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Support Sargent Sand and Michigan DNR

Discussions Regarding Land Transfer

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Sargent Sand Company (Sargent) have a history of successful land transfers. In 1971, Sargent gifted over 400 acres to DNR for inclusion in Ludington State Park (LSP), including the Lake Michigan shoreline from the M-116 curve north for several miles. Subsequently, after the surface and dredge mining operations in the 1980s created a new lake just west of Piney Ridge Road, Sargent sold most of what is now termed Lake Ann, as well as some adjoining acreage, to DNR/LSP. Finally, in 1997, Sargent sold an 80 acre parcel at the north end of their holdings to DNR/LSP. Funds for this last purchase came from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).

  • Unfortunately, DNR and Sargent have also had a history of unsuccessful land transfers. In particular, in 2000 it appeared the State legislature would pass a law sunsetting all mining in coastal sand dunes by 2006. Discussions between DNR broke down when the proposed bills did not become law. Again in 2006, Sargent and DNR were in discussions, which failed.

  • Discussions in 2016 have been ongoing since roughly May. Given the high value of silica sands for use as proppants in the hydraulic fracturing process for oil and natural gas extraction, it has been difficult to understand why Sargent would be willing at all to sell at this time. But it turns out, Sargent is willing to sell all or portions of their Ludington Site lands. And DNR is willing to buy. 

  • So the main issues are: at what price is Sargent willing to sell?; at what price is DNR willing to buy?; what steps can be taken to increase the natural resource (unmined) value of the land, leading to a higher appraisal for the unmined lands?; and finally, what steps can be taken to increase the amount of funds and other valuable considerations available for DNR to give to Sargent, in order to secure the long-hoped-for transfer?

  • Sargent is keeping all options open. They have applied for renewal of their present mining permit. Approval is largely pro forma, although citizens should still make input; see HERE for how to do so. With the permit in hand, Sargent can continue to mine sand itself. Or, Sargent can sell its property to another, larger mining company (for instance, US Silica, which has operations near Detroit). In October, it was reported that Sargent hosted at least one prospective commercial buyer for its property. Or, Sargent can transfer part of its lands, probably the northernmost sections, to DNR, in return for cash, or tax or other valuable considerations; while continuing to mine the southern section. Or, Sargent can transfer all of the remaining 372 acres to DNR, again for cash and/or other valuable considerations.

  • ACTIONS: Therefore, the Ludington Dunes Conservancy would like you to take the following actions.

  • First, in your own words, write a letter to Mrs Francesanna Sargent, who is the majority shareholder of Sargent Sand LLC. Suggested Talking Points: Thank her and her forebears for their previous transfers of these magnificent dune lands, from private to public status. Request that she do all in her power to make today's discussions successful. Request that she work diligently to find a way to transfer all remaining acreage to DNR. Suggest that she and her successors could retain ownership of some, or even all of the lands, for sustainable uses. Suggest what some of these uses might be: an ecolodge; fish hatchery; non-motorized recreation on the lake which has been created over the last ten years (kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, wind surfing, kite surfing); day hiking; large-tire mountain biking; scenic viewing (by using the towers now used in mining); multi-day hiking, with cabins or tent cabins providing shelter for overnight stays, connected with LSP; an RV campground; a replacement natural history museum (for the LSP building destroyed by heavy snow several years ago); anything else you can think of. Address: Mrs Francesanna Sargent, c/o Sargent Sands LLC, PO Box 70, Ludington, MI 49431.

  • Also, send a copy to Mr Philip Johnson, Agent, Sargent Sand Company, same address.

  • Second, in your own words, write a letter to Mr Keith Creagh, Director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Suggested Talking Points: Thank him and his predecessors for their previous efforts to transfer all of these magnificent dune lands, from private to public status. Request that he do all in his power to make today's discussions successful. Request that he work diligently to find a way to transfer all remaining acreage to DNR. Offer to help him in his efforts, by: writing to State and Federal representatives, to ask for political and monetary support; securing local support, in terms of both letter-writing, and fund-raising; identifying sustainable uses of the land as a natural resource, which would enhance the appraised value of the land, and encourage Sargent Sand to sell or transfer. Tell him that success this time must be the goal. Ask him to suggest ways you can help. Address: Mr Keith Creagh, Director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Executive Division, PO Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909. Email: creaghk@michigan.gov.

  • Third, write other letters as you see fit and have time. Suggested people to write: Ludington City Council; Ludington Chamber of Commerce (emphasize the value of sustainable jobs); your State representatives; your Federal representatives. (Addresses will be added in the next few days. Today's date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016.)

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