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Posts from the ‘land use’ Category

To praise and protect: holiday thoughts on Michigan’s public lands

Michigan’s woodlands and waters are warming up, breaking into bloom, and will welcome thousands into their spring-into-summer embrace this beautiful holiday weekend. For me, our annual outdoor awakening brings to mind two simple observations about Michigan’s public lands.

1. They are awesome.

Case in point: I have the privilege of working with the Pigeon River Country Advisory Council to advise the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on management of the largest block of contiguous public land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s a job I take seriously, and I’ve taken some time learning and hoping to understand the place.

I spent Wednesday afternoon poking around the 105,000 acres on foot and by four-wheel drive, and was witness to: three elk crashing away into shadowy trees; a clear small stream bubbling as wind whispered high in tall pines above; and an old log shelter perched atop a broad river valley with blue skies stretching away without end. Trillium in bloom, birds chirping spring through the aspen groves, mushroom hunters prowling the miles of two-tracks and logging roads.

This trip, like too many in my full-time, new-dad lifestyle, was squeezed into the scant few hours before an evening meeting. The PRC is huge, its ecological communities and landscapes ranging from dark cedar swamps to warm, sandy ridges baking in sunlight. In half a dozen such trips over the last year or so—a few camp nights, a handful of slow drives, some long talks and longer hikes, a few books and a winter trail run—I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Pigeon River Country. Such places are rich, deep and challenging, and reward nothing so much as time and careful attention. Read more

Tug of war: Senate approves trails package while House panel cuts funding for—you guessed it—trails

The Senate today approved a package of bills to establish a Pure Michigan Trail Network - an encouraging sign that state lawmakers recognize the important role world-class trails and other outdoor recreation assets can play in growing local economies and enhancing quality of life.

The Senate package allows the director of the Department of Natural Resources to give trails and towns the Pure Michigan designation upon recommendation from the Natural Resources Commission. It also gives a nod to our state’s outstanding paddling by allowing the director to designate Pure Michigan Water Trails.  The bills also would change the Snowmobile and Trailways Advisory Council to the Trails Advisory Council.

“This package will bring the entire Michigan trails system into the spotlight,” said Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. “We have an incredible array of trails of all types, and we want to recognize them all and the towns that embrace them.”

The legislation makes place-based investments in outdoor assets a centerpiece of Michigan’s reinvention strategy, said Brad Garmon, MEC’s director of conservation and emerging issues. It also celebrates best-in-class trails that showcase Michigan’s natural beauty and cultural sites, rather than slapping the Pure Michigan label on lower-profile trails that serve an important practical purpose but don’t reinforce the Pure Michigan brand. Read more

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

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.

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, [email protected]gov
Michael Green (sponsor): 517-373-1777, [email protected]
Arlan Meekhof (sponsor): 517-373-6920, [email protected]gov
Patrick Colbeck (sponsor): 517-373-7350, [email protected]gov
Mike Kowall: (517) 373-1758, [email protected]
Phil Pavlov: (517) 373-7708, [email protected]
Rebekah Warren: (517) 373-2406, [email protected]
Morris W Hood III: (517-373-0990), [email protected]

Other bill sponsors (especially if you are in these legislators’ districts):
David Robertson: 517-373-1636, [email protected]gov
Darwin Booher: 517-373-1725, [email protected]
Howard Walker: 517-373-2413 [email protected]


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

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: [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]

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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).

Read more

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.

Read more