December 6, 2019

Alcohol ban on section of the AuSable River beginning in late May

Does not apply to private property or developed campsites


OSCODA COUNTY — Huron-Manistee National Forests has issued a closure order banning alcohol on a large section of the AuSable River during peak recreational times this Summer.
The closure order will go into effect May 24 and continue until Sept. 2 of this year. It will apply on and within 200 feet of the AuSable River between the Mio Pond and Canoe Landing 4001. Sections of the Manistee River and Pine River will also be impacted by the closure order.
The alcohol ban does not apply to any private property within the 200-foot boundary. It also does not apply to any developed campgrounds or designated campsites within the ban zone.
Forest Service Media Representative Nate Peeters said there was not a single occurence that led to the closure order.
“There was no watershed moment, it was something that built up over time.” Peeters said. “We’re seeing more and more visitation to these waterways and it’s an action that needed to happen to ensure public safety and the preservation of the waterways.”
While preservation of the waterways is a significant reason the Forest Service instituted the order, Peeters said the main goal is protecting the public.
“We do not want to see serious injury or any fatalities on the river,” he said. “Several years ago there was a fatality, and I can say one is enough.”
The ban will be enforced by forest service law enforcement personnel. Peeters said law enforcement partners like the DNR will be asked to help educate residents about the closure order as well. He said the forest service is not planning to go on a ticket writing spree and begin the season giving out as many citations as possible. He said the emphasis will be on education, not prosecution.
Peeters said outfitters, guides and any entity with a special use permit for use of the waters will also be asked to help educate recreation seekers on what is allowable. He said those entities are required to follow any closure order as they would any other federal law.
According to a press release from the Forest Service the maximum penalty for violation of the order is a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment of up to six months. Peeters said that maximum punishment was not chosen by the forest service, and in his experience is generally not enforced to the fullest extent.
“That penalty is part of a broader law,” he said. “The important part is that is the maximum penalty. I can’t speak on behalf of prosecutor’s, but in our past experience the maximum penalty is reserved for the most egregious circumstances.”
While the closure order officially is set to be in effect only through the peak recreation time this Summer, Peeters said if the Forest Service deems it necessary the order will remain in effect as long as needed.
For more information, contact the Forest Service office at 231-775-2421.

Clarification: Due to incorrect information the Oscoda County Herald originally reported that the maximum imprisonment for violating the closure order was up to five years. The actual maximum imprisonment penalty is up to six months.


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We support USFS and Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The USFS ban on alcohol use on the Wild and Scenic River section of the AuSable River and within 200-feet of the shore is understandable and appreciated by many of us living along the stretch.

I have enjoyed the area since 1965 as the Stanchinas' canoed and camped in Oscoda County. From 1969-1989, my wife's family successfully owned McKinley Grocery, the only store between Mio and Federal 4001 Bridge. We have lived within five-hundred feet of the river since 1974.

For over five decades, we have experienced the transition of the river through clear-cut-logging, reforesting, storms, wildfires, Wild and Scenic designation, redirection of recreational access, fish planting, and dead-tree-drops for trout-stream development that has protected the streams, artesian well, trees and plant life, wandering shoreline, fish, animals, birds, frogs, insects, homes and people.

And “listened to the NAG (nay )-sayers” that every change was going to ruin the river and economy of the county but, in time, each law, regulation, requirement and guideline has proved to be more beneficial than detrimental.

We acknowledge it may not be a welcome restriction but will continue to support the USFS in this necessary change.

Thursday, February 7 | Report this
Kim Priestap

I can't help but notice the commenter who supports the ban and has supported every other regulation that he says has eventually "benefitted" the community used to run a grocery store that is CLOSED and has been for quite some time. This isn't really a great point to make to get current business owners to support these new draconian restrictions.

Friday, February 8 | Report this

Here we go AGAIN - the government enforcing restrictions on government owned property!

What are the rules for RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA ON THE RIVERS?? Seems to me this has been overlooked .

I think this issue needs to be addressed- Looks to me like some officials don't want small business's to survive in your area.

And to have a ban on alcohol only between Memorial Day and Labor Day- maybe the government and their officials should pay the lost revenue to the local people that it will impact - Wake up people of Michigan- this is only the beginning .!!!!!!

Saturday, February 9 | Report this

I was born and raised in Oscoda and traveled there many times to support the local businesses and have fun on the river with my responsible friends. How about you prosecute the minority of those who cause the issue and not destroy every local business that will lose on this new order. I have cancelled plans in August and will just sit back and watch what happens. Are you going to fly drones and put up breathalyzer check points to accomplish your goals ? Ban Coolers ? Check for safely inflated Tubes that meet Government Standards ? Make sure everyone has a boaters training certificate and proper flotation device ? This will be tough on the local businesses and individuals who will see tourist dollars go somewhere else. I feel sorry for anyone that thinks this is a good plan.

Monday, February 11 | Report this

This is completely ridiculous. While the USDA spends it's time logging and leaving barren desert wastelands in it's path, it bans alcohol on the river in the effort of "preservation". My family has been up here since 1964. I can tell you that the conduct on the river was far worse in the late 90's and early 2000's than it is today. If you have the resources to police this edict in any sort of meaningful way, certainly you have the resources to police the laws that are already on the books. 99% of the people on the river are just having a good time, not hurting anyone. As with everything, there are always people that will take it way to far, and those are the people who should be punished. First the USDA begins closing off drive-in access to the river in the early 90's. Then they begin systematically closing many of the forest roads through the 90s and early 2000's. Now a ban on alcohol on the river. In 20 years, i'll be lucky if my children can even use the river without special government permission. There is more of an erosion of our rights up here, than an erosion of river banks.

Tuesday, February 12 | Report this

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