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Posts from the ‘conservation’ Category

Speak up for Michigan’s public lands!

Please show your support for public lands by attending a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at the Acme Township Hall.

Doors open at 6:30, we suggest arriving early. The Acme Township Hall is located at 6042 Acme Rd, Williamsburg, MI 49690.

Rep. Schmidt and other public lands advocates will be speaking in support of his House Bill 5210, which would approve the new Department of Natural Resources (DNR) strategic land plan and lift the so-called “land cap.” Rep. Schmidt should be applauded and supported for his efforts to right a wrong that was committed when the land cap bill was passed in 2012.

Please show up and speak out if you:

  • Believe public lands managed by the DNR – OUR forests, rivers, dunes and parks – provide great benefit to Michigan’s natural resources, people, economy and local communities.
  • Think Michigan’s residents want MORE protected landscapes, natural communities and outdoor recreation opportunities, not fewer.
  • Want to remove the arbitrary acreage cap on state-owned public land that was put in place in 2012 (through the so-called “land cap” law).
  • Agree with MEC’s Board of Directors in their endorsement of the new DNR-Managed Public Land Strategy of 2013 ”as a critical step to removing the state’s current public land cap.”

We need your voice to be heard at the meeting, because we fear the extreme private-property and small-government advocates that gave us the land cap law will again be out in force, speaking against Michigan’s great tradition of supporting public land conservation, resource stewardship and access to natural resources.

Background: Rep. Schmidt’s bill (HB 5210) is needed to officially have the legislature approve the DNR’s land strategy and to remove the acreage cap that currently limits the amount of public land the State of Michigan can own and manage.

The DNR land strategy was required by Sen. Tom Casperson’s PA 240 of 2012, which limited the total allowable acreage of land under state management to 4,626,000 acres (just above current totals) until May 1, 2015, and to 3,910,000 acres north of the Mason-Arenac line thereafter (also just above current totals).

PA 240 also required the DNR to create a strategic land plan that had to be approved by the Legislature in order for the land cap to be lifted. The DNR has completed that plan, available here, and MEC’s board has passed a resolution in support of the plan and of lifting the land cap through legislation (such as HB 5210).

You can read earlier Michigan Distilled posts about MEC’s position and our history of advocacy on the land cap issue here and here.

Thank you!

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Photo courtesy Robert Emperley via Flickr.

A measured victory for the Au Sable

Deer on Au SableA pristine stretch of Michigan’s Au Sable River will keep its scenic character and is safer from pollution caused by oil and gas drilling, thanks to a decision last week from the Department of Natural Resources.

You can read MEC’s statement applauding the decision here.

As we wrote here previously, several parcels along the river’s “Holy Waters” stretch were leased to the Canadian energy company Encana in an October auction. Some of the land was designated for development, meaning Encana could put surface wells, storage tanks and heavy equipment right alongside the revered fly-fishing waters that gave rise to Trout Unlimited.

The Anglers of the Au Sable, an MEC member group, flagged the threat of oil and gas development along the river and enlisted members of the public to urge DNR Director Keith Creagh not to authorize the leases. MEC and other allies joined that effort.

The decision from DNR Director Keith Creagh means no surface drilling will be allowed in the river corridor, but it’s important to note that oil and gas beneath the leased parcels can still be accessed horizontally from wells drilled elsewhere. So, the river is better protected from the sights, sounds and smells of industrial activity and the threat of pollution from spilled or leaked fracking fluids. But there are still real threats to the groundwater resources that feed the Au Sable and provide its steady flow.

We look forward to continuing to work with the DNR and our allies to put in place the strongest possible protections  for the Au Sable and freshwater resources throughout Michigan.

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Deer crossing Holy Waters photo courtesy David Smith via Flickr.

Michigan DNR poised to allow fracking along Au Sable’s ‘Holy Waters’

The Michigan Environmental Council and our allies are deeply concerned about pending mineral leases that would allow oil and gas drilling along a section of the Au Sable River so pristine and revered by trout anglers that it’s known as the Holy Waters.

The parcels were among those up for bid in an October auction of mineral leases on state land. The winning bidder on the leases was Encana, a Canadian company with plans to drill some 500 wells across northern Michigan using the controversial method called fracking.

You can see a map of the parcels in question here.

Leading the opposition to the leases are the Anglers of the Au Sable, an MEC member group. Here’s a brief video from the Anglers that provides a fuller understanding of the special place we’re talking about.

MEC has joined the Anglers, Grayling Township, local Realtors, business owners and fellow environmental groups in signing a letter to Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh asking him not to authorize the leases. He will announce his decision at Thursday’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. You can read the letter here.

Read more

Report: Warming climate threatens deer camp tradition

This is a favorite time of year for many Michiganders: Deer season is in full swing. One MEC staffer has a freezer newly full of nutritious, local venison, while another keeps shaking his head and muttering about a big buck that trotted close but didn’t offer a clean shot.

Deer camp is a deep tradition here in Michigan, a time for new generations to learn about the outdoors and hear old stories that get better with each retelling.

It’s big business, too, particularly for rural areas Up North. Deer season draws in some 20,000 out-of-state hunters, directly supports 5,300 jobs and contributes more than $500 million to Michigan’s annual economy, according to the DNR.

That’s why a report released last week by the National Wildlife Federation ought to turn some stomachs. It lays out the risks that a changing climate poses to big game animals such as pronghorn, caribou and bighorn sheep as well as Michigan species like white-tailed deer, elk, moose and black bear. Read more

Q&A: Kirtland’s warbler, a conservation success

Kirtland's warbler

Kirtland's warbler is North America's rarest songbird. Photo by Ron Austing.

The Kirtland’s warbler is North America’s rarest songbird. They winter in the Bahamas, and more than 90 percent return to jack pine forests in northern Michigan each spring.

Sounds like a pretty nice life, but the warbler has had a rough go of it – twice in the past 40 years its population has dipped below 170 breeding pairs.

However, thanks to the efforts of government agencies, nonprofits and concerned citizens, there are now roughly 2,000 breeding pairs. Conservation leaders say that means it’s time to remove the bird from the federal Endangered Species list, where it’s been since 1973.

We checked in with Abigail Ertel, the coordinator for the effort to ensure that Kirtland’s warbler continues to survive and thrive after leaving behind the protections and funding of the Endangered Species Act.

Editor’s note: A longer version of this interview appears in the latest issue of the Michigan Environmental Report, MEC’s quarterly newsletter.

MEC: It might seem strange to some people that a conservation group wants to remove a species from the endangered species list and the protections and resources it affords. Why is delisting Kirtland’s warbler a good thing? Read more

State’s wildlife council should be broader than hunters and anglers (think, CraneFest!)

We wrote here a few weeks ago about legislation restructuring Michigan’s hunting and fishing license fees to put more conservation officers and wildlife biologists in the field. Governor Snyder signed the measure into law a few days later. The changes take effect in March.

Included in the law is a $1 surcharge on licenses to support public education about how hunters, anglers and trappers contribute to conservation and wildlife management in Michigan.

As Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Erin McDonough told MLive,

Many people don’t understand that most money for natural resource management comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses…Everyone can enjoy ‘Pure Michigan’ because of the investment that Michigan sportsmen and women make. We’re proud to provide that legacy for the rest of the state.

That investment is significant. In 2011 license fees created $44.1 million in revenue for conservation in Michigan. The state expects the new fees to generate another $12.8 million in 2014, and close to $20 million more in subsequent years. That’s real dough, and provides an opportunity for Michigan to celebrate and promote our amazing natural assets.

Legislation outlining how the state should implement the public-education campaign, House Bill 4993, recently was introduced by Rep. Jon Bumstead, a Newaygo Republican. The bill calls for a nine-member Michigan Wildlife Council to oversee the campaign. The panel must include four hunters and anglers, the owner of a business closely tied to hunting and fishing, and someone representing rural areas of the state whose economies depend on hunting and angling. It also specifies roles for someone representing agriculture, a media or marketing pro, and the DNR director or his designee.

We’re enthusiastic about the tremendous hunting and fishing economy in the state, and appreciate hunters and anglers supporting  habitat projects and wildlife management. Read more

Dark skies: We’ve got ‘em, officially, here in Michigan!

A piece on Wired.com caught our attention last week because it has something to do with a wild and beautiful corner of Michigan.

It’s a Q&A with journalist Paul Bogard, author of a new book called The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.

Astronomers say people should be able to see about 2,500 stars with the naked eye on a clear night, but in most suburbs only 200-300 are visible. In large cities you might see a dozen stars. As many as 80 percent of people have never seen the Milky Way, by one estimate. The reason is light pollution.

We need lights at night, of course. But dark-sky advocates say about a third of outdoor lighting spills outward or up into the sky—a waste of energy that dims the stars and costs the United States upward of a billion dollars each year, according to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

There are other costs, according to Bogard. The increase of artificial light harms nocturnal animals and may contribute to some health problems in humans, he noted. He also discussed the psychological importance of dark skies where stars shine bright:

When we can’t see the sky, it’s tempting to think we’re the most important thing, that there isn’t a universe out there that dwarfs us.

When you have that firsthand, it can make you feel small, but it can make you grateful for what we have here, too. You realize the beauty we have on Earth is tremendous, and there’s no other place to go. The night sky makes this clear. Read more

Anti-biodiversity SB 78: Michigan scientists (133 of ‘em!) poised to tell Gov. Snyder it is “against the best advice” of state’s academic experts

The good news is the Michigan Legislature is on summer recess.

Even better news; they left without taking up SB 78, legislation that would redefine the term “biodiversity” in state law and prohibit state agencies from designating public lands to protect biological diversity. (We’ve written extensively about the bill’s flawed premise and terrible consequences, and you can read about it here and here and here.)

But Rep. Andrea Lafontaine, who chairs the House Natural Resources committee, told MEC earlier this year  that she expected to give the bill a hearing prior to legislature’s summer recess. Due to a busy close of session and – we’d like to think — lots of letters and calls to her office, the bill was not brought before the committee.

But we have every reason to believe the bill, which already passed the full Senate, is still likely to reappear. And when it does, the environmental and conservation communities need to be ready to stand in opposition.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources Professor Bradley Cardinale PhD, whose work focuses on the challenges of protecting biodiversity, has been working to point out the far-reaching ramifications of the bill. He, and 133 other PhD-level professors representing 13 Michigan universities, have signed this letter urging Gov. Rick Snyder to veto SB 78 should it reach his desk. Signing SB 78, they agree, would be a significant setback for the scientific management of state lands – a decades-old philosophy that has successfully restored Michigan’s once–decimated forests, protected its freshwater lakes and streams, and done a reasonable job of balancing the needs of multiple constituencies who use state lands for diverse activities.

We sat down with Professor Cardinale to ask him a few questions about the professors’ letter and the effects SB 78 would have on Michigan conservation.

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— Tell us about your letter to the Governor. And you have not yet sent it, is that right? When will you?

Read more

Update: SB 78 “Anti-Biodiversity Bill” passes full Senate

SB 78, the “Anti-Biodiversity Bill” passed the full Michigan Senate on March 5.

It was approved on what appeared to be a strict party-line vote of 26-11.

Notably, Sen. Rebekah Warren took a courageous stand against SB 78 on the Senate Floor, arguing eloquently on behalf of Michigan’s history of science-based natural resource management. You can watch her statement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYkQvY3i0a8

She also offered several helpful amendments including language that would have reinstated the original, science-based definition of biodiversity; another to keep original language saying that human activity is the primary cause of biodiversity loss; and a substitute bill that would have ensured humans could access any designated Biodiversity Stewardship Areas — an attempt to address an unfounded concern about “locking up land’ often reiterated by the bill’s Republican sponsor. All amendments were rejected on what again appeared to be party-line votes.

The fight for biodiversity will next move to the House Natural Resources Committee.

We will alert you when a bill is up for consideration there, but feel free to reach out to House Committee members about this issue now. They are:

 

For complete background on this issue, we recommend the following links:

State Senate bill puts forests at risk of disease, pests, environmentalists say.” Detroit Free Press.

Legislation redefining conservation puts Michigan’s diversity of nature at risk:  MEC Commentary.” Detroit Free Press

Biodiversity: Key to healthy forests, yet target of terrible proposed law.” MEC blog Michigan Distilled

Anti-biodiversity bill hearings continue.” MEC blog Michigan Distilled

 

“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.

Read more