Sen. Zorn supports increased local recreation funding

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday supported legislation to increase the flexibility of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) and the Michigan State Park Endowment Fund (MSPEF) and provide greater funding for local outdoor recreation.

“Since its creation in 1976, the trust fund has done a tremendous job preserving our natural resources and enhancing the enjoyment of Michigan’s great outdoors,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “These reforms would strengthen the trust fund’s core preservation purpose while expanding its flexibility to provide funding for more outdoor recreation and development.”

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned oil, gas and mineral rights. The fund includes constitutional restrictions that “not less than 25 percent” of the total spent be used for land acquisitions and “not more than 25 percent” be used for recreation development.

Senate Joint Resolution O is a proposed constitutional amendment that would revise the NRTF’s recreation development section to be “not less than” 25 percent of the total.

Currently, until the MSPEF reaches a cap of $800 million, half of the annual revenue is credited to the fund’s principal and the remaining revenue may be spent on operations, maintenance and capital improvements at state parks and for land acquisition for state parks.

SJR O would also revise the distribution of funds from the MSPEF to following:
• 30 percent to the fund’s principal;
• 55 percent to state park operations and infrastructure; and
• 15 percent to a new local development projects grant program.

Once the MSPEF reaches its $800 million cap, oil and gas royalties would return to the NRTF and the NRTF’s $500 million cap would be eliminated.

“The Crystal Waters land acquisition project in 2017 was a prime example of the trust fund’s long record of preserving our state’s natural resources and improving public access to outstanding recreational opportunities,” Zorn said. “This package would build on that success by increasing funding flexibility, protecting the funds for natural resource recreation and development, and increasing funding for local recreation and improvements to area state parks.”

If SJR O is approved by the Legislature, the proposal would be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters. Senate Bills 763, 931 and 932 would make statutory changes in state law to implement SJR O. The bills would only go into effect if the voters approve the ballot measure.