Nearly two years ago, Sen. Tom Casperson introduced a bill intended to revise the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994 — Senate Bill 78 lurked quietly in committee for the duration, until it reared its ugly head last week and passed in the lame duck session. Under the shadow of the road funding question, little attention was paid to the legislation.
The law will amend NERPA to prohibit the state from engaging in activities that preserve biodiversity, and will instead require the Department of Natural Resources to focus on economic growth in its environmental management practices. They will not be allowed to fund or participate in activities that promote restoration or identify unique habitats. The law actually revises the definition of “conservation” to exclude the promotion of native species and habitats. As if that’s not enough, the law deletes language that attributes loss of biodiversity to human activity — meaning, they could not even converse in the language of the science behind biodiversity.
This law will additionally prevent the DNR from continuing their efforts to stem the spread of invasive species, unless it is determined to be in the best interest of the state’s economic growth.
The DNR has been researching and developing programs since 2006, chief among them is their Living Legacies Initiative. This program identifies unique species and habitats and offers support through specific Biodiversity Stewardship Areas.
“Living Legacies is built on sound scientific principles, while respecting the diverse ecological, social and economic values and perspectives that are important to Michigan citizens. Through Living Legacies, Michigan will write another chapter in its long history of thoughtful, forward-thinking stewardship of our state’s natural resources.”
“Biological diversity is a fundamental part of a mission that lies at the foundation of Michigan’s long tradition of strong and responsible public land management. Managing lands for biodiversity and ecosystem health and genetic resilience ensures that our forests can survive new invasive species, such as emerald ash borer, and our fisheries can withstand diseases…Biodiversity, as a management tool for enhancing and restoring Michigan’s native natural ecosystems, is entirely in keeping with the idea of the Michigan’s agencies are stewards of the public trust, and the caretakers of Michigan’s abundant natural beauty and healthy ecosystems.”
The House Fiscal Agency reports that the following organizations are in support of the law:
The following indicated support for the bill on 12-9-14:
Michigan Assoc. of Timbermen (12-9-14)
Great Lakes Timber Professionals (12-9-14)
Great Lakes Lumber Assoc. (12-9-14)
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (12-9-14)
Casperson’s campaign finance report predictably reflects his voting record with thousands in contributions from logging, mining, petroleum and energy interests — too numerous to list. Here, it seems the lawmaker enjoys a little diversity.
Lisa Wozniak of MLCV explained to ramifications to Michigan Radio:
“This plan puts at risk the very things that make Michigan’s outdoors very special and that support our diverse tourism, and fishing, and agricultural industries. And it’s bad business for Michigan. It’s very short-sighted. The governor should say no to this.”
If Governor Snyder signs SB 78 into law we can say goodbye to piping plovers, brook trout, river otters and thousands of other species that will become taxidermy material for Michigan’s history museums.
Updated 12-22-2014 11:00 am