep rivers clean and quiet while allowing for riverfront homes and other private land uses.

As real estate and resort development pressure continues to bear down on Michigan's natural areas, at least 25 more rivers need these safeguards. But the Natural Rivers Program is under heavy attack from "private property rights" activists, who say it is government out of control. They have focused their opposition on designation of the Big Manistee and Pine rivers, and have stalled progress for other rivers throughout the state.

Fact Sheets Tell the Story
To help clear up the misinformation that has undermined this effective and democratic program, the Institute has produced a special report, Michigan Natural River Program: A Tool for Citizens, made up of four detailed fact sheets. The report, of interest to individuals, local governments, journalists, and citizen groups, explores such issues as:

• Why the Program requires property owners to keep strips of natural vegetation along riverbanks, and to set their homes back from the water's edge.
• How the Program actually works. Private rights groups fear that bureaucrats at the Department of Natural Resources in Lansing make all the decisions once a river is designated. In fact, the program is a national model for giving local people control over river protections.

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