Outdoors Briefs

Michigan DNR seeking conservation officer candidates

DIMONDALE, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking people who want to become conservation officers.

The 23-week training academy starts July 15 in Dimondale, near Lansing. Applications are due March 1.

The academy is the first step to becoming a Michigan conservation officer. During the academy, recruits become paid state employees.

After graduating, they become probationary officers and spend several more months training throughout the state before being assigned to one of Michigan’s 83 counties.

DNR officers are certified police officers with authority to enforce all state laws. They also have unique training in areas related to the outdoors, such as off-road driving, survival tactics and first aid.

Wyoming outdoor recreation website being proposed

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) — A proposal to set up an interactive website for outdoor recreationists in Wyoming has a lot of support but comes with a price tag that may require contributions from users of public lands in the state.

The Ranger reported that Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead approved allocating $75,000 toward development of the website in his budget and the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee recommended $150,000.

However, state Parks and Cultural Resources Director Darin Westby says even the $150,000 amount isn’t enough to create the kind of site his agency envisions.

For example, Westby said the members of the public should be able to post personalized information on the site about activities and locations they have enjoyed throughout Wyoming.

He says his agency plans to approach the state’s outdoors associations for additional funding.

Portions of Nebraska park project to open this spring

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Portions of a $35 million project involving state parks and recreation areas between Omaha and Lincoln are expected to open this spring.

The Venture Parks project will offer zip lines, rock-climbing walls, an alpine slide, floating playgrounds and a splash pad, the Omaha World-Herald reported. There will also be luxury camping cabins.

The project will add to Mahoney and Platte River State Parks, as well as Louisville and Schramm Park State Recreation Areas. The complex is along the Platte River. About 1.5 million residents live within an hour-long drive from the site.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is leading the project. The goal is to encourage more people to go outside by offering a place for adventure and education, said Jim Swenson, the commission’s parks director.

“It’s an ambitious project that takes state park recreation to the next generation,” he said. “Our parks are gateways to the outdoors.”

The hope is to show the public that there is more to do at the state parks than just stopping by for a picnic, Swenson said.

Other planned features include an RV campground with electricity and Wi-Fi access. There will also be a sledding hill and snow-making machines, as well as mountain bike trails. There are also plans to improve air boat access and to build a canoe and kayak landing.

Educational portions include aquarium tanks with aquatic ecosystems and an interactive exploration center about the state’s water.

Features will be added to the Venture Parks over three phrases.

Eighty percent of the project’s funds were raised privately. The remaining $7.3 million is acquired from park fee funds

Virginia will get $58M for pipeline’s environmental impacts

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have agreed to spend nearly $58 million to help offset the massive infrastructure project’s environmental impact in Virginia.

An agreement outlining the payments was signed several weeks ago by then-natural resources secretary Molly Ward and Leslie Hartz, an executive with lead pipeline developer Dominion Energy.

The approximately $5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline, which has received many of its key permits, is designed to start in West Virginia and run through Virginia and North Carolina. Getting the project built will involve tree removal, blasting and leveling some ridgetops as the pipe, 42 inches in diameter for much of its path, crosses mountains, hundreds of water bodies and other sensitive terrain.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, found in an environmental analysis largely favorable for developers that more than 3,400 acres of vegetation would face long-term to permanent effects, with the greatest impact on forested areas.

The funding outlined in the agreement is intended to help diminish the effects of forest fragmentation and related impacts on water quality. It’s one of four major components of mitigation efforts the state has negotiated, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Angela Navarro said Friday.

The company will also pay $10 million in mitigation funds for impacts to historic resources, purchase a new parcel of land for a wildlife management area and provide substitute land to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in exchange for the pipeline crossing properties under protective easements, Navarro said.

Of the environmental mitigation money, about $38.7 million will go toward forest conservation and about $19.2 million will go toward water quality efforts. The memorandum lays out the recipients, including the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The agreement is a good deal for taxpayers and wouldn’t release the pipeline from liability should something go wrong, Gov. Ralph Northam’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said.

But opponents of the controversial project asked why the agreement wasn’t announced publicly and suggested it was done prematurely, because not all details of the state-level permitting are complete.

“The project doesn’t have all of the approvals it needs to go forward, but it looks like (former Gov. Terry) McAuliffe decided he didn’t need to wait to see the review process through to the end,” Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said.

The agreement was signed in the last weeks of McAuliffe’s term.

David Sligh, conservation director of the nonprofit Wild Virginia, which is fighting the pipeline, said he was puzzled and disappointed that the agreement wasn’t publicly announced. He noted that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office issued a press release last week about a similarly sized mitigation agreement with pipeline developers.

Navarro and Coy said the state doesn’t typically send press releases about mitigation agreements at this stage in the process.

Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby, who couldn’t immediately be reached by The Associated Press, has told media outlets developers are still negotiating a funding agreement with West Virginia.