After spending many summers on Crooked Lake in the U.P., we finally purchased our own lakefront property in 2010.  Like generations of Michiganians before us, we planned to use the water for boating and fishing.  We were living our dream.  Until one day the federal government tried to turn our dream into a crime.  

David and Pamela Herr

Detroit News

The Government Tried to Take Away Our Dream

Few things in America can match the experience of spending summers on the lakes in the Upper Peninsula. The U.P. occupies a special place in Michigan’s DNA, and has been celebrated by the likes of Hemingway, Longfellow, and Henry Ford.

After spending many summers on Crooked Lake in the U.P., we finally purchased our own lakefront property in 2010.  Like generations of Michiganians before us, we planned to use the water for boating and fishing.  We were living our dream.  Until one day the federal government tried to turn our dream into a crime.   

Most of Crooked Lake lies in the federally owned Sylvania National Wilderness, but there are several private homes, such as ours, on the north end of the lake. 

Under Michigan law, all lakefront property owners — including the federal government — share the entire surface of the lake.  Landowners and visitors have used motorboats on Crooked Lake since the 1940s.

For decades, the U.S. Forest Service, backed by environmental special interests, has tried to criminalize something as innocent as a motorboat.  In other words: they want the entire surface of the lake to themselves. 

This battle has been going on for 25 years.

Our neighbor, Kathy Stupak-Thrall, began her legal battle back in 1993 when the Forest Service prohibited the use of sailboats and houseboats on all portions of the lake within the wilderness.  She filed a lawsuit but ultimately lost when the court of appeals deadlocked.  

In 1995, the Forest Service issued another rule effectively banning motorboat use on the lake over 5 miles per hour.  Kathy and her neighbors fought back and won in 1997.

We purchased one of the few remaining available properties in 2010.  And for the first three years it was paradise.  We were respectful neighbors and good stewards of the environment.  The Forest Service not only allowed motorboat use on the lake, but facilitated it by selling boat permits and allowing motorboat access through its public boat landing just outside the wilderness area. 

But the Forest Service couldn’t leave well enough alone.  In 2013, they stopped offering motorboat access and sent us a letter saying that it was a crime to use our boat on the lake. 

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