Home > Cultural Movement, Economics, Editorial, Guest Writer > Fox guards chicken coop–tells chickens, “you’re overreacting!”

Fox guards chicken coop–tells chickens, “you’re overreacting!”

March 17, 2013

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Eighty-six S.B. 78

~ For our Sunday post, first-time guest contributor Betsy Coffia asks us to call Governor Rick Snyder in opposition of S.B. 78. 

By this time, hopefully, you’ve heard about U.P. legislator Tom Casperson’s bill S.B. 78 (Bill Analysis-PDF), which would strike “conservation of biodiversity” from the stated goals of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in managing forests. His bill would also dump the requirement that the DNR “manage forests in a manner that promotes restoration.”

The Senate Fiscal Analysis of Casperson’s bill further notes:

The bill would eliminate the definition of “conservation”, which means measures for maintaining and restoring natural biological diversity through management efforts in order to protect, restore, and enhance as much of the variety of native species and communities as possible in quantities and distributions that provide for the continued existence and normal functioning of native species and communities.”

One more small detail…S.B. 78 would also delete a legislative finding that human activity is a cause for loss of biodiversity. Reading the DNR’s description of its efforts to promote biodiversity – it’s clear the plan’s been in the making for quite some time now (DNR Biodiversity).

Meanwhile, I have done some reading on Casperson’s bill. I noted our own region’s Senator, Howard Walker, helped pass it, along 100% partisan lines (MI-Votes), sending it on to the House March 5. Of the many opinions and articles I’ve run across addressing Casperson’s anti-biodiversity bill (some say anti-science bill), the one that most loudly screamed “HOLY WAH…!?!” was, ironically, written by the man himself:

Rather than shriek that the sky is falling, opponents of SB78 should answer how diverse plants, animals, organisms and features that make Michigan so special survived for centuries without a [Biodiversity Stewardship Area] program” (FREEP).

Seriously, now

Casperson’s stunning viewpoint on how Michigan came back from mass deforestation and erosion – magically, all by itself! – is further embodied in his comments in a Bridge Magazine article from last year (“Policy Winds blow through Michigan forests“), where Casperson questions the need for the DNR’s Living Legacy Project (DNR): “…what’s the problem? Why do we need this plan when nature has brought our forests back?”

Reforestation: A legacy of the CCC in the U.P. via CCCLegacy.org

It’s pretty clear that the Senator is woefully (or wilfully?) ignorant of the extraordinary efforts that had to occur to “bring our forests back”(Mi-Gov). The DNR exists in large part because of what we saw happen when nature couldn’t just magically bounce back.

The History

Surely Casperson has heard of Franklin Roosevelt’s aptly named “Tree Army” of the Civilian Conservation Corps depression years. Seeing how the U.P. gained (Mining J) from the conservation effort that saw more than 120 camps in the U.P., combatting both 45% unemployment and erosion of the landscape. The pressing need to replant and reforest the eroded, moon cratered landscape left by logging was a major goal when FDR he created the CCC.

It wasn’t magic that reforested Michigan. It was deliberate government conservation effort.

You know, it really should not shock us that Casperson is in the logging industry’s corner, working to eliminate pesky statements of scientific reality, even rewriting the definition of conservation, in favor of a bigger bottom line/more unfettered logging.

Based on Casperson’s cosy past with the timber industry (See his awards), the industry’s lobbying sway, as well as this House majority’s track record, I fully expect they’ll easily pass it and send it on for the Governor’s signature.

Data driven Governor?

Gov. Snyder’s spokespeople are saying he doesn’t think this bill will “hurt biodiversity.” The Michigan Environmental Council disagrees (PR), as they sum up in their press release about the bill:

SB 78’s stunning assumption is that the perpetual survival of native species and natural communities is not of critical importance to Michigan and its residents. In addition to undermining Michigan’s commitment to common sense, science-based natural resources management, the legislation may also endanger other DNR programs like forest certification, and put at risk areas that have long enabled people to see and appreciate Michigan’s amazing natural assets.”

I disagree with the Governor’s spokespeople as well. Do me (and your kids and grandkids) a favor– Call Governor Snyder and ask him to reaffirm science, not politics.

Ask:

  1. How does striking “restoration” of forests from the DNR’s work assure Michigan residents that our wild places will survive human activity intact?
  2. Don’t Sen. Casperson’s personal and professional ties to the timber industry disqualify him from writing laws like this?
  3. Family business ties aside, given Sen. Casperson’s lack of awareness of how Michigan’s forests came back from the heavy impacts of mass timber harvesting in the past, should he really be writing bills that gut the capabilities of the agency that does understand the history and the science of both?
  4. Is the Governor comfortable with Michigan going national with a law redacting its own findings that human activity has an impact on biodiversity?

If nothing else, please ask the Governor to VETO SB-78. 

Snyder’s phone number and e-mail: (517) 373-3400, rick.snyder@michigan.gov

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: I knew using my first foray into guest writing for MyWHaT to talk about this topic was running the risk of being a downer, right out the gate. It’s worth the risk, as far as I am concerned. This is just too important.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: MyWHaT encourages guest contributors on issues relating to public spaces, transportation and community. This is the first guest post by Traverse City resident, Betsy Coffia. If interested in submitting your own post, please send a message with your interests and ideas.

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Comments, concerns, and considerations? 

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