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Posts from the ‘Great Lakes’ Category

Michigan’s Sleeping Bear, ‘America’s Most Beautiful Place,’ set to earn Congress’ first wilderness designation in years

(Second update: President Obama signed the bill March 13, designating roughly half of the Sleeping Bear Dunes as a federal wilderness area!)

(Wednesday morning update! The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on a voice vote late Tuesday, and it is on its way to President Obama’s desk. Said U.S. Senator Carl Levin: “This is good news for all of us who cherish the matchless beauty and the ecological importance of Sleeping Bear Dunes.”)

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Michigan’s iconic and globally rare freshwater dune system is on the verge of getting Congress’ first wilderness designation since 2009, capping more than a decade of discussion about how best to protect one of the region’s signature natural areas while keeping it open to hunters, anglers, beach lovers and others.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act would designate as wilderness 32,500 acres of the park that gained national attention in 2011 when Good Morning America viewers voted it the nation’s most beautiful place. The bill is set for a House vote this evening and is expected to land on President Obama’s desk for his signature.

The bill is a rarity for the polarized 113th Congress, which hasn’t designated a single acre for protection under the Wilderness Act. (Neither did the 112th – the first Congress not to add wilderness since 1966.)  It enjoys bipartisan support among Michigan’s congressional delegation—Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow co-sponsored the Senate version, which passed in June, while Republican Dan Benishek introduced the House bill—and has the backing of local residents and the National Park Service. Read more

Friday linkaround: Big week for cyclists and the DNR finds a lost toddler!

Good Friday everyone! Here are some items of interest from the week that’s drawing to a close:

It was a big week for our friends at the League of Michigan Bicyclists, with two legislative victories: House passage of revised right-turn signals and vulnerable roadway user legislation.

The state released this draft report last week on its findings regarding customer choice in the electric utility market. The report stays scrupulously neutral on the question of whether to expand competitive choice beyond the current 10% cap….perhaps indicating the governor will not be proposing significant changes to the program. More explanation on the choice cap is here (PDF)

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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?

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Polluting the Pure Michigan brand

The ill-advised Pure Michigan Right to Work advertisement is the latest in a string of questionable decisions that suggest the state and in particular, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) don’t understand the value of the brand they inherited.

The Pure Michigan brand is suffering a painful identity crisis. Why? Because there are two versions: first, there’s the Pure Michigan tourism promotional campaign, which has wisely expanded to spotlight both natural resources and great communities.

I’m a big supporter of that version because the ads remind what I love about Michigan—the places, the Great Lakes, the sense of our unique assets and place in the world.

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One if By Land

The Legislative Ground Assault on Pure Michigan

So much of what makes Pure Michigan so pure starts with our land—the miles of forests, the majestic dunes, the undeveloped trout streams and backcountry trails.  Without the incredible Great Lakes landscapes that define us, we’d just be another Indiana, Ohio or Missouri.

Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature is mounting an all-out blitz to undermine those land resources by gutting and dismantling the very programs that protect and improve them. And because land use issues are generally pretty complicated affairs, it’s a stealth assault that doesn’t garner headlines.

So, here’s a quick rundown on a few of the most alarming new attacks: Read more

A Sensational Moon Rising Over Michigan: How to Make the Most of This Weekend

Super Moon

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars

-Frank Sinatra

In other words, it’s almost the weekend and it’s springtime. So you need a fantastic Saturday plan. Well, what could be better than a Pure Michigan enviro-chic date night watching the ‘super moon’ rise?

This nature-rich date idea will score high points for originality, romantic quality, cost effectiveness and sustainability levels (which is important, because women are more attracted to green behavior).

The moon Saturday is not just a full moon; it’s a ‘super moon’.  It will be slightly closer to earth than normal from our perspective, so it will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. And this ‘super moon’ is going to be the best in the last 18 years. Read more

TGIF Linkaround!

Gotta make the boss happy so let’s start with this replay of MEC President Chris Kolb on last week’s Focus on the Environment show on Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU radio. Kolb, with co-host Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, talked about Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, the Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup and other issues.

Next let’s visit our neighbors down south…you know, the ones we grudgingly sharedone-third of our Big Ten men’s basketball championship with this year.

Don't try this at home

They’re wrestling overhow much unregulated water users should be able to siphon from Lake Erie and its tributaries. We defer to our friends at the Ohio Environmental Council who say the proposal is getting better, but isn’t good enough. Oh, and see you in the Big Dance, Buckeyes!

Down in Brooklyn, MI, home of Pumpkin Quest (!), people turned out for a discussion on the rewards and risks of a new and more intensive wave of fracking in Michigan. MEC’s James Clift was a panelist, though he didn’t make this radio station’s audio clip report that included State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who organized the forum.

Up north, MEC ally and member group Michigan Land Use Institute has this excellent story on Consumers Energy’s solar lottery. Twice as many people applied for the program as there were slots. We think we should let more people participate, and the 25×25 ballot issue will be the way to do it. Or, we could just throw our burgeoning renewable energy industry under the bus like State Rep. Ray Franz would do.

In weather news …… WHASSSUP Springtime??!! MEC has two beekeepers in the office, and their girls were happy with the mild winter. But the loss of ice cover on the Great Lakes – 79 percent over 38 years – is no small matter. Also, we may see more nasty insects this summer as a result. Hey, maybe Grist is right and a climate change conspiracy theorists make no %$#!!& sense.

Finally, in the “we can’t make this stuff up” category, here are two things MEC is not staking out a position on:  This lunatic with a wood stove heater in his Volvo, and these people who are fertilizing soybeans with urine.

Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to spring ahead!

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Mine tax: Investment in Michigan’s rural future

A new mining era is dawning in the Upper Peninsula. At least five big operations are getting underway or entering the permitting process, and maybe half a dozen more are busily exploring and testing the waters for future mines.

The Michigan Environmental Council opposed the first of these mines – London-based Rio Tinto’s Eagle Project in the Yellow Dog Watershed near Big Bay. We believe state regulators have not been rigorous in enforcing the state’s mining laws that were developed specifically to protect Michigan’s waters and public health from this particular type of mining.

We will continue to watchdog each new permit. However it’s clear that these operations —environmentally risky as they are—are going forward. They enjoy strong support from Governor Snyder, Northern Michigan lawmakers and state agency staff.

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Hello & Welcome!

Welcome to Michigan Distilled, the Michigan Environmental Council’s latest vehicle to bring ideas, analysis, news, and a bit of fun to the public discourse.

Yeah, we know, another blog.  And to boot, one whose title evokes images of backwoods stills churning out rotgut moonshine.

But it’s not that definition of distilled we’re talking about, at least for the most part. We’re talking about the definition that says: “to separate or extract the essential elements or essence of…”

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