By Bob Allen
A lawsuit filed Tuesday raises issues about oil and gas drilling on state recreation land. It claims the state can’t push aside hunting, fishing, and camping in favor of developing mineral rights.
Suit Says DNR Didn’t Do Due Diligence
The properties named in the suit are the Barry and Allegan State Game Areas and Yankee Springs Recreation Area.
It says the DNR is supposed to protect recreation lands for all the public to use and enjoy. And that the law requires the agency to show there won’t be any harm from oil and gas drilling.
Jim Olson, an attorney from Traverse City who filed the suit, says DNR hasn’t done that. “I mean we’re talking about an industrial activity in and around these special state land areas.”
Olson is especially concerned about a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” that he says is so intrusive it will harm the air, water and soil.
The DNR won’t comment except to say it disputes those claims and will fight them in court.
Pigeon River Precedent
Attorney Jim Olson claims the state is backing away from commitments made more than thirty years ago to protect recreation land from oil and gas drilling in the Pigeon River Country.
“All the legal principles came out of the Pigeon River and they are being ignored today. We are basically as a state in retreat,” Olson says.
The lawsuit was filed after the Department of Natural Resources refused to remove certain properties from an oil and gas lease auction. Those also include the Jordan River Natural Area and the Sand Lakes Quiet Area.
The auction took place as scheduled this week.