An initiative started by the Department of Natural Resources this spring is working to resolve 129 cases of encroachment – or trespass – on public lands through a streamlined process, DNR Director Keith Creagh told the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at its meeting in Ontonagon last Thursday.

Creagh also reminded the public that the deadline to file for quick resolution on an encroachment case is Dec. 31, 2012.

The Encroachment Resolution Initiative (ERI) works with property owners who are trespassing either by having a permanent structure or historical encroachment on public land. Property owners with known encroachments on public land were notified by letter from the DNR that they are eligible to resolve their case through the ERI. Property owners adjacent to public land who are not sure they are encroaching can use tools on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment to determine if they may be trespassing on state-managed land.

“This customer-focused process has helped us address nearly 20 percent of the encroachment cases we have in the system,” said Creagh. “By resolving these cases, we can refocus our staff and resources on properly managing the public’s land and the state’s natural resources.”

Under the ERI, property owners who are encroaching on state-managed land could, starting May 1, 2012, apply to have their case resolved. Applications will be taken until Dec. 31, 2012. During this period, DNR staff will work with the property owner to properly document ownership. If the property owner can show that the encroachment began prior to March 1, 1973, 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 resolved through the ERI.

Individuals with non-structural encroachments occurring on public land after March 1, 1973, such as fences, gardens, sheds or other non-permanent structures, will need to remove the items from state-managed land. During the ERI, the DNR will not seek penalties or take escalated enforcement action for these types of encroachments.

After the application period closes on Dec. 31, any existing or new cases of encroachment that were not brought forward will be dealt with through DNR encroachment and enforcement procedures. The ERI – by providing a streamlined and legal process to resolve trespass without penalty – is meant to be an incentive program for property owners encroaching on public land.

Individuals with questions on the ERI should contact Lori Burford, the DNR’s encroachment specialist, at 989-275-5151, ext. 2100 or via email at burfordl@michigan.gov.

For more information on the ERI, go to the DNR’s website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment.

Logo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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