Deliver Benefits to the Public

Hiawatha National Forest land exchange furthers rural economic development, improves wildlife habitat

MICHIGANHiawatha National Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan and Alger County Commission Chairperson Jerry Doucette announced that the USDA Forest Service and Alger County finalized a land exchange that transfers Hanley Field from the agency to Alger county. In the same transaction, the agency also transferred land to the county that will subsequently become part of the Munising Township cemetery at Wetmore.

“We want to thank everyone involved for their cooperation and perseverance, without which this exchange would not have been possible,” said Service’s Cid Morgan, Forest Supervisor at Hiawatha National Forest.

“The Alger County Board of Commissioners is proud to wrap up this project and we also want to extend our appreciation to those who believed in the project but are no longer with us,” said Jerry Doucette, Alger County Commission Chairperson. Those include former commissioner Ed Lindstrom, Richard Nebel, Fuzzy Boyak and former airport managers Bob McQuisten, Robert Rexstrew and Tony Williams.

The idea of transferring the 200-acre airfield to the County has surfaced several times over the years. But it wasn’t until recently that the stars aligned. In 2005, several parties once again began looking for exchange parcels and approached District Ranger Charlie Marsh in 2012. The USDA Forest Service completed a Feasibility Analysis in 2013, and the parties signed an Agreement to Initiate in 2014. In 2015, the Forest Service completed the environmental analysis on the proposed exchange, thereby setting the stage.

“One of the challenges with a project like this is finding suitable non-federal parcels of appropriate values which meet the federal land acquisition standards and are available for exchange,” said Ranger Marsh.

It was no small feat to pull together feasible parcels for the exchange, but local resident John Madigan made it happen through partnership with Munising Township, City of Munising, and Munising Lands, Inc. In exchange for the two federal tracts, four non-federal tracts located in Alger and Schoolcraft Counties became part of Hiawatha National Forest.

“The Hanley Field exchange has been discussed for a long time, and we are pleased that it could be completed in a win-win scenario for our rural community,” said Ranger Marsh.

“The Alger County Board of Commissioners believes that county ownership of Hanley Airfield will be in the long-term best economic interest of the county,” said Jerry Doucette.

With Hanley Field in County ownership, it’s hoped the facility will evolve to better serve Alger County residents. Located south of Wetmore, Michigan, the grass airfield currently has minimal amenities, which the County may choose to improve. The Alger County Boards’ Airport Committee will play a key role in exploring possibilities for future improvements and grants for the facility.

“We’ll have a lot to learn as we dive into this process, but we’re excited about how it could benefit Alger County residents,” said Cathy Pullen, Alger County Commissioner and Airport Committee member.

The lands acquired by Hiawatha National Forest will be added to the National Forest System land base and will be managed according to the 2006 Forest Plan. These lands will benefit the public by improving wildlife habitat, consolidating existing inholdings, and increasing recreation opportunities.

Alger County gained two federal parcels in the exchange. The County will deed the second parcel (5 acres adjacent to the Munising Township Cemetery) to the Township to expand its existing cemetery near Wetmore as an additional public benefit.

Group photo
Many people had a hand in seeing the Hanley exchange to completion. Front: Hiawatha Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan, Munising Township Supervisor Lisa Howard, Alger County Commissioner Cathy Pullen, Munising Township Clerk Patty Willson, Alger County Clerk Marianne Froberg and John Madigan. Back: Munising District Ranger Charlie Marsh, City of Munising Manager Devin Olson, Munising Lands’ Charles Nebel, Peoples’ State Bank President Rick Nebel, Alger County Commissioner Mickey Rondeau and Alger County Board Chair Jerry Doucette. USDA Forest Service photo.