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> > Important News on the Au Sable Michigan

OldredbarnDecember 3rd, 2013, 9:02 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
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 DNR-Director@michigan.gov. 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 info@ausableanglers.org.

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 tbairdo@aol.com 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
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
OldredbarnDecember 3rd, 2013, 9:04 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
The above is a letter to members of the Anglers of the Au Sable...These fights never seem to end!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
WillyDecember 5th, 2013, 12:01 am
Chicago, IL

Posts: 47
This is important. I'll be writing a letter.
Check out my fishing pictures on Instagram.
EntomanDecember 5th, 2013, 12:10 am
Site Editor
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Spence -

Ah, "progress" - aint it grand? :(

Has your organization considered filing a complaint with the EPA? Perhaps that would produce better results than fighting a State bureaucracy that sounds to have already made up its mind. Under the current administration, that may tie 'em up for years.

BTW - a bit ironical that Jason's header photo today is one of the AK pipeline.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
TroutnutDecember 5th, 2013, 4:33 am
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2541
a bit ironical that Jason's header photo today is one of the AK pipeline


Poor choice of the random number generator!

I flagged this as a "featured" topic to give it a little bit more attention. If a site editor (Kurt or Taxon) has the time/inclination to do a front-page blog post on the topic highlighting this letter, feel free to do so.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
RogueratDecember 5th, 2013, 8:34 pm
Posts: 443
'protect the valuable surface features...'

This is double-speak for 'we're not really sure what will happen subsurface.'

Count me in; I'm not a member of the Anglers of the Au Sable BUT I'm a resident of Michigan and I fly-fish.
I'll write letters to the MiDNR, representatives in Michigan's Congress, and the Governor if that helps. I'll also pass this info along to my fishing group, another 11 or 12 guys who live to fly-fish as often as possible and feel just as strongly about any threat to our environment.

Drilling is one thing; pumping sludge underground to break up rocks and release natural gas- and nobody really knows what else- is something else entirely.

Roguerat

I Peter 5:7 'Cast your cares upon Him...'
OldredbarnDecember 5th, 2013, 10:57 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Thanks guys. If you write something use the address listed as DNR-Director@michigan.gov They need to be in by the 12th of this month.

Please no rants. Just explain why you think the Au Sable valley is not a proper place for gas wells.

A few years back, with the help of the Sierra Club, we stopped a well in the Mason Tract. They seem to feel that they have more dough to waste for this sort of thing, government subsidies will do that for you, than we do. They probably feel that if they can win here they are home free.

Our DNR has let us down here.

Thanks!

Spence

Not sure how the Natural Rivers Act will come in to play. For the right amount of cash the broke township boys just look the other way. "Oh! I wasn't supposed to build that dock there. What do I owe you?" The rules don't seem to apply here. If you don't agree with them just ignore them.
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123December 6th, 2013, 2:22 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2379
Spence, I'll certainly have to write as well, even though I don't fish those waters. I do live only a ten-minute walk from the lower Au Sable and I do fish the Pine River, which is a tributary to the Au Sable. Even if someone doesn't fish any of these waters it is a most worthy cause, as like you say, who knows where it will happen next. Thanks for providing an email address in your latest post.

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TaxonDecember 6th, 2013, 6:01 pm
Site Editor
Plano, TX

Posts: 1294
Jason-

I flagged this as a "featured" topic to give it a little bit more attention. If a site editor (Kurt or Taxon) has the time/inclination to do a front-page blog post on the topic highlighting this letter, feel free to do so.


I will defer to Kurt :-)
Roger Rohrbeck
www.FlyfishingEntomology.com
OldredbarnDecember 8th, 2013, 1:19 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
The Great Lakes Council of FFF had their annul Fly Tying Expo today up near Lansing. I got to spend some time with the Angler's VP Tom Baird, and board member of the Angler's and President of the Mason-Griffith Chapter of TU (Grayling-Founder's Chapter) Karen Harrison.

The consensus remains positive, and the rumor is that letters are flooding in from everywhere. Besides all the Michigan groups, the message has been posted here on TroutNut, and the Classic Rod sight, and some national conservation groups.

The glaciers left the upper portion of the lower pennisula like a large fish tank water purifier...It is all sand and rain water soaks into the ground to find its way, years later, in to the river via underground springs. You and I need freah water more than we need trout actually, yet we treat these wonderful fresh water sources like drainage ditches. It is a risk, IMHO, too great to take.

Our govenor likes to portray himself as this roll up your sleaves nerd, and to him all the resources in the state are there for the harvesting. Its just business. The nerd has no real connection with the outdoors and sees there only dollars and cents. To me this is a barren, self serving, way to look at the world...

To love nature, I guess, you need to know it...So immerse your children in it, and hopefully they will see their way to forgiving us our trespasses.

Thanks everyone...and Jason, for allowing this post.

Spence

On a happier note...The fly tying today was great...When I wasn't BSing with everyone, I was taking some notes, and got some cool ideas for the vice to try for next year. :) I wish I could show you the fly that was all trimmed deer hair, that was shaped and glued to look just like a small bat splayed out on the water...Not sure its stiffness would result in a hook up, but it sure looked realistic.

I enjoyed watching my Grayling pal, Jerry Regan, tying up a grasshopper for a four year old future angler...The boy had a small plastic container packed with gifts from all those old-fart, soft-hearted, tyers. His eyes were as big a saucers!

Tony. You buddy Chris Helm was there and holding fort!
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123December 8th, 2013, 2:04 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2379
Good post, Spence. Yep, gotta love the legacy of those glaciers - Michigan wouldn't be the same without them, as in no Great Lakes, not to mention the rivers that feed them and all the inland lakes...

Yes, Rick Snyder reminds me too much of John Engler, the man who stole MDNR funds to say that he "balanced the budget"...sounds like robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
OldredbarnDecember 8th, 2013, 11:57 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
http://vimeo.com/81287261

Lets see if this link works.

Spence

Jonathon...I'm posting this for the general public, but I'm hassling you a bit for not driving due east once in a while and experiencing the head waters of the Au Sable. :) You would name your first born after me if you would ever haul your kayak to Wakeley Lake...It's catch and release and the bass are so big there, you are cautioned not to dangle your toes over the side...No motors allowed either.
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123December 9th, 2013, 12:13 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2379
Spence, I would have to drive due west by northwest to get to those waters. Driving east from here would put me in Lake Huron!!!

;oD

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
OldredbarnDecember 9th, 2013, 2:40 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Spence, I would have to drive due west by northwest to get to those waters. Driving east from here would put me in Lake Huron!!!

;oD

Jonathon


Oops!!! I really wasn't trying to drown you fella, really! ;) Well...Right about now the water out on Lake Huron should be ice covered so maybe you would of been safe. Though you wouldn't be heading out with your kayak here in December in northern Michigan.

You are right, "Go west, young man, go west!" I think I told you that my father taught navigation for the NROTC program at old North Hall at U of M in the 60's...He's rolling over in his grave at the moment and wondering how his son gets anywhere without getting lost or hurting himself?! :)

Keep your eyes open for Snowy Owls...Supposed to be an irruption year for them...

You really need to put Wakeley Lake on your bucket list. The parking lot is just a little "west" of where 72 crosses the South Branch of the Au Sable. The outlet from the pond works its way into the Holy Water just upstream from Wakeley Bridge. We call it Wakeley Creek...:) Wakeley was a guide and his old home is on the south side of the river at his namesake bridge.

One night in the 90's sometime I came wading up to the bridge around midnight. I had been fishing all day and had had a wonderful day/evening with the E dorothea hatch...There is one of those lights across the river from Wakeley's house like you see on farms and it lights up the area.

I was walking slowly, its deep here in spots, hugging the north shore...Accross the river just up from the bridge I saw what looked to be a nice rise...I said, "What the hell!? A Bridge dweller out for a late night carnivorous stroll", and sent my fly over there...The fish took the fly and headed due south...Towards what seemed to me to be the bank!

Further and further he went, all of this taking place in seconds, and I didn't know what to do but try and turn the fish away from the undercut bank on the other side...I hadn't prepared really, as I should have, for dealing with a trout north of 20" after dark...I had a tiny sulpher spinner on, and 6x tippet...I squeezed my finger down on the running line to pressure the fish a bit, and my rod made two extremely violent jerks and "ping"...It was over.

The next morning in the shop at Gates', Rusty gave me hell for hassling, "Old Lady Wakeley's Bread-Hole fish". I guess she was known to step out on the dock there and feed these 20+" fish pieces of bread to entertain the grandkids. Rusty told me that the undercut bank there went to the Crawford County line! :) I thought the damn fish was climbing the opposite bank.

Everytime I pass this spot I aways take a break and look for this brusiers progeny...A stouter piece of tippet laced to my leader for sure though, this time. :) Sorry Rusty...Sorry Ma Wakeley! ;)

Spence

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 9th, 2013, 9:33 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Will do.

"Progress?" "Does this ever end?" Just looking out my window: We all have MUCH to fear.
OldredbarnDecember 16th, 2013, 10:46 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2591
Here's to an early Christmas present! It seems that the DNR chief was so overwhelmed with letters that he has had a change of heart.

Thanks to everyone who took part! Thanks to Jason and Kurt for looking the other way and allowing this wordy, but important post...Thanks too for elevating the status to "Featured Topic"! Maybe the pen is mightier than the sword?! Well, once in a while anyway. :)

Spence

See the following release from Angler's of the Au Sable:

DNR Director Creagh Joins Anglers in saying “No Surface Development” On Holy Water

After meeting with Anglers President Bruce Pegler and First Vice President Tom Baird and receiving hundreds of emails from concerned anglers and lovers of the Au Sable from around the state, DNR Director Keith Creagh has decided there will be no oil and gas exploration along the “holy waters” corridor anytime soon.

The announcement came at a Dec. 12 meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. Anglers of the AuSable thanks Director Creagh for reversing the department’s initial plan to allow development in several parcels near the river, and changing them to “non-development” status. Not only have the leases been set as “non-development,” the director is modifying them to remove language allowing reclassification of surface use without public notice and a new lease process.

Anglers, our fellow fishing and environmental friends, local businesses plus hundreds of concerned citizens can finally exhale, for now.
“Michigan has special places that deserve careful attention and thoughtful protection,” Creagh said. “The Au Sable River is one of those places. A nondevelopment lease lets us protect an area’s valuable surface features.

This, in turn, protects Michigan citizens against the loss of revenue if publicly owned minerals are removed without a lease in place.”
In late October, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned nearly 2,800 acres east of Grayling for potential oil and gas development, much of it smack in the middle of one of the world’s most beloved trout streams. We urged the DNR not to do this. The Department did it anyway.

At the December 12 NRC Meeting, DNR Director Keith Creagh announced he would:
 Not enter the leases as originally auctioned.
 Modify the affected leases along the Holy Water to “non-development” status.
 Further tighten the leases to specifically prohibit any reclassification for the full five-year lease period. Any such reclassification, if requested by the oil and gas lease holders, would require public notice and a new auction – which Anglers would naturally oppose.
 Pledged, based on this recent controversy, to assign a DNR taskforce, with stakeholder input including Anglers representatives, to identify “special places” akin to the Holy Waters, where mineral leases and future oil and gas development will be off-limits in the future.

“This is a huge win for Anglers of the Au Sable,” president Bruce Pregler said. “Only through intense yet rational public input from hundreds of Anglers members and our friends in the conservation community were we able to convince the DNR to make this change. In fact, during the meeting today the director said he was getting an email every four minutes.”

“Thanks to all who took the time to explain to the DNR why the Au Sable is so special and why there was no way any of us would stand by while land was cleared for oil and gas wells in the Holy Water,” Pregler said.
Baird also said special thanks go to DNR Director Creagh. “Keith really listened to us,” Baird said. “It took guts to make this change – and vision to pledge to identify other special places where these kinds of controversies should be avoided in the future.”

When the lease news broke in October, Anglers went to work. The proposed leasing plan did not bode well for current or future residents of this historic stretch of the Au Sable. We asked again that the DNR reconsider the action. The Department initially declined our request.

That meant it was time to roll up our sleeves and do the heavy lifting necessary to help Director Creagh better understand these issues. This was nothing new for us, and we quickly were joined by our usual allies: the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Au Sable Big Water Preservation Association, North Branch Foundation, Au Sable River Watershed Committee, and Michigan Trout Unlimited. Several local business and government leaders assisted in this effort at well. We had not seen that spirit here since the dark days of the Mason Tract crisis.

Given the short time window and enormity of the task it was an extraordinary show of solidarity by all. We are grateful for the support.
In the final analysis Director Creagh made the right decision. The “Holy Water” is safe for now thanks to Creagh’s willingness to listen.
More work needs to be done to responsibly obtain these resources, but this is a victory worth savoring. Thank you to all who helped us to secure it.
- Bruce Pregler, President and Tom Baird, First Vice President


"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Kschaefer3December 16th, 2013, 12:56 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
This is great to hear! Too often our resources are sacrificed for the almighty dollar. Knock back an extra Molson for me in celebration, Spence :)
Jmd123December 16th, 2013, 2:22 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2379
OUTSTANDING!!! I was unfortunately too busy to write but obviously others have done their work and it has paid off. Merry Christmas Spence, and all of the others who fish those waters!!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
PaulRobertsDecember 16th, 2013, 6:51 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Phew!!
Icaught3fisJanuary 1st, 2014, 11:58 am
Posts: 1Did the anyone see the article on December 22 in the Detroit Free Press?
Lydia Lohrer (writer) gives a "Super Santa" to Keith Creagh for ensuring the land would be exempt from surface development. In the same article she gave a "Super Scrooge" to the dunderheads that allowed the leasing of the land.
If I am not mistaken Keith Creagh is one in the same. This shows how out of touch and politically biased the writers from the Free Press really are.
Icaught3fish
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