On Thursday, September 11, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced they would take Hartwick Pines State Park off of the auction block, saving it from future oil exploration and fracking. The decision came after a large protest from Michigan residents, including two grandchildren of Karen Hartwick, spoke out against the state allowing any mining under the only remaining stand of virgin forest in Michigan. The land would have been offered up for lease on October 29.
Karen Hartwick donated approximately 8,000 acres of land near Grayling, Michigan, to the state in 1927 to preserve the remaining virgin forest from being logged off and sold. She stipulated that the land be named after her husband, Major Edward E. Hartwick, who died while serving during World War I. The land was to be made into a park as a memorial to her late husband and to the logging industry that had once dominated Northern Michigan. The stumps of trees from that era are visible today in the old logging regions of Michigan.
Despite Directer Keith Creagh’s insistence that there were no safety issues to worry about from drilling under the state park, people were not satisfied, stating that preserving the virgin trees of the park had more to do with their disagreement than altering the surface of the land. The soil the trees take root in is also important and provides what the old-growth forest need to survive. There are things more valuable than the bottom line of an oil company’s profit statement. Pristine land, virgin, old-growth trees, and clean water free of pollutants and chemicals all oil and gas drilling create regardless of precautions and standards are more important, than how much oil or gas might exist underground at Hartwick Pines.
The Michigan DNR did the right thing to take the state park off the list of land available for auction in October. People are rightly concerned about what oil drilling and fracking are doing to our environment. Once the oil companies pump the oil and gas out of the ground they go home, while we have to live with the results of their work. Hartwick Pines needs to be preserved as is above and below.