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)
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.
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
This week Michigan became one of the last Great Lakes state to outlaw burning trash in outdoor burn barrels.
But, not really.
The legislation signed into law allows open burning, but prohibits the most toxic items. Stuff like foam, plastic, rubber, chemicals, electronics, etc.
That’s better than nothing. And the evidence that open burning is a huge health hazard is unequivocal.
But we’re disappointed the ban didn’t include all household wastes. And, that it included language forbidding the state from outlawing the burning of any materials not on the legislation’s list.
With more than half the state’s residents living in places that exceed allowable levels of particulate matter, there’s no need to add to the harm. It’s 2012, and we have better systems in place to recycling, reuse, and more safely dispose of our garbage.