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.
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
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
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
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
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.
— Tell us about your letter to the Governor. And you have not yet sent it, is that right? When will you?
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:
- Andrea LaFontaine (R) Committee Chair, 32nd District: (517) 373-8931, [email protected]
- Bruce Rendon (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 103rd District: (517) 373-3817, [email protected]
- Ken Goike (R) 33rd District: (517) 373-0820, [email protected]
- Joel Johnson (R) 97th District:(517) 373-8962, [email protected]
- Ed McBroom (R) 108th District: (517) 373-0156, [email protected]
- Roger Victory (R) 88th District: (517) 373-1830, [email protected]
- Charles Smiley (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 50th District: (517) 373-3906, [email protected]
- Scott Dianda (D) 110th District: (517) 373-0850, [email protected]
- John Kivela (D) 109th District: (517) 373-0498, [email protected]
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
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:
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.
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!
Sponsor, Senator Tom Casperson: Call: 517-373-7840, Email: [email protected]:
Other bill sponsors:
Patrick Colbeck: 517-373-7350, [email protected]
Arlan Meekhof: 517-373-6920, [email protected]
David Robertson: 517-373-1636, [email protected]
Michael Green: 517-373-1777, [email protected]
Darwin Booher: 517-373-1725, [email protected]
Howard Walker: 517-373-2413 [email protected]
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).
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.