Michigan Law Would Force DNR to Serve Corporate Interests

If a handful of Michigan Senators have their way, biological diversity will become a thing a distant memory (for the second time in our state’s history), and corporate interests would be the new driving force behind the Department of Natural Resources.

Visit any museum in Michigan and you’re bound to run across one of those shocking photos from the late 19th century where the land was logged barren — stark fields and hills with not a single tree. While we are not at risk of that happening again, the state is teetering towards a similar eco-disaster. Logging nearly wiped-out biodiversity in the state, with many species lost altogether and others just recently making a come back. The problem was one of monoculture — the trees that replaced the forests lacked species diversity and were an unsuitable habitat for the once abundant wildlife.

Sen. Tom Casperson has introduced a bill (SB 78) to revise the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994.  The proposed amendments would prohibit the state from engaging in activities that preserve biodiversity and would require the Department of Natural Resources to focus on economic growth in its forest management practices. They would not be allowed to fund or participate in activities that promote restoration or identify unique habitats. The bill actually revises the definition of “conservation” to exclude the promotion of native species and habitats. As if that’s not enough, the proposed law deletes legislative language that attributes loss of biodiversity to human activity — meaning, they could not even converse in the language of the science behind biodiversity.

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. Their website describes the program such:

“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.”

James Cleft, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council, explained in an email to Great Lakes Information Network-Enviro-Mich why SB 78 should be vigorously opposed:

“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.”

Speaking of legacies, Senator Casperson has a checkered enviromental history as a lawmaker, earning a flunking grade of just 30 percent from the non-partisan Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Casperson runs with a bad pack — his co-sponsors on this law also earned very poor grades on the MLCV scorecard (Colbeck 32%, Meekhof 25%, Walker 39%, Green 33%, Booher 23%, and bringing-up the rear, Robertson with 21%).

Casperson’s most recent campaign finance report predictably reflected 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.

If Senate Republicans have their way, piping plovers, brook trout, river otters and thousands of other species may become taxidermy material for Michigan’s history museums.

The bill is currently being considered in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project


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11 Responses to Michigan Law Would Force DNR to Serve Corporate Interests

  1. denise says:

    I dont know where you have been in Michigan lately but if you drive any where on state property it has already been clear cut drive in 1/2 mile and you can see it, it is devastating.

  2. Toivo says:

    This sounds sweet, but the ultimate aim is to make as much of Michigan as possible , ‘Pre-Settlement’. as if humans are not part of the biosphere. Investigate the UN’s Agenda 21 documents from 1992. Bio-diversity by legislative edict is a lie.

  3. james says:


  4. james says:


  5. Donna says:

    I am not verbose but will explain the best of my ability. When I noticed that the DNR was going to sell fracking in certain areas, one was in the UP. I talked about this with my son, he said don’t worry the logging mills have the rights. Soon after there was a forest fire in that area, which burned homes and trees. Since then I haven’t read any articles if there is now fracking in that area. Sigh, I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist.

  6. Leslie says:

    Yep, been seeing the cutting on State property in the U.P. for years, usually hidden by a buffer zone of 50 yards of trees. Also, lots being sold.

  7. Denise Lewis says:

    This is horrible, humans are destroying the earth. How sad. Does anyone have any ideas what to do? I’ve written our Congressmen & Senators before and you usually get a lame reply that they will “keep your concerns in mind” which just means they are blowing you off. Ideas anyone?

  8. David says:

    For starters, I think this proposal is ridiculous. Biodiversity is clearly supported by the people of Michigan. To the comments above, please read a book. For starters, clear-cutting is the best way to regenerate trees like jack pine, red pine, aspen, and many shrub and herbaceous species. It mimics the natural processes that humans otherwise suppress. The DNR only clear-cuts to regenerate these species. Aspen especially is a VERY important wildlife species that WILL NOT regenerate well under a forest canopy. It is what is called a “pioneer” species and needs clearings and disturbed ground. I am a student that is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Policy, and I am very supportive of the intrinsic values of the forests. I DO NOT support this really poorly conceived proposal, however, the MiDNR is actually probably the strongest and most influential supporter of biodiversity in this potential battle, and they are doing a pretty good job, considering. Please don’t allow yourselves to be manipulated into accusing the DNR of the ignorance and nearsightedness that some politicians are guilty of.

    • Eric says:

      How much aspen was there presettlement? There is more aspen as a % of state land then any time historically. Aspen growth via clear cuts increases a resource for the paper indistry, it is not needed to mimic something humans are preventing.

  9. Fred Overeem says:

    The current crop of Republicans seem intent on turning Michigan into a third world country. For a many years they have been raping the environment. This bill just makes it legal. It goes along with other Republican policy action, cut business taxes finance the cut by greatly reducing public school funding. Make employee organizations irrelevant using Right to Work, other wise know as Right to Freeload. So if I am understanding correctly the Republican vision of Michigan’s future will be a two peninsula wasteland, surrounded by a huge industrial cesspool, populated by poverty ridden people, who labor mightily to support a few super rich plutocrats.

  10. Robert Ayotte says:

    Trembling Aspen, in pre-European settlement (pEs) times was a species of swampy hummocks, and established in uplands only after fire. It reached its peak in range and numbers in the 1930s/40s when it established upland – after the many devastating fires of the post logging (devastation) period.

    Although periodic fires may reset succession, clear cutting does not, in any way, mimic the same process. Clear cutting removes a certain degree of biomass, and nutrients that would, otherwise, have been returned to the soil. Machinery used in logging compacts soil, and leaves conidtions that promote erosian. The ecosystems are intrinsically modified. Fragmentation, modified light regimens, modified humidity regimens, enhanced penetration of white-tailed deer (herbivory) lead to regeneration of forest ecosystems significantly different from pEs times.

    A species, even Homo sapiens, cannot exist on its own. Each is dependent on the interacting and interdependent biotic and abiotic processes that comprise ecosystems. In a sense life begins at the level of the ecosystem. We need to promote the level of bio-diversity that is characteristic for each ecosystem, in any way that we can. Threatened and endangered species, and biodiversity, cannot thrive or persist without their healthy and intact ecosystems (homes), and neither can we.

    We need to put whole and healthy ecosystems, of which we are a component, First.

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