LANSING, Mich—A bill authored by Sen. Tom Casperson to prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from issuing orders or rules that could over-restrict significant amounts of land as the department previously proposed has passed the Legislature.
“While we value and appreciate the diversity of our natural resources in Michigan, residents across the state made it clear in supporting Senate Bill 78 that they want to see a balance between protection of our resources and their wise use for recreation, tourism and economic development,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Michigan has much to offer in terms of natural resources, and we need to ensure that the people of this state can enjoy them without overly restrictive regulations imposed by department bureaucrats that will only serve to hamper our way of life with no real need to do so being apparent.
“Despite what environmental organizations and some liberal professors are claiming, the sky is not falling and this bill will not lead to the end of biodiversity in Michigan.”
SB 78 originated after the DNR proposed a program under Gov. Granholm in which more than 650,000 acres of public and private land in the northern Lower Peninsula alone would have been designated as biodiversity stewardship areas (BSA). The DNR intended to proceed with additional designations of land in the Upper Peninsula, but those recommendations were never made after considerable concerns over the last several years were raised on what the negative impact might be on the recreation, tourism and forest products industries in Michigan.
“The biggest reason why Weyerhaeuser chose Michigan as the place to start their OSB business over 30 years ago was the amount of timber available in this state,” said Todd Johnson, forestry services manager for Weyerhaeuser OSB-Grayling. “The U.S. Forest Service data then, and still today, identifies Michigan as having one of the largest timber surpluses in the nation. More set-asides will not lead to healthier forests. It’s our belief that it would result in increased mortality and be a detriment to the economy and overall forest health.”
While the DNR is no longer pursuing the same BSA program, efforts continue on a scaled-back approach, which could have similar impacts. Many have questioned the need for doing so when more than 20 other state and federal programs exist to protect the natural resources, with biodiversity being part of their objectives.
Current leaders within the DNR acknowledge that another new program is not needed to help achieve and maintain biodiversity in Michigan, but SB 78 is needed for the long-term to ensure state bureaucrats do not proceed again on their own.
“The Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance stands behind the efforts to limit programs that would impair our citizens’ opportunities to utilize the resources, which are needed to keep our state moving forward in a positive direction,” said Tony Demboski, UPSA president. “Biodiversity is the sum-total of organisms in an environment or ecosystem. It is not, and should not be used as, an agenda to prevent use.”
SB 78 was given final approval by the Legislature on Thursday and sent to the governor for his consideration.