I’m no Michigan native – I’ve only lived here since 1989 – but many long-timers have told me stories of the days of yore in Michigan. Tales of corporations polluting rivers with impunity and parents forbidding their children from swimming in the waterways amongst the two-headed fish.
Luckily, the state came to its senses, empowering its environmental agencies to enforce new regulations for industry and giving the environment and its wildlife the respect it deserves. By all accounts, the rivers in Michigan are much cleaner than they were in the 1960s, giving rise to the state’s prideful slogan: “Pure Michigan.”
Unfortunately, the Michigan Senate took a major step backward today.
In a move that critics say could make Michigan the laughing stock of the nation, the chamber approved a measure preventing state regulators from considering wildlife biodiversity when designating state forest land. More shockingly, it nullified a former legislation finding that seems obvious: most losses of bio-diversity are the result of human development.
“Biodiversity is the principle behind successful efforts to restore Michigan’s forests after years of clear-cutting,” Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said in an Associated Press report. “It has also been used to help recover wildlife populations enough to move them off the endangered species list.”
However, proponents, including state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, say the measure is needed to prevent big tracks of state-owned land from being declared off-limits to logging and motorized recreation.
The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate was mostly along party lines.
It’s not uncommon for Republicans – or Democrats – to tinker with environmental policies to reflect their agendas, but the Senate’s action seems to be taking a chainsaw to nearly a century of state environmental policy.
One hopes that Republican champion for biodiversity will emerge from the brush.