Natural Resources Committee hears testimony of U.P. resident in dispute with U.S. Forest Service

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Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday took testimony from concerned residents regarding the policies and actions of the U.S. Forest Service relating to the Hiawatha National Forest.

“I often hear about natural resource and land use issues from constituents who share concerns about policies the U.S. Forest Service has implemented or proposed,” said the committee chairman, Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

Casperson invited Manistique residents Roy and Julie Hinkson to offer testimony before the committee on an issue related to their private property.

Roy Hinkson owns land that is surrounded by the Hiawatha National Forest, upon which his family’s deer camp has been located for more than 60 years. As far as Hinkson and his family knew, the camp structures were on his 40 acres of land. Unbeknownst to him, the USFS resurveyed the property and determined that the Hinkson camp structures were partially on federal forest land.

On opening day of Michigan’s 2014 firearm deer season, Hinkson testified he was approached, unannounced, by USFS and Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials about the location of his camp. Casperson’s constituent was informed his camp was on forest land and that it must be removed and the land restored, at his expense. Hinkson received two citations and faces criminal charges for the claimed encroachment which he has spent significant time and money fighting. Federal court proceedings are scheduled again on March 20 and 21. Additionally, his personal information, including social security number, was released publicly in a Freedom of Information Act request, causing him more expense, headache and stress.

Hinkson’s interaction has led to a costly multi-year dispute that Casperson said is unnecessary.

“This is an overzealous and unwarranted treatment of a very honorable private property owner whose land borders the Hiawatha National Forest,” Casperson said in a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary-elect Sonny Perdue. “Roy Hinkson’s situation is extremely troubling, and it has adversely impacted him, his family and a community that cares about him.

“I am requesting U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary-elect Sonny Perdue or others in the agency to review this matter quickly and expeditiously and to work with Mr. Hinkson on a reasonable resolution as this is a situation that did not need to be taken to the point of criminal prosecution.”

More information is available in the letter Casperson submitted to the USDA, which may be accessed by clicking this link.

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