Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 14, 2013

Lawmakers to debate forest diversity plan


TRAVERSE CITY — A fight is brewing in the Michigan Legislature over management of state forest land, as an Upper Peninsula senator tries to derail a plan aimed mostly at nurturing a diverse mix of animal and plant life.

The Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee has scheduled a Thursday hearing on a bill that would prohibit state regulators from classifying sections of land specifically to achieve or maintain biological diversity. It also would delete "biological diversity" from the Department of Natural Resources' list of forest management duties and order the department to balance management activities with economic values.

Sen. Tom Casperson, an Escanaba Republican and the committee chairman, says the measure is not meant to prevent the DNR from promoting healthy forests. The goal, he says, is to prevent turning large areas into the equivalent of wilderness where logging and motorized recreation would be off-limits.

But environmentalists say the bill would force the DNR to put economic interests ahead of other considerations while limiting the department's ability to base decisions on science as it manages 4.6 million acres of state-owned forestland.