MARQUETTE - New Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh eyes priorities during his tenure ranging from better customer service and decentralized decision making to more efficient use and integration of available resources.
Creagh, who served as the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development since
January 2011, was appointed to head the DNR in June, replacing Rodney Stokes, who Gov. Rick Snyder reassigned to work on a "vibrant communi-
Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh speaks during a recent interview with The Mining Journal. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
ties" initiative. Creagh has ex-
tensive management experience, including policy development, strategic planning and operational leadership. He was director of industry affairs for the Neogen Corp. after serving for 30 years within the agriculture department. He has a bachelor's degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University.
Creagh said the DNR is bigger, and some issues more complicated, than at the agriculture department.
"There's a lot of overlap and interface," Creagh said. "So as I came over, I knew staff, I knew some of the staff, but not all of them. It's four times the size in the department, five times the size in budget and a little bit more complex with some of the stakeholder groups than what Agriculture is.
"Of course, most people like to eat safe and wholesome food, everybody agrees upon that priority. Around natural resources, people are passionate about it, there's a difference of opinion about it, and so we need to come up with some facilitated conversation."
Creagh has several priorities in mind.
"One is, and the governor has said it well, how can we get to a more comprehensive analysis of the land that we own and how can we utilize that in a sustainable manner to help regional economies?" Creagh said. "And that's a great question to have in the U.P."
For example, Creagh suggested drawing a "50-squaremile radius around the seven population centers in the Upper Peninsula, look at the mix of agri-verted land, state land, see if there's an appropriate biomass and maybe we could help the energy shortage in the Upper Peninsula. "How can we utilize our as-
sets, but make sure we still maintain in a sustainable manner that they're there for future generations," Creagh said.
Another priority for Creagh is improved DNR customer service, with part of this relying on improvements to rural development, including better Internet capabilities.
"We need to make sure we're providing excellent customer service and as I go across the Upper Peninsula, we could do a little better job at that," Creagh said. "Whether it's our field offices, service centers, how do we actually intersect with the public? Part of it's electronic access. You can go on-line and get your fishing license, but if you can't get on-line, you can't get your license. So that's that integrated approach with rural development and opportunities."
Third, Creagh would like to improve the decision-making connection between the Upper Peninsula and Lansing.
"I'm a decentralized decision-maker. I think the best solutions come where the problem occurs," Creagh said. "So we'll work with staff - we've got great staff - as I go across the U.P., once again, people say, 'I'd like to have DNR staff in the room' when we're having conversations, but then as that is pushed up the ladder, sometimes it seems like it takes a long time to get across the (Mackinac) bridge. Right? It's only five miles, it shouldn't take that long. It seems like we need to help that decision-making process a little bit, so you'll see me work on that." Fourth, Creagh said with the
DNR's 96 percent restricted revenue, he wants to develop a funding model that makes sense.
"As you start being so restricted funded, you then have programs that follow the funding, you don't have programs that follow the priorities," Creagh said.
Though Creagh said his experience with the agriculture department included work with pesticide pickups, exotic and invasive species, the bovine TB feeding and baiting ban, conservation programs on farms and forestry, aqua-
culture and fisheries issues, there are areas within the DNR that are "unique and new" to him.
"Certainly the gas leasing and how do you do auctions and how do you utilize that asset and the whole mine issue is new as we start to mine in this state again," Creagh said. "Some of the consent decrees and treaties, those are some of the things that...actually, I've got great staff that understand the intricacies of the legal obligations."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.