New DNR initiative aims to resolve encroachment cases
The Department of Natural Resources announced the Encroachment Resolution Initiative (ERI), an effort geared at resolving the hundreds of cases of encroachment or trespass occurring on public land throughout Michigan.
Through this initiative, the DNR will work with property owners who are trespassing by having either a permanent structure or historical encroachment on public land. Property owners with known encroachments on public land will be notified by letter from the DNR that they are eligible to resolve their case without penalty through the ERI. Property owners adjacent to public land who are not sure whether they are encroaching can use tools on the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment) to determine if they are, in fact, trespassing on state-managed land.
“I asked our staff to come up with a creative, customer-focused way of resolving some of our most difficult encroachment situations,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes.
“The Encroachment Resolution Initiative reaches out to residents with a real, workable solution,” said Stokes. “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, property owners who are encroaching on public land managed by the DNR can (starting May 1, 2012) apply to have their cases resolved. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 31, 2012. During this “amnesty” period, DNR staff will work with property owners to properly document ownership.
If a property owner can show that his or her encroachment was in place prior to March 1, 1973 (in keeping with a 1988 amendment of the Revised Judicature Act), the 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. The DNR will streamline its land sale process for encroachment cases being resolved through the ERI.
Individuals with non-structural encroachments (such as fences, gardens, sheds or other non-permanent structures) occurring on public land after March 1, 1973, will need to remove the items.
By providing a streamlined and legal process to resolve their trespass without penalty, the Encroachment Resolution Initiative is intended as an incentive program for property owners encroaching on public land. Throughout the duration of the ERI, the DNR will not seek penalties or take escalated enforcement action for any encroachments that are resolved by Dec. 31, 2012.
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,” said DNR Director Stokes. “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.”
Individuals with questions about the ERI should contact Lori Burford, the DNR’s encroachment specialist, at 989-275-5151, ext. 2100 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the ERI, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment.