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Posts from the ‘land use’ Category

Biodiversity: Key to healthy forests, yet target of terrible proposed law

A proposal in Michigan’s legislature (SB 78) would needlessly undercut longstanding and important protections that are helping restore Michigan’s natural resources and safeguard the genetic diversity of plants and animals managed on state lands.

MEC opposes this ill-advised legislation, and has provided the following testimony to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

We’ve asked supporters to call or email the bill’s sponsors and let them know you support managing state lands for biodiversity. Please consider joining the effort!

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 Sponsor, Senator Tom Casperson: Call: 517-373-7840, Email: SenTCasperson@senate.michigan.gov:

Other bill sponsors:

Patrick Colbeck: 517-373-7350, SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
Arlan Meekhof: 517-373-6920, SenAMeekhof@senate.michigan.gov
David Robertson: 517-373-1636, SenDRobertson@senate.michigan.gov
Michael Green: 517-373-1777, SenMGreen@senate.michigan.gov
Darwin Booher: 517-373-1725, SenDBooher@senate.michigan.gov
Howard Walker: 517-373-2413 SenHWalker@senate.michigan.gov

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Comments on Senate Bill 78 – Michigan Environmental Council Opposes

 What Is Senate Bill 78?

SB 78 would amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994). Specifically, the bill would amend PART 355 (Biological Diversity Conservation) and Part 525 (Sustainable Forestry on State Forestlands) 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.
  • 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.

The bill also would repeal several sections pertaining to the Joint Legislative Working Committee on Biological Diversity (which was dissolved on December 30, 1995).

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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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Michigan parks and the power of place: More than mere amenities

The Lansing State Journal ran a nice article yesterday (“Snyder weighs big changes for Michigan’s parks”) about the recommendations of the Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel.

During my year of work on that panel, one challenge really stood out: Michiganders, even those dedicated to outdoor issues, think of our parks and forests and beaches and rivers as amenities. They’re nice to have, but don’t rate as high as jobs or potholes on anyone’s list of top-tier issues.

That view is outdated, though. The world has shifted.

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Don’t Fence Me In

Limiting Public Land Jeopardizes Michigan’s Character

Nobody’s going to confuse it with Chicago or Denver, but Lansing is an honest-to-God city, albeit mid-sized.  We’ve got a decent food scene, a solid bus system, skyscrapers—even our own professional ball club.

It’s a great place to work.  But like Melville’s Ishmael when he was away from the sea awhile, if I’m too long in town without at least a brief escape to the woods, “it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off.”

Luckily, a couple of years ago I discovered a secret spot on a little trout creek about an hour southwest of my home in East Lansing.  (I’m not divulging details.  Unless you buy me a Two Hearted Ale—then I’ll tell you exactly where it is.) Read more

Sustainable Spirits!

At the Michigan Environmental Council we’re willing to do just about anything to help the environment. And if that means drinking a locally crafted beer or glass of Michigan wine, then so be it!

This Friday in Lansing we’re inviting you to a celebration of local beer, wine and spirits at our Green Drinks Lansing event. Admission is free, it’s informal, and there is a trio of fascinating experts lined up to share their wisdom. (More details below).

One thing I really appreciate about MEC is that when we host an event or meeting, local food, drinks and vegetarian options are all taken into consideration. Environmentally friendly and socially responsible vendors are always the first choice and often are a requirement. I appreciate that. It’s walking the talk. What’s more, it really does make any event better, creates a sense of shared camaraderie in local choices, and helps support Michigan’s economy. Win-win-win.

Plus, let’s be honest – most environmentalists are craft beer snobs. And with good reason.

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Tuesday Linkaround: Leelanau tops healthy list and U.P. mining gets national exposure

Or maybe it's Leelanau's grapes?

Michigan’s Leelanau County is at the top of the list of the state’s healthiest counties,  according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Parts of Southeast Michigan, the Grand Traverse area and West Michigan seemed to house most of the healthiest counties; check out where your county landed in the study. Do you think Leelanau’s ranking had anything to do with its utterly refreshingly lack of fast food restaurants?

Farther North yet, the Christian Science Monitor has surveyed the imminent mining boom in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with this reporting. The otherwise even-handed piece fails to note that the current type of mining is much different and riskier than the mining of the U.P.’s past. So-called sulfide mining is a explained here.

Moving into urban issues, the historic River Rouge coal plant was the largest of its kind on earth when it opened in 1956. Mother Jones has a terrific photographic essay on the aging plant’s visual legacy. Scroll down the photos far enough to see the Sierra Club’s indefatiguable Rhonda Anderson, along with a good analysis of how her organization (an MEC member and ally) is working not just to replace the behemoth with cleaner energy, but help the community better absorb the loss of jobs the plant’s closure will create.

One of the state’s most invisible environmental challenges are the thousands of leaking underground petroleum tanks across the state. These sites threaten drinking water, surface water, soils and in some cases public health. Here’s the first in a Bridge Magazine series done by Michigan journalist and author Jeff Alexander. He explains how if the state does not act decisively, the problem will only get more costly.

Hey, there’s good news too: The Federal Government and five states, including Michigan, have come to an agreement to expedite the process of building off-shore wind farms around the Great Lakes region.

Finally, under the heading clean technology, some crazy Belgian is trying make pigeons poop soap, to help clean the cities they now soil. MEC has no position on soap-pooping pigeons.

— Marco Salomone contributed to this post

Wolves in sheep’s clothes

Beware wolves in sheep’s clothing. Or in this case the waste industry trying to cloak itself in green rhetoric.

The issue is legislation that recently passed out of the House Energy and Technology Committee to overturn the 17-year-old ban on yard waste going into landfills. It is on the floor of the House this week. It is a terrible idea on so many different levels that it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s try:

  • It would result in significant and immediate layoffs of workers in the composting industry and the commercial businesses that sell compost products. Family business will go bankrupt. People would lose jobs almost immediately.
  • It would eliminate a significant source of nutrient rich compost that is rebuilding Michigan’s gardens, lawns and farms. Compost has micro- and macro-nutrients that commercial fertilizers lack.
  • It would fill Michigan’s landfills more quickly, and require more of them.
  • It will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Details of the Michigan Environmental Council’s opposition are outlined in this letter to House members.

The powerful waste industry is touting the bills as a way to increase ‘renewable’ landfill gases that can generate electricity. But the gain – 30 mw of additional generation – is a pittance compared to the devastation the measure would wreak on family businesses across the state.

This is an issue where economic and environmental interests dovetail. The highest and best use of compost is not dumping it in a landfill. It is reclaiming the nutrients for use in farm field, vegetable gardens and landscaping.

Your state representative should be hearing from someone other than the waste industry lobbyists lurking in the shadows of the Capitol in dark trench coats (OK, we take poetic license!). Please call your rep today and let them know you oppose HB 4265 and HB 4266.

The yard waste ban is working, both for Michigan jobs and our natural resources. Let’s keep the momentum going.

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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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