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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Urgent! The Au Sable needs our HELP!

Dear Members, 

You and the more than 700 other members of this organization are known far and wide for pulling together and doing whatever it takes to protect the Au Sable River. Once again, we need your help. Once again, the Au Sable is under threat of new oil and gas drilling.

In late October, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned nearly 2,800 acres in and near the Au Sable Holy Waters corridor (between the Whirlpool and Thendara) for potential oil and gas development. Most if not all of these leases were purchased by Encana, the Canadian company which is using massive amounts of water for deep-fracking wells in the Manistee River basin.

A number of these proposed leases could allow surface wells, pumping stations, and pipelines. Many of these parcels are in the Rayburn Tract. This wonderful piece of state land was once private, and slated for development. Only the efforts of dedicated conservationists prevented condominium development on the parcel, and allowed it to become public land, accessible to all.
We urged the DNR not to lease these lands. They did it anyway.
There's one more opportunity to stop this. A few minutes of your time could really help.   

While the auction is complete, the final decision on whether or not to finalize the leases will come on December 12. Before that comes to pass, please let DNR Director Keith Creagh know that you support leaving the Holy Waters undeveloped. Personalized letters are best. Form letters are not helpful.
As late as November 25th, we met with DNR Director Creagh, and requested that he not authorize these new Holy Water leases.  At this meeting he requested letters from our membership supporting our position. 

You can write to: DNR Director Keith Creagh | Executive Division | PO Box 30028 Lansing, MI 48909. Or you can send an email to Please do not call on the telephone as this will simply overwhelm and alienate DNR staff.
Also, if you copy us on your communications to Director Creagh, we can hand-deliver all member comments to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission on December 12 where the final decision on the leases will be made. To do so, send a copy of your communications to

Finally, we can't tell you what to write and we suspect emotions among many members will run high because of this news. But it is most helpful if your communications to the DNR are professional and well-reasoned rather than emotional rants.

More Background...
The DNR tells us that if drilling occurs on these Holy Water parcels, they'll be "able to protect the valuable surface features" of the area. We don't buy it. You either think it's a good idea to have oil and gas development along the Au Sable River, or you don't. We emphatically do not.

A growing chorus is asking DNR Director Creagh to cancel the auction of these parcels. We're now joined by the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Au Sable Big Water Preservation Association, North Branch Foundation, Au Sable Watershed Restoration Committee, Michigan Trout Unlimited (and it's Mason-Griffith and Headwaters Chapters), the Great Lakes Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, and the Au Sable Property Owners Association.

In practice, these leases are a significant change of DNR policy. In the past, the DNR has refrained from offering these leases in or right next to this prized river corridor. The Anglers Board of Directors believes the DNR should never have put a "Development" designation on any parcel near the river corridor, nor leased such parcels for potential oil and gas development. We fear the DNR is saying the Au Sable corridor is "open for business" to oil and gas developers.

As we all remember very clearly, this entire organization, most notably its founder Rusty Gates, has worked tirelessly to extinguish these kinds of threats to the river we all love. We won the Mason Tract fight. We won the Kolke Creek fight. We don't go looking for these fights, but Rusty would surely demand that we continue to "keep a perch eye on it."  

A word about "optimizing revenue"...
In a recent letter to the Anglers, Director Creagh said he planned to go forward with these leases and noted the "DNR is responsible for managing state-owned mineral rights in a matter than ensures protection of natural resource values, while optimizing revenue for the people of the state."

The only industry which really stands to benefit from these leases is oil and gas. Their potential gain comes at the risk to too many others.

The October auction results are not yet fully public. But recent auction trends suggest the DNR is likely to fetch less than $100,000 for these Holy Water leases. And the state would eventually collect a royalty of one-sixth the value of production. Statewide, oil and gas wells average roughly $3,000 each in annual royalties to the state.

Altogether, that's a pittance compared to the current value of the existing river economy.
Sport fishing in Michigan is a $2 billion annual economy, with Grayling as one of its epicenters.

Riverfront property owners in Crawford County have a combined property market value of $275 million and pay more than $3.3 million in annual property taxes. That's nearly a quarter of all property taxes paid in the county, according to a recent study conducted for Anglers of the Au Sable by Public Sector Consultants, Inc.

Stay tuned...
There's more to come. We will have additional news soon about other oil and gas developments in and near the river corridors this organization is duty-bound to protect.

What's more important: the currently thriving river economy or a low-return gamble on oil and gas development next to the Au Sable River - one of Pure Michigan's purest assets?

We think the DNR is making a horrible choice on this one. We need your help to reverse it.

We're sure many of you will have questions about all of this. Feel free to email Tom at for more information. 

Also, Anglers board members will have maps, displays, handouts and more information about this issue available at the fly tying show in Holt on December 7th. Please stop in and chat with us.

Thank you for your consideration - and for your dedication to the Au Sable River. Rusty would be proud. 

Bruce Pregler, President
Thomas Baird, First Vice-President

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