Forest service walks back alcohol ban

An alcohol possession ban on the Pine River won\'t take effect this summer after all.

CADILLAC — The National Forest Service ban on possessing alcohol on certain local rivers this summer was unpopular.

Tuesday, the agency announced a one-year reprieve from the ban.

Soon after the forest service announced last week that parts of the Au Sable, Manistee and Pine Rivers would have alcohol possession bans during the 2019 season, people started criticizing the decision.

State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, said on Facebook it wasn’t good for tourism in the area.

On news stories about the ban, Facebook commenters called the decision government overreach and complained about disruption to their summer plans.

Others said canoe livery businesses would suffer.

The president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association said craft brewers would be hurt.

“An assault on our Pure Michigan way of life is well underway from an unexpected foe — the U.S. Forest Service — and I urge Michigan’s congressional delegation to intervene before it’s too late,‘ said Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, in a news release. “This new ban is an overreach by the federal government and an assault on a favorite pastime of those who go ‘Up North’ during the summer.‘

A petition opposing the ban quickly sprang up and had 43,000 signatures as of late Tuesday evening.

But by then, the forest service had already announced that the ban would be delayed a year while the agency works with local communities for a solution.

“Individuals and businesses throughout northern Michigan have expressed strong interest in partnering with the Forest Service to address ongoing public safety and environmental issues on our National Wild and Scenic Rivers,‘ said Huron-Manistee National Forests Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo, according to a press release sent Tuesday afternoon. “We welcome a practical, community-driven solution to these challenges.‘

The “community-driven solution‘ will take the form of “a community working group consisting of small businesses, municipal officials, and private citizens from the National Wild and Scenic River corridors.‘

The forest service issued a call for potential members of the group and said it hoped to have an action plan by May of this year. But if the plan doesn’t work and problems continue on the rivers, the alcohol closure order could take effect in 2020.

The forest service previously cited problems with litter and public safety as reasons for the ban.

Cadillac News