DNR director approves lease auction results, protects land near Au Sable River

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Press Release

Dec. 12, 2013

Contact: Mary Uptigrove, 517-284-5850 or Ed Golder, 517-284-6241


DNR director approves results of lease auction, 
protects land near Au Sable River

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh today approved the results of an Oct. 28, 2013, oil and gas lease auction, with the understanding that any oil and gas leases along the Au Sable River corridor would be approved as nondevelopment leases only. A nondevelopment lease does not allow the use of the surface for oil and gas exploration or development.

Creagh announced the decision at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Natural Resources Commission in Lansing. The corridor in question includes part of the Au Sable, a world-renowned trout stream, and encompasses an area east of Grayling to Thendara Road, between North Down River Road and East M-72.

“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.”

Funds generated from oil and gas leasing on state-managed lands pay for recreational improvements and land acquisition for Michigan residents. A significant portion of the Au Sable corridor – known as the Rayburn Tract – was acquired by the DNR with $1.2 million in funds from oil and gas lease development on public property.

Of the 23 leases eligible for approval on this tract of land, 14 were already classified as nondevelopment. The remaining nine leases were initially proposed to allow for restricted development, with additional restrictions such as limited surface disturbance and a quarter-mile buffer zone for protection of Kirtland’s warbler habitat management. Creagh’s decision affects the nine remaining leases.

“We can accomplish our oil and gas management goals in this corridor without surface development,” said Creagh. “Advances in technology allow us to limit surface use. We look forward to working with citizens to identify special places where surface development should be limited.”

Creagh indicated his decision to approve these leases as nondevelopment came after careful consideration of comments submitted by various conservation groups and Michigan citizens, in addition to consultation with DNR staff.

“Anglers of the Au Sable appreciate the willingness of Director Creagh to take special steps to protect this special place,” said Bruce Pregler, chairman of the group. “The Holy Waters section of the Au Sable is a vital part of Michigan’s cultural heritage, as well as the epicenter of angling activities that have been the economic lifeblood of the region for generations, and, if protected, will continue to be an economic driver long after oil and gas drillers have returned to their homes.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the department to identify and defend environmentally sensitive sections of the state while allowing appropriate mineral extraction to go forward.”

Michigan Oil and Gas Association President Frank Mortl said MOGA and its member companies have a long history of developing the state’s oil and natural gas resources while protecting the environment and enabling public land stewardship. “We appreciate that the DNR strives to achieve both goals:  protect public resources while facilitating energy production responsibly,” Mortl said.

For more information about the DNR’s oil and gas lease process, visit www.michigan.gov/minerals.


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.