After over four years of negotiations, the Michigan DNR is going ahead with plans to buy a 640-acre tract of land in Monroe county known as Crystal Waters. The land will be open to the public as a new state game area. This means that anyone will be able to use Crystal Waters State Game Area for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other recreational activities. The area features seven inland water bodies and over six miles of hiking trails. There are also plans to build a state-owned shooting range on the property as well. The deal will reportedly cost the state 3.675 million dollars and is funded by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and funds from MUCC (Michigan United Conservation Clubs).
The area in Monroe county is surrounded by many heavily populated areas with few large tracts of public land open to recreation. As more people have been headed to the outdoors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it is more important than ever to have public land available for everyone to use. The benefit of having the land open as a state game area instead of a preserve or state park is that it is also open to hunters and fishers. One of the biggest complaints that new hunters have is trying to find somewhere to hunt. Public land provides democratic access to the state’s wildlife which is owned in trust by everyone in Michigan.
Many of the large landholdings and farms in Michigan from prior generations are broken up as part of inheritance deals. This makes it rarer to find large tracts of land that are still intact, especially near highly populated areas. The acquisition of the 640-acre tract in Monroe county ensures that this important wildlife habitat will remain undeveloped and provide endless hours of recreational opportunities to the public. While folks love to criticize the state DNR every chance they get, I think we can all agree that they did a great job here. I am looking forward to exploring the new Crystal Waters State Game Area as soon as it’s open to the public.