The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has unveiled a new Encroachment Resolution Initiative (ERI) as a way for the department to work with property owners who are trespassing or encroaching on DNR-held public land.
The DNR manages more than 4.5 million acres of public land available for recreational purposes, such as hunting, fishing, and camping.
There are three state recreation areas in west Oakland County. The Highland Recreation Area in Highland and White Lake townships boasts of approximately 5,900 acres, while the Proud Lake Recreation area in Milford and Commerce townships has about 4,700 acres. In Waterford and White Lake townships, the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area covers 3,745 acres.
According to the DNR, there have been encroachments on public land across the state for decades which have impeded the DNR’s ability to properly manage, protect, and maintain the land. The ERI will be a way for the DNR to deal with the issue and help restore public land to its rightful owners in “a real, workable solution,” according to DNR Director Rodney Stokes.
“I asked our staff to come up with a creative, customer-focused way of resolving some of our most difficult encroachment situations,” he said. “It will help us appropriately document public land ownership and resolve those trespass cases that tie up substantial staff time and resources and make land-management issues more challenging for the state.”
Under the ERI, the DNR will notify owners of all known encroachments of the process to obtain the land being encroached upon between May 1 and Dec. 31.
Encroachments range from structural trespasses (entire barns, garages, or homes or portions of structures built on public land) to non-structural trespasses (signs, gardens, fencing), and historic trespasses (pre-1973).
If a property owner can show that his or her encroachment was in place prior to March 1, 1973, the DNR property will be transferred to the property owner after a new property survey is completed and new boundaries are established.
Structural encroachments that have occurred after March 1, 1973 will be resolved through land sales.
Meanwhile, individuals with non-structural encroachments, such as fences, gardens, sheds or other non-permanent structures, will need to remove the items if these structures were placed on public land after March 1, 1973.
From May to December, no penalties will be given to the owner of the historical or structural encroachments; however, after the application period closes on Dec. 31, 2012, any existing or new cases of encroachment that were not brought forward will be dealt with through DNR encroachment and enforcement procedures.
“We sincerely hope that anyone currently encroaching on public land will take advantage of this opportunity to resolve trespass situations,” Stokes said. “Public land is intended to be just that — land available for the use and enjoyment of the public. Such encroachments reduce everyone’s ability to enjoy the state’s natural resources that should be freely accessible to residents and visitors alike.”
Throughout the ERI time period, property owners who believe that they are encroaching on state-owned land, but were not notified by the DNR may make application to the DNR to resolve their trespass.
Others with property adjacent to public land who are unsure whether they are encroaching on public land can go on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment to determine if they are trespassing.