*** NATURAL RESOURCES COMMISSION POLICY ***
Issued March 9, 1978
Michigan's rivers and streams, and their adjoining lands represent some of the State's most important natural resources. These areas are important for their recreational, scenic, historic, cultural, economic, scientific and environmental values. However, the beauty and quality of rivers is fragile and the existence of unspoiled, free-flowing stretches is diminishing. A program for identification, designation and protection of these free-flowing natural rivers is in the public interest. The responsibility for developing Michigan's state-wide system of designated natural rivers has been delegated to the Department of Natural Resources under authority of the Natural Rivers Act (Act 231, Public, Acts of 1970). This task involves two entities often in conflict: private ownership of river frontage and protection of publicly-owned natural resources. Because of the impact on private land rights, the program must maintain high visibility in the minds of the public, private river front landowners, and local governmental officials.
Selection of free-flowing rivers or river segments for inclusion in Michigan's natural river system will be based upon the specific qualities outlined in Section 3 of the Natural Rivers Act--water conservation, free-flowing condition, and fish, wildlife, boating, scenic, aesthetic, floodplain, ecologic, historic and recreational values and uses. Priorities for study and designation will be based upon the quality of the resource, the impending and anticipated threats to those qualities, and local initiative and support.
Prior to designation as a natural river, the Department will develop a long-range plan for the river and adjoining lands. The plan's objective will be the strong protection and enhancement of natural river values for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The plan will recognize the right and the need of the public to use and enjoy designated rivers, and if necessary, will contain a program for protection of the resource from overuse, including efforts to relieve public pressures on private lands. Zoning controls will be the chief means of controlling development and use on adjacent or affected lands. These zoning controls must be reasonable, yet sufficient to ensure a high level of protection to the natural and aesthetic qualities of the designated public resource and adjoining lands. Development of natural river plans shall include a high level of citizen and local government involvement. Local governmental officials, river front property owners and other citizens will be approached at an early stage in an earnest effort to enlist their knowledge and opinion on the river resource and its protection.
In administration of designated natural rivers, great emphasis will be placed on local control of protective zoning ordinances. Local governmental units will be strongly encouraged to adopt and enforce appropriate zoning controls. Every effort shall be made to re-enforce the idea that this is a program to protect a resource of great value to the citizens of the State, not a program to merely prevent development.
1. State land within the designated area shall be administered and managed in accordance with the plan, and State management of fisheries, streams, waters, wildlife and boating shall take cognizance of the plan. Emphasis will be placed on Department programs which affect designated rivers, in line with the adopted river management plans, including: design, development, relocation or screening of Departmental facilities; acquisition of critical lands to provide recreational facilities, disperse use or relieve trespass on private lands; and implementation of other land, water and resource management programs which serve to protect and enhance the qualities of the natural river area.
2. Where a proposed Departmental use or facility on a designated natural river appears to contravene the purposes and objectives of the natural river designation, the project will be modified to conform to the objectives of the designation and the Natural Rivers Act or will be canceled. If a project is essential to the operation of other programs, but does not conform to the river management plan of a designated river, it must be submitted to the Natural Resources Commission for approval.
3. The Department shall provide technical assistance in drafting, processing and enforcement of local zoning for natural rivers protection.
4. The Department shall, upon request, provide technical advice to local river front property owners as to location and design of structures, management of private lands, planting and management of vegetation, river clean-up, and property tax benefits available under Act 116, Public Acts of 1974, as amended, or other relevant State statutes.
5 . Recommended planting materials will be supplied at cost to property owners by the Department on designated natural rivers when available.
6. The Department shall conduct an on-going public information program to explain the values and importance of a natural rivers system, describe the pressures which pose a threat to rivers and to outline steps which river front property owners, local governments, State agencies and others may take to protect this State's outstanding river environments.
Supported by Commission Action March 9, 1978.
Procedure No. 2703-3.