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DETROIT-The US Senate recently passed an amendment authored by Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow requiring Congressional approval before any transfer of land on South Fox Island, located off the shore of Leland and Charlevoix, can go forward. The amendment was included in the Department of the Interior appropriations bill that passed the Senate by voice vote.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been handling the transfer.

However, MDNR spokesman Brad Wurfel says the amendment is another example ofgovernment micromanaging.

Neighboring North Fox Island in Lake Michigan has been donated to the State of Michigan by developer David V. Johnson, chairman of Victor International of Detroit.

Johnson purchased the island to prevent commercial development seven years ago.

The 836-acre North Fox is valued at $15 million. The state will pay only $2.2 million from a land grant trust for Johnson’s legal and closing expenses, making the donation worth nearly $13 million.

The island includes a 180-foot-high dune formation, a stone/sand beach, and five miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

Johnson is working with the state and federal agencies to consolidate his holdings on the larger South Fox Island into the lower portion of the island.

Because Johnson already owns two-thirds of the 1,200-acre island, the state and the developer are trying to make the land contiguous.

With the consolidation, Johnson would also acquire 115 miles at the southern tip of South Fox, including a boat harbor.

“South Fox Island is one of Michigan’s precious jewels,” Levin says. “We must do everything we can to ensure that Michigan residents are well-served in any decision about the future of the public lands on South Fox Island. When the federal government transferred this land, it incorporated restrictions to ensure its perpetual use for the public. Congress should be sure that the public interest is protected before any transfer is approved.”

Wurfel says the amendment won’t affect the transfer.

“We’re going to go forward regardless,” the MDNR official tells GlobeSt.com. “Our plan is reasonable, and meets our goal of preserving and managing state land.”

He says the two senators don’t clearly understand the swap, which is currently in public comment stages. Two public meetings have been held, and complaints have been noted, Wurfel adds.

The South Fox Island Lighthouse and an adjoining 115 acre parcel at the southern tip of South Fox Island were transferred to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in 1971 and 1980 for public parks and recreation use.

In addition, 313 acres of state-owned land was purchased using federal aid.

US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service approval is required before the state can transfer any of the property. The National Park Service had begun the process with MDNR to transfer property from public to private ownership.

The Levin-Stabenow amendment ensures that this exchange of public land cannot go forward before October 1, 2002, unless Congress authorizes such a transfer.

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