Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 12, 2013

Another View: Protecting big timber

Michigan Republicans interested in shoring up their party’s long-term future invariably mention the need to mute the creationist, global-warming-denying minority that has given national GOP its anti-science reputation. This is what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was talking about a few weeks ago when he warned delegates to his party’s winter meeting that Republicans “have got to stop being the stupid party.”

But heeding that counsel has proved difficult even for Jindal, who recently threw his support behind legislation that would require Louisiana schools to provide equal time for critics of evolution.

And now Michigan’s Republican lawmakers are burnishing their own anti-science credentials by promoting legislation that would put our state’s national resources in jeopardy.

SB78, which passed the state Senate last week on a party-line vote, would delete biodiversity and restoration from the goals the state Department of National Resources is obliged to consider as it makes decisions about managing Michigan’s public forest lands.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, the bill would curb the DNR’s authority to protect large blocks of timberland from harvest.

Ecologists and environmental advocacy groups credit the DNR’s stewardship with restoring forests, lakes and watersheds devastated by overdevelopment and excessive timber harvesting.

They are justifiably worried that weakening the DNR’s land-management authority will threaten the biodiversity that promotes healthy forests and distinguishes Michigan’s public recreational spaces from those in neighboring states.

It’s hardly surprising that Casperson, a former log trucking operator who has historically been more interested in protecting the timber industry’s prerogatives than in safeguarding Michigan’s natural resources, has shrugged off biologists’ warnings about his bill’s impact.

This is the same lawmaker who embarrassed colleagues attending the Republicans’ state convention last month by expressing continued skepticism about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency.

But it’s regrettable that Republican state senators have embraced Casperson’s campaign to place the DNR’s land management authority in the Legislature’s inexpert hands.

Here’s hoping House Republicans take their responsibility to protect Michigan’s forests — and Gov. Jindal’s warning about their own party’s future — more seriously when they take up Casperson’s bill later this session.

Detroit Free Press

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