March 5, 2013

Michigan Senate Criticized for Passing Anti-Science, Anti-Conservation Bill

Casperson bill attacks MDNRs management for biodiversity

March 5, 2013
Contact: Anne Woiwode, (517) 974-2112, anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org

LANSING – Sierra Club condemned the MI Senate passage today of Senate Bill 78, which proposes to block the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) from designating and managing Michigan lands using scientific principles of biodiversity*. SB 78, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R - Escanaba), attempts to remove biodiversity as a management option for the MDNR. The bill has been roundly criticized by Michigan's top scientists as "ridiculous," a threat to forest health, and a reversal of almost 100 years of conservation stewardship of Michigan's public lands.

“SB 78 would prevent Michigan’s public land managers from using the most up to date scientific knowledge about Michigan’s habitats and ecosystems to manage and restore the lands that belong to all the people of Michigan” said Anne Woiwode, State Director of Michigan Sierra Club. “This legislation would hurt our state’s wildlife and natural resources, will diminish the value of Michigan’s public lands in the future, and sets a dreadful precedent of allowing the DNR to ignore science. The Senate should be ashamed of themselves for passing this anti-science bill.” 

Since its founding in 1921, the MDNR has used biodiversity principles in management for restoration and protection of state lands. Without this authority, the MDNR would not have been able to successfully restore habitat and wildlife following the land clearing and the devastating wildfires that devastated Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Scientists, researchers, and ecological experts largely oppose this legislation as well. “Senate Bill 78 is lacking in common sense, ecologically literacy, and vision; it is divisive, counterproductive,  mean-spirited; couldn't be worse” said Dr. Burton Barnes, emeritus professor in the School of Natural Resources & Environment of the University of Michigan. Dr. Barnes continued, “Biodiversity has become a huge economic force and opportunity throughout the world. It is a vital and inseparable part of ecosystem services provided by the lands managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).”

Testimony on this bill from other scientists, researchers, and ecological experts is included below.
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The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 170,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

What Do The Experts Say About SB 78?

Dr. Brad Cardinale - Associate Professor, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Testified on 2/21/2013                                                                      University of Michigan
                                   
“There are several scientific inaccuracies in this bill.”

“Senate Bill 78 would directly hamper the DNR’s ability to manage public lands for invasive species, pests and disease, and thus, the productivity and sustainability of wood.”

Burton V. Barnes - Professor Emeritus, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Testified on 2/14/2013                                                                             University of Michigan
                                
“Senate Bill 0078 is lacking in common sense, ecologically literacy, and vision; it is
divisive, counterproductive, mean-spirited; couldn't be worse. As Mark Twain said of a
book he reviewed—it is a cemetery.”

“Biodiversity has become a huge economic force and opportunity throughout the world. It is a vital and inseparable part of ecosystem services provided by the lands managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).”

Dr. J. Michael Vasievich - Retired Research Scientist for the USDA Forest Service
Testified on  2/14/2013                                       Masters and Ph.D in Forestry, Duke University
                                   
“Severely restricting the DNR from considering biodiversity takes away an important element of scientific forest management.”

Judy Kelly - President of the Michigan Botanical Club, Biology Professor
Testified on 2/14/2013                                                                        Henry Ford Community College

“We oppose Senate Bill 78 because it is environmentally harmful in ways that ultimately diminish both our economy and quality of life in Michigan.”

“We must make wise decisions based upon the best science, which includes recognizing the elemental value that biodiversity supports in the health of our ecology and economy.”
Kim Herman - Former National President of the Natural Areas Association
Testified on 2/14/2013                  Masters in Botany/Plant Ecology, Michigan State University

“To pass this bill will further endanger already imperiled ecosystems and species and immeasurably hurt the health of our state forests and wildlife lands.”

“To pass SB 78 is analogous to spending all the capital in our savings accounts. To manage our state forests and all our state lands sustainably, including biodiversity conserves our capital and grows interest for today and future generations.”