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“Anti-Biodiversity Bill” Hearings Continue

Another hearing on SB 78, the “anti-biodiversity bill,” has been scheduled for Thursday, February 21. Last week’s hearing was packed and those who were allowed to testify did a great job. Thank you League of Women Voters, Michigan Botanical Club and others! I have added some commentary below to explain and highlight some issues that were raised there.

Please keep the pressure on! Consider testifying in person at the committee hearing (note earlier start time, especially if you attended last week but weren’t give time to talk), and please contact legislators and encourage others to contact those listed below. It’s time to let the committee members know where you stand!

Committee Hearing Time and Location:

•    Room 210, Farnum Building, 125 W. Allegan Street, Lansing, MI 48933
•    Time: 8:30 am, Thursday, 2/21/2013


Please call and email the following:

Senate Natural Resources Committee Members:
Chair,
Senator Tom Casperson (primary bill sponsor): 517-373-7840, SenTCasperson@senate.michigan.gov
Michael Green (sponsor): 517-373-1777, SenMGreen@senate.michigan.gov
Arlan Meekhof (sponsor): 517-373-6920, SenAMeekhof@senate.michigan.gov
Patrick Colbeck (sponsor): 517-373-7350, SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
Mike Kowall: (517) 373-1758, SenMKowall@senate.michigan.gov
Phil Pavlov: (517) 373-7708, SenPPavlov@senate.michigan.gov
Rebekah Warren: (517) 373-2406, SenRWarren@senate.michigan.gov
Morris W Hood III: (517-373-0990), SenMHood@senate.michigan.gov

Other bill sponsors (especially if you are in these legislators’ districts):
David Robertson: 517-373-1636, SenDRobertson@senate.michigan.gov
Darwin Booher: 517-373-1725, SenDBooher@senate.michigan.gov
Howard Walker: 517-373-2413 SenHWalker@senate.michigan.gov


What is SB 78? Confusion With DNR Biodiversity Stewardship Areas (BSA) Program

At the recent committee hearing and in the media, the lead sponsor and author of SB 78, Sen. Tom Casperson, has repeatedly claimed that the intent of his legislation is to stop implementation of a very specific program — the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) proposed “Living Legacies” (often referred to as the Biodiversity Stewardship Area, or “BSA”) program.

While this may the sponsor’s intent, we as advocates and concerned citizens must deal with the actual bill language that has been introduced.

The bill being voted on would completely redefine “conservation,” the concept of “biodiversity,” and restrict or remove the ability of the DNR to even consider “biodiversity” or “restoration” when managing state forests. It is not NOT SPECIFIC to the DNR’s BSA/Living Legacies program, but a set of sweeping changes to the scientific principles that guide all state land management. Specifically, it amends Part 355 (Biological Diversity Conservation) and Part 525 (Sustainable Forestry on State Forestlands) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994 to do the following:

  • Revise the definition of “conservation” with regard to biological diversity, removing key provisions regarding restoration, distribution and the “continued existence” of native species and communities.
  • Prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Natural Resources Commission from promulgating or enforcing a rule or an order that designates or classifies an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity, and provide that no other state agency would be required to do so either (the only portion specifically targeting the proposed BSA program).
  • Delete the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR’s duties regarding forest management, and require the Department to balance its management activities with economic values.
  • Eliminate a requirement that the DNR manage forests in a manner that promotes restoration.
  • Delete a legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
  • Repeal several sections that articulate the purpose of the original law, specifically deleting references to the Joint Legislative Working Committee on Biological Diversity (dissolved on December 30, 1995).

In addition to undermining Michigan’s commitment to common sense, science-based natural resources management, MEC analysis suggests the legislation may also endanger other core DNR programs, including our forest certification efforts, and put at risk areas that have long enabled people to see and appreciate Michigan’s amazing natural assets. Places such as Hartwick Pines, Haven Hill and others are managed and designated at least in part based on biodiversity values, but are also popular places for wildlife viewing and as places to experience Michigan’s history and cultural icons.

Please see our previous blog post to read MEC’s full commentary on these bills.

Notably, if the bill was more narrowly targeted to deal with the provisions of the BSA program, MEC would be happy to engage in a thorough review and discussion to ensure that program serves the people of Michigan as well as its natural resource goals. Until then, we must strongly and adamantly oppose SB 78 as written.

Details and information on the DNR Living Legacies/BSA program can be found on the DNR website here: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-30301_30505_57365–-,00.html or by doing an internet search for “Michigan Living Legacies.”

A LAST NOTE: Those who attended the hearing may recall Casperson called out (as a case study of the kind of “departmental overreach” he is targeting) a certain 21 acres in  that were reportedly being “set aside for no human contact” due to the presence of a “1,000 year old tree” and some rare snails. In truth, the trees and snails in question were located on the face of a vertical limestone cliff at the park. The Land Use ORder was sought by the DNR to clarify their legal authority to keep people from climbing the vertical cliffs, where they could endanger themselves (and yes, the old cedar trees clinging tenaciously to the cliffs). There are still trails open for hiking at both the top and bottom of the cliffs. Despite the purpose being clearly stated as to “prohibit entry to the limestone cliffs,” this fact was apparently not clear enough in the draft version of the land use order Casperson referenced in committee (viewable here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/LUOD_No._04_of_2013_406786_7.pdf.) The revised land use order can be found here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/LUOD_No._04_of_2013_406786_7.pdf.

2 Comments
  1. Thank You once again MEC. You are the only organization reporting on this BILL to the people of Michigan. If not for your information on this horrible BILL, most of Michigan would have no idea just what these senators are trying to do. I personally Thank You, and the 6,000 members at HIKING MICHIGAN Thank You for following these proceedings and keeping us all aware of what is behind the scenes. Please keep watching for us all!

    February 20, 2013
  2. Brad…your analysis of the Blue Ribbon Committee is incorrect. I was asked to be a part of the Group, but was having surgery and could not make it. The Committee was stacked to get the results the DNR needed and wanted. The majority of people in Michigan care about our Natural resources and do not look at Michigan Parks as stuff. They are deeply connected with the environment and truly care about the Natural World. I am the director of Hiking Michigan, an outdoor group of over 6,000 members in S.E.Michigan and just expanding through out the state with another 1,500 members. The Blue Ribbon Committee, like the DNRs fake Public Committees, like the Trails Advisory Committee are all stacked to get results the DNR wants. I resigned from that Committee because the entire Committee was BIKE people, especially the MTGA Rep. and DNR Trails Coordinator Jim Radabaugh, who is hard to say who he works for….MTGA or the DNR. Do not be fooled by what the DNR has done here. They have manipulated things for more then two years to reach these points. That’s why they have nothing to say about SB 78. They want it to happen they way it did. Now their time and they think, our PASSPORT money can be spent on BIKE Pathways around the state. MTGA and the MMBA basically control and advice the DNR these days. The actual control is through Parks & rec. and Ron Olson. These people should actually be prosecuted as criminals for what they have done and are doing to our beautiful state. Know there is an actual majority of Foot Trail travelers in our state that are Hikers, Birders, geocachers, Hunters & Fisherman, Flowers people and Mushroom Hunters, who when assembled, ARE the majority in Michigan. And we all care deeply about the health of our State’s Environments. Our own DNR does not. And neither does their affiliate private sector, Non Profit Groups the cal STAKEHOLDERS. The People of Michigan are the true Stakeholders and Owners of these lands and Waterways.

    February 22, 2013

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