August 11, 2014


Fish Factory Could Bring Diseases, Parasites To Famed River

LANSING--The Sierra Club announced today that it will challenge a state permit allowing a controversial factory fish farm in the famed Au Sable River near Grayling. The permit, issued on July 1 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), would allow the fish farm to discharge pollutants into the East Branch of the Au Sable River, just upstream from where it joins the world-renowned “Holy Waters” section of the Main Branch of the river. Another state agency, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, has described the Holy Waters stretch of the Au Sable as “unique”, and notes that it is “renowned” throughout the world.
“The idea of placing an industrial fish farm within the Au Sable River is just mind-boggling", said Anne Woiwode,  Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "Fish waste, food, disease, and parasites are inevitably associated with fish farms of this type. To allow the discharge of these substances into the Au Sable River goes against everything Michiganders expect from our state officials ”.
Woiwode also pointed out that the permit does not require monitoring or control of the release of disease, parasites, most pollutants, or even live fish into the river.
"There is evidence indicating that there have already been escapees from this facility, even before it has ramped up to industrial capacity”, said Woiwode.
Attorney Nick Schroeck, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, represents Sierra Club. Schroeck says that the DEQ has failed in their duty to protect the environment.
“The DEQ has admitted that operation of this facility will degrade one of the most economically valuable rivers in the country,” said Schroeck. “But the agency claims  that this degradation is  acceptable, because it will provide 2 full time and 2 part time jobs.  The risk to the Au Sable far outweighs any potential benefits from this facility."
The Sierra Club will file a petition today for a Contested Case with the DEQ, challenging the permit.
Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, with 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

August 8, 2014

Michigan Agriculture Contributes to Toledo's Water Woes

By Gail Philbin, Assistant Director, Michigan Chapter
Toledo’s recent bout with poisoned drinking water should serve as a huge wake-up call to Michigan to take seriously the link between factory farming, water pollution and public health.

The story of how dangerous levels of a toxin ended up in the water supply of Ohio’s fourth-largest city is in large part the story of how we grow our food today and who decides what are considered good farming practices. The impetus for Toledo’s weekend water ban was microcystin, a toxin experts say can cause diarrhea, vomiting or abnormal liver function that probably formed in a recent algae bloom in Lake Erie. The soupy, pea-green growth in one of our Great Lakes is an increasingly common occurrence fed by phosphorus run-off from southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio fields applied with commercial fertilizer or factory farm waste.

Why all the fertilizer and animal waste in our water? Because we eat lots of meat, dairy, poultry and eggs. The United States is the largest producer of corn in the world.  Eighty percent of what we grow is consumed not by people but by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry and fish production, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Vast monocultures of corn require large amounts of fertilizer to grow.  

We also like cheap food and most of us buy products that come from industrial-scale, concentrated livestock facilities, many of which have been constructed in the last decade in western Lake Erie watersheds that include southern Michigan. Such operations are favored by federal Farm Bill subsidies that keep their product prices artificially low. This taxpayer-funded support often goes to help construct manure lagoons and other systems for handling the huge amount of waste factory farms generate. Even so, it can end up polluting nearby waterways, as shown in the Less=More sustainable agriculture coalition’s 2013 report about subsidies and factory farm pollution, Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape. The current subsidy system rewards polluters, giving an unfair advantage over the kind of healthy, sustainable livestock farms that more Michigan consumers seek to support at farmers markets and other local outlets.

Both monoculture crop farms and industrial livestock operations populate the landscape of the two main watersheds affecting Lake Erie, and it’s not clear how much of each is involved in the Toledo algae bloom. However, the role of the region's new livestock producers’ waste, much of it liquefied manure, and field runoff from the largest operations has scarcely been quantified up until now. John Klein, president of the citizen group Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, calculates that just the dairy and beef factory farms in the headwaters of the Maumee River and Raisin River, watersheds that impact western Lake Erie, annually generate about six million pounds of phosphorus. 

Last spring, a diverse coalition of Great Lakes groups predicted the kind of threat Toledo just experienced when it called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to end the application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground as an allowable practice of permitted Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The coalition cautioned that when snow melts or ground thaws, this common practice can result in runoff of phosphorus-loaded waste that ends up in Lake Erie. Reports by the International Joint Commission in February and the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force in 2013 also advocate prohibiting this practice.

Toledo’s recent nightmare should send an alarm to all state agencies with oversight of modern agricultural operations about the connection between the highest-risk factory farming practices, water pollution and public health. The Michigan Natural Resources Conservation Service, a state-based agency of the US Department of Agriculture that allocates Farm Bill conservation subsidies, must reassess the practices it prioritizes with taxpayer money and stop supporting polluting factory farms. The MDEQ, which is still in the process of reviewing its general permit for CAFO operators, need wait no further to ban winter manure application. And the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Resource Development should immediately follow suit and keep winter manure application out of the best management practices in its voluntary Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program. 

We must get serious about how we raise our food. We have healthy, sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture, but we can't replace the Great Lakes.

July 30, 2014

Non-Profit Office Space for Rent in Lansing’s Old Town

For Lease:  115 sq. ft. first floor office space in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood.   Great street frontage, hard wood flooring and exposed brick.  Fully furnished, private office space includes the following amenities:  WIFI,  free parking/ bike rack, shared kitchen (microwave, refrigerator, sink, cupboards) and restroom, security system with emergency panic buttons, central heat & air. Located near corner of East Grand River Ave. & Washington Ave. Walking distance from Capitol and downtown Lansing and a few minutes’ drive from East Lansing.  Easy access to CATA Bus lines, restaurants, shopping, fitness center, general store, farmers market and the river trail.  Utilities, single stream recycling and trash services included in rent. 

Lease terms: $300/month; Minimum one-year lease. Immediate availability.  One month security deposit required.  Nonprofit designation required.

Contact: Cecilia Garcia, 517-484-2372,ext 10 or email

Statement On Mass Water Shutoffs Impacting Detroit Residents

NEWS from Sierra Club

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2014                          DAVID HOLTZ

Statement of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair
On Mass Water Shutoffs Impacting Detroit Residents

The following statement was released today by David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair:

Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, believes the waters of Michigan and all of America are held in public trust.  The public trust doctrine is the principle that water is held in common—no one made it, no one owns it—and is preserved for public use.

Detroiters—and all residents of Michigan—have a basic right to water and the mass water shutoffs in Detroit should end.  There is considerable evidence that insufficient advance notice and payment options were given prior to the water shutoffs.  Moreover, Detroiters currently pay about twice the national average for water and are among those the least able in the country to afford these rates.  It is understood that there is a cost to providing the infrastructure and delivery of water as a public service and the following actions should be taken to address the water shutoff crisis in Detroit:
  • An end to water shutoffs and immediate restoration of water to all Detroit residents beyond the current 15 day moratorium.
  • Detroit City Council should conduct a public hearing on the water shutoffs.
  • An assessment should be made by public health officials of the impacts of mass water shutoffs on the health and mental health of those affected by the shutoffs.
  • A comprehensive water affordability plan for Detroit should be adopted that includes conservation policies and a goal of providing water at rates more in alignment with Detroiters’ ability to pay.



Wednesday, July 30, 2013

Mike Berkowitz,, 248-345-9808

Proposal Calls for Substantive Clean Energy Policy

LANSING - Today, the Sierra Club applauded Michigan candidate for Governor Mark Schauer’s newly proposedjobs plan. Schauer’s proposal calls for raising Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 30 percent of state’s electricity by 2035, a move that would protect the Great Lakes and create thousands of jobs at the same time. It also calls for increasing Michigan’s energy optimization standard to two percent a year to help reduce electricity costs for homeowners and businesses.

Statement from Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter:
Mark Schauer’s goal of Michigan getting 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources and increasing energy efficiency confronts our state’s current inertia on clean energy policy. This highlights a clear disparity between Schauer and Governor Rick Snyder, who has yet to propose a substantive energy policy or timeline.  Mark Schauer is ready to move Michigan forward.“
Statement from Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director:
“Michigan’s past is vested in dirty coal, that much is certain.  The direction Mark Schauer is offering will make sure that Michigan is in the lead, ensuring that as we move in a cleaner direction we also benefit from the jobs that harnessing, building and delivering clean energy bring. We applaud Schauer’s leadership and vision on an issue so important to Michigan’s future.”
The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 160,000 members and supporters in Michigan.


Paid for with regulated funds by the Michigan Sierra PAC 109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906

July 28, 2014

Annual Au Sable Cedar Restoration Outings Scheduled for September


Join the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Anglers of the Au Sable for their Annual Au Sable River Clean Up and Tree Planting on Saturday, September 6th. We will meet at 10AM at the Au Sable Lodge, 471 Stephan Bridge Road, Grayling, MI. (M-72 east of Grayling and north of Stephan Bridge Road) to get organized and split up into assigned groups for the clean up. The Sierra Club will be working with the Cedars of the Au Sable group to weed, pick up litter, replace a few tree cages and replace a few cedar saplings on the banks of the Mason Tract of the South Branch of the Au Sable River. Bring work gloves, trowels, tree spades, etc. An afternoon barbecue at the Au Sable Lodge will follow. To RSVP your help or for more outing details (and local camping information if needed), contact Lorne Beatty at 810-632-7766 or at


Join the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, Cedars of the Au Sable and other conservation groups for a day of tree planting on the Upper Manistee River west of Frederic, Michigan on September 20th. We will meet at 9AM at the Old Fly Factory in downtown Grayling, next to the I-75 Business Loop bridge on the Au Sable River, to organize and split up into groups. Bring work gloves, trowels, tree spades, rain gear, etc. An afternoon barbecue back at the Old Fly Factory will follow the planting. To RSVP your help or for more information, contact Lorne Beatty at 810-632-7766 or at

July 16, 2014


July 16th, 2014

CONTACT: Mike Berkowitz


Conservation Group Praises Commitment to Protect Michigan’s Environment

Kalamazoo, MI: The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced its endorsement of Mark Totten in the 2014 election for Michigan’s Attorney General.

"Mark Totten received Sierra Club’s endorsement because Michigan needs an Attorney General who will protect our public health, our water and our air,” said Richard Barron, Political Chair of Sierra Club MI Chapter. "Mark Totten is an attorney who understands the importance of clean air, clean water and public health and understands the vital need to protect our public health as well as our forests and other natural resources.  We are confident that he will defend our natural resources and will prosecute those who criminally pollute our air, water and land.”

In the past, Totten has worked to protect rainforests and stop illegal logging in Indonesia. He also worked on environmental policy as a staffer for former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. Totten also developed a report on the abuse of science by the George W. Bush administration. Mark Totten is running for the position currently held by Bill Schuette (R). Schuette has led the charge against the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to keep our air, water and land clean and has been silent on fracking issues. In contrast, Totten encourages the expansion of Michigan’s renewable energy, energy efficiency, green manufacturing and maintenance jobs.

"Bill Schuette has shown a consistent disregard for the impacts of climate disruption, taking the side of industry and challenging common-sense solutions,” said David Holtz, Chapter Chair of Sierra Club MI Chapter. “Michigan needs more clean energy champions and Mark Totten has the skills, values and energy to lead on this important issue.”

Sierra Club’s endorsement means it will lend its volunteer strength to Mark Totten’s campaign from among its 160,000 Michigan members and supporters.  Totten will be seeking nomination as Attorney General at the Michigan Democratic Convention in August.

"Getting Totten elected as Michigan’s next Attorney General is a priority for us," said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of Sierra Club MI Chapter.  "Sierra Club volunteers will conduct outreach to our members and other voters and let them know that Totten is committed to protecting Michigan’s environment.”

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 160,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

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Paid for with regulated funds by Michigan Sierra PAC 109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906