Gaylord in Otsego County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Elk, Oil and the Environment
Michigan Legal Milestone
During the 1970s, the Pigeon River Country State Forest—home to the only substantial wild elk herd east of the Mississippi River—was the scene of one of the longest, most controversial environmental battles in Michigan history. As the largest piece of undeveloped state-owned property in the Lower Peninsula (covering portions of Otsego, Cheboygan and Montmorency counties), the forest sits on huge reserves of oil and natural gas.
At a time when fuel shortages were causing long lines at gas pumps, oil companies were eager to explore and drill in the 91,000-acre forest. In 1970 the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) gave any person or organization the right to sue to protect natural resources. Concerned citizens and environmentalists, emboldened by MEPA, banded together to halt drilling for oil and natural gas in the forest, claiming it would harm wildlife, especially the elk.
For almost 10 years, the two sides engaged in a series of lawsuits, consent orders, legislation and compromises. A 1979 landmark Michigan Supreme Court case (West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Inc. v Natural Resources
Decades later the forest has yielded valuable gas and oil reserves while the elk herd has continued to grow. Not only did the Pigeon River dispute set standards for future oil drilling in Michigan, it became a national and international model for resource management.
the 46th Circuit Bar Association
June 9, 2010
Erected 2010 by State Bar of Michigan and the 46th Circuit Bar Association. (Marker Number 35.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Environment • Horticulture & Forestry.
Location. 45° 1.632′ N, 84° 40.584′ W. Marker is in Gaylord, Michigan, in Otsego County. Marker is on West Main Street (State Highway 32) east of South Otsego Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located on the Otsego County Courthouse Grounds, by the sidewalk, Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 225 West Main Street, Gaylord MI 49735, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Otsego County (a few steps from this marker); Gaylord, Michigan (a few steps from this marker); First Congregational Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Mary's Catholic Church (about 700 feet away).
Also see . . .
1. A 1979 landmark Michigan Supreme Court case.
(West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Inc. v. Natural Resources Commission) eventually led to an extraordinary agreement between state government, the oil industry, and environmental groups. It allowed tightly regulated drilling in the southern one-third of the forest, which decades later has yielded valuable gas and oil reserves while the elk herd has continued to grow.
(Along with other information, this link presents a video of the marker dedication.) (Submitted on April 29, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
2. West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Inc. v. Natural Resources Commission.
Docket No. 60800, Calendar No. 6
Supreme Court of Michigan
February 20, 1979
Argued May 3, 1978 (Submitted on April 29, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
3. The State Bar of Michigan’s 35th Legal Milestone “Elk, Oil and the Environment”.
The court wrote: “While we understand the trial judge’s reluctance to substitute his judgment for that of an agency with experience and expertise, the Michigan environmental protection act requires independent, De novo determinations by the courts.” Citing the state’s Environmental Protection Act, the court decided to block the drilling of 10 exploratory wells. (Submitted on April 29, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 4, 2018. It was originally submitted on April 28, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 95 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on April 28, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.