"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, SenTCasperson@senate.michigan.gov
Patrick Colbeck (sponsor): 517-373-7350, SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
Morris W Hood III: (517-373-0990), SenMHood@senate.michigan.gov Other bill sponsors (especially if you are in these legislators' districts):
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.

The bill being voted on would completely redefine "conservation," the concept of "biodiversity," and restrict or remove the ability of the DNR to even consider "biodiversity" or "restoration" when managing state forests. It is not NOT SPECIFIC to the DNR's BSA/Living Legacies program, but a set of sweeping changes to the scientific principles that guide all state land management. Specifically, it amends Part 355 (Biological Diversity Conservation) and Part 525 (Sustainable Forestry on State Forestlands) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994 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 (the only portion specifically targeting the proposed BSA program).
  • 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.
  • Repeal several sections that articulate the purpose of the original law, specifically deleting references to the Joint Legislative Working Committee on Biological Diversity (dissolved on December 30, 1995).
In addition to undermining Michigan's commitment to common sense, science-based natural resources management, MEC analysis suggests the legislation may also endanger other core DNR programs, including our forest certification efforts, and put at risk areas that have long enabled people to see and appreciate Michigan's amazing natural assets. Places such as Hartwick Pines, Haven Hill and others are managed and designated at least in part based on biodiversity values, but are also popular places for wildlife viewing and as places to experience Michigan's history and cultural icons.

Please see our previous blog post to read MEC's full commentary on these bills.

Notably, if the bill was more narrowly targeted to deal with the provisions of the BSA program, MEC would be happy to engage in a thorough review and discussion to ensure that program serves the people of Michigan as well as its natural resource goals. Until then, we must strongly and adamantly oppose SB 78 as written.

Details and information on the DNR Living Legacies/BSA program can be found on the DNR website here: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-30301_30505_57365---,00.html or by doing an internet search for "Michigan Living Legacies."

A LAST NOTE: Those who attended the hearing may recall Casperson called out (as a case study of the kind of "departmental overreach" he is targeting) a certain 21 acres in that were reportedly being "set aside for no human contact" due to the presence of a "1,000 year old tree" and some rare snails. In truth, the trees and snails in question were located on the face of a vertical limestone cliff at the park. The Land Use ORder was sought by the DNR to clarify their legal authority to keep people from climbing the vertical cliffs, where they could endanger themselves (and yes, the old cedar trees clinging tenaciously to the cliffs). There are still trails open for hiking at both the top and bottom of the cliffs. Despite the purpose being clearly stated as to "prohibit entry to the limestone cliffs," this fact was apparently not clear enough in the draft version of the land use order Casperson referenced in committee (viewable here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/LUOD_No._04_of_2013_406786_7.pdf.) The revised land use order can be found here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/LUOD_No._04_of_2013_406786_7.pdf.


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