Legislators trying to raid Michigan’s Trust Fund

State Rep. Dave Agema is leading the raid on Michigan's Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and Federal Transportation Enhancements are the two main funding sources for biking and trail projects in this state.

Now one, if not both are under attack.

The raid on the Trust Fund is quite clear. But let’s begin by noting what this fund is. From the DNR web site:

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been in place since 1976. It provides financial assistance to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

The MNRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of State-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas.

In the Metro Detroit are, the Trust Fund has helped buy trails (e.g. Clinton River Trail), build trails (e.g. Dequindre Cut, RiverWalk), and build parks (Milliken State Park.)

Michigan legislators have introduced bills to divert 80% of the incoming funding and spend it on roads and the aeronautics fund. The message is clear: pavement over parks.

Fortunately this attack on our funding will require significant effort. According to the DNRE, “The MNRTF is constitutionally protected, and, therefore, the passage of this law would require a Constitutional amendment (2/3 majority vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then a majority vote of the citizens).”

Who is behind this attack?

There are two bills and one resolution involved: House Resolution NNN, House Bill 6482, and House Bill 6483. Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) is the main sponsored the first two, while Representative Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuk) sponsored the latter. Representatives Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), Sharon Tyler (R-Niles), John Walsh (R-Livonia), Tom Pearce (R-Rockford), and Joe Haveman (R-Holland) are co-sponsors across the board.

This attempt to rob the Trust Fund really began with the Transportation Funding Task Force, which we wrote about in December of 2008. That effort was stacked with road lobby members so it was no surprise when they suggested taking money dedicated to parks, recreational and greenspace.

All bills are in the Great Lakes and Environment committee where they will hopefully die this session. But don’t hesitate to call and let your state representative know how you feel about this raid.

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3 Responses to “Legislators trying to raid Michigan’s Trust Fund”

  1. Andrew Mutch Says:

    Since the Trust Fund was established, it’s provided close to $100 million in funding for local recreational projects in SE Michigan. These are projects that helped local communities fund recreational projects and land acquisitions that otherwise would have been out of reach. You can see a list of those here:


    Oakland County has been one of the primary beneficiaries of those dollars with over $52 million in projects funded. Those are on top of the millions of dollars for state-administered projects in SE Michigan. You can view that list here:


  2. Joel Batterman Says:

    Just one caveat: while the trails the Fund sponsors may primarily serve a “recreational” purpose, many trails in urbanized areas – the Dequindre Cut, the Clinton River Trail – can and do serve commuter transportation as well.

    In part, this is indeed an attempt to put “pavement over parks.” But it also represents a move for (already heavily subsidized) highways to snatch a few meager crumbs from bicycling and walking, modes which hardly had a piece of the pie to start with.

  3. Todd Scott Says:

    @Joel: That’s true. As I understand it, the Trust Fund projects should have a strong recreational component whereas Transportation Enhancements should have a strong transportation focus. Certainly some projects, including on the ones you’ve mentioned, have both.

    However, the Trust Fund probably won’t fund bike lanes and Enhancements won’t fund a loop trail.

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