By Lisa Wozniak
---- — In their misguided efforts to redefine conservation, too many lawmakers in Lansing are defining themselves as anti-science, anti-sustainability, and anti-Pure Michigan. The best example of that, Senate Bill 78 - the “anti-biodiversity” bill - is on a fast-track through the Legislature right now. The impact of this dangerous piece of legislation would vastly limit the Department of Natural Resources’ ability to enforce landmark conservation legislation like the Endangered Species Act; could jeopardize Michigan’s efforts to attract federal dollars; and would hamstring efforts to promote our state as an outdoor recreation destination.
The bill targets the scientifically proven and widely accepted principle of biodiversity - a concept that you might remember from high school biology - that demonstrates that ecosystems with a wide variety of plants and animals are healthier and more sustainable. By greatly restricting the DNR from considering biodiversity as part of its comprehensive land use policy, the legislation jeopardizes the forests, lakes, native plants and animals that make Michigan a world-renowned destination.
This is not just an environmental issue. At 3.9 million acres, Michigan has the largest state forest system in the country; it’s something we should be proud of, not try to dismantle. Our natural resources are drivers of Michigan’s economy and the bedrock of the Pure Michigan ad campaign that draws people to our beaches, forests, and lakes from across America.
If we roll back critical protections for the natural beauty that we are known for, then we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Not only are we losing out on the tangible economic value from our state’s robust tourism economy, but we also miss out on the priceless economic value of a thriving ecosystem and beautiful places where Michiganders go to get away for a family vacation or a quiet weekend.
Biodiversity is also fundamental to the state’s Forest Action Plan, which helped Michigan bring in $22 million for cooperative agreements in recent years. Removing biodiversity as a forest management tool risks the state’s ability to participate in such agreements, which are critical to preventing forest fires, supporting private land stewardship programs, and allowing Michigan to draw in federal dollars in the midst of our own state’s budget concerns.
The bottom line is the anti-biodiversity bill is flat-out bad policy. Countless scientists and experts from Michigan’s universities testified before committee to say the same thing with stacks of research. Loggers, farmers, hunters, fishers, anyone who enjoys or relies on our natural resources recognize biodiversity is vital to the integrity of Michigan’s land and water.
Eliminating it as a legitimate reason to protect public land damages our economy, environment and reputation. We cannot allow the anti-biodiversity proponents to define Michigan as anti-science, anti-sustainability, and anti-biodiversity. That’s just not who we are here in the Great Lakes State.
About the author: Lisa Wozniak is Executive Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
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