Senate bill would keep municipal tree police focused on neighborhoods

Casperson legislation curbs local abuse of tree ordinances

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tom Casperson recently introduced legislation that would protect Michigan property owners from municipal overreach on private property.

Senate Bill 1188 would bar local governments from enacting or enforcing local tree removal laws in any area that is not zoned residential.

Dozens of communities around Michigan have enacted local laws requiring residents and businesses to obtain permission before removing trees from their property and paying into a so-called “tree fund” or replacing a tree if they choose to cut one down.

“These laws were sold to the public as a way to encourage tree-lined neighborhoods and to protect big, old trees that are community landmarks,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “However, these ordinances are often written loosely enough to allow for abuse. Nobody is arguing the value of tree-lined neighborhood streets, but in some communities, the ‘tree police’ use these ordinances to harass property owners and fill local coffers.

“Michigan business and property owners need reasonable legal protection, and this bill offers a narrowly tailored approach to support trees while curbing abuse.”

The Vegetation Removal Preemption Act keeps local tree removal ordinances focused on true “heritage” trees and residential areas but allows property owners to make their own decisions about trees in areas zoned for agricultural, industrial, business and commercial use.

The bill also provides protections and clearer definitions for how big a tree must be to be considered a heritage tree.

“When people buy a parcel of land, part of the value — what they pay for — includes any trees on that land,” Casperson said. “The idea that if you decide to cut a tree on land you own you have to pay for it again — to the local government, no less — is preposterous. It’s unfair, and it potentially raises a legal question.”

SB 1188 has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration.

###

Casperson urges honest discussion about prison closures

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson has expressed ongoing concern about prison cost reform, including Tuesday’s announcement to close the Ojibway Correctional Facility located in the Upper Peninsula’s Gogebic County.

Many are hailing the closure as an indication of positive trends in law enforcement; Casperson disagrees.

“This is a game of cups and ball where the state is simply hiding the true costs of closing down prison facilities,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Our county jail populations are ballooning because of these closures, causing a greater burden on county budgets that are already stretched thin. And that is unacceptable. We need to recognize the true costs of law enforcement in our state, and not simply pass on the burden to our local communities.”

Casperson previously presented a plan to the Michigan Department of Corrections that would have saved the state money while at the same time ensuring local communities are not left to subsidize the closure. However, this was not the desired approach because it failed to promote what Casperson called the false narrative that “recidivism is at an all-time low.”

Casperson said that public safety and the state budget aren’t the only things at stake with this closure.

“The Ojibway facility supported more than 200 employees, as well as all the people in the community who served those workers,” Casperson said. “What are the community of Marenisco Township and Gogebic County going to do now? What about the families who suddenly will be out of a job in four months?

“It is especially frustrating that the significant consequences for the Western U.P. were not considered, especially after this community accepted this responsibility from the state at a time others communities shunned having a prison. There were other options available to the state that would have offered the department cost savings that would not have devastated a local community.

“Consequently, if this decision is left to stand, I am asking that the state join with us in the immediate days ahead to find ways to offer some jobs assistance to the already struggling economy in the Western UP to ensure the community can survive.”

According to the Department of Corrections, the Ojibway Correctional Facility is scheduled to close Dec. 1 of this year. The roughly 800 inmates will be transported to other facilities around the state.

###

Measure to prohibit bureaucratic overreach by DNR has passed the Legislature

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.

###
 

Casperson and Kivela help Ontonagon County maintain ambulance services

LANSING—Bipartisan efforts by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, led to the completion of a legislative fix this week that will ensure the best of available emergency care will continue to be provided in the Western Upper Peninsula. 

House Bill 5842, sponsored by Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, was sent to the governor on the last day of legislative session with an amendment added by Casperson that included language from a bill Kivela sponsored. Kivela’s bill, HB 5454, cleared the House last week, but due to timing issues the bill, it was prevented from being voted out of the Senate.

Without the legislative change included in HB 5842, Sonco Ambulance would have only been able to provide basic ambulance service, even when staffed by properly licensed EMT-specialists and EMT-paramedics.    

“I am thankful for Representative Pettalia’s support in allowing his bill to be amended to include language from HB 5454. Without his support and the last minute work done by Senator Casperson, the Western Upper Peninsula could have lost a needed protection for public safety,” Kivela said. “It was a great effort by all of those involved, and I am extremely happy that we were able to get this legislation completed before session ended.” 

“Although it was a true team effort to address this problem, I especially want to thank Representative Kivela for his leadership in championing this issue, because his effort set the stage for this legislative fix to be accomplished,” said Casperson. “As we look to the next legislative session, I look forward to working with Representative Kivela and emergency medical service personnel across the Upper Peninsula and rural Michigan to continue on this path of reforming emergency medical services law so that the best available care is provided for people in all rural areas.”

Kivela said, “This is another example of how the UP legislative team continues to work in a bipartisan manner to help one another and residents across the Upper Peninsula.”

###

Casperson bill to protect wood-burning stoves passes Legislature

For Immediate Release
Dec. 18, 2014

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

LANSING, Mich—The Legislature has passed Sen. Tom Casperson’s legislation to make sure that Michigan residents aren’t saddled with state regulations on the use of their wood-burning stoves.

Senate Bill 910 aims to prohibit the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from regulating wood-burning stoves through rules and from enforcing any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations limiting emissions from wood-burning appliances that may be imposed after May 1.

“The proposed EPA regulations are a recent example of overreach by bureaucrats, as we too often see, especially from the EPA,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Using wood as a heating source has been a way of life for centuries in the U.P. This measure will put a stop to any such overreach of government that could occur at the state level in order to protect our way of life.

“Given the challenges last winter presented with extreme conditions which are expected to occur again this year, propane shortages, and price increases that left many families hurting, this is no time for the EPA to advance regulations to restrict one of the most dependable and affordable options for providing a basic need for so many—heat for their homes and small businesses.”

The new standards set forth by the EPA would impact new pellet, corn burner and outdoor wood boilers. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, manufacturers of wood stoves and heating appliances have estimated that the proposed new emission requirements could virtually end the burning of wood for heat in the United States and more than double the cost of new wood-burning appliances.

SB 910 passed the House of Representative this week and was sent to the governor for his consideration.

Sen. Casperson resolution urges Congress to keep the U.P. first class mail processing in Kingsford

For Immediate Release                                                          
Dec. 4, 2014                                                                      

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

LANSING, Mich.—Sen. Tom Casperson authored a resolution on Tuesday that formally requests Congress to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from consolidating the processing of all U.P. first class mail to Green Bay, Wisconsin from the current processing center in Kingsford, Michigan.

“The postal service certainly has some challenges that need to be addressed. However, shipping all of the first class mail from the U.P. for processing at the Green Bay facility is not a fair or reasonable response to those challenges,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba.

“Eliminating first class mail from the Upper Peninsula’s only mail processing center and outsourcing that work to Wisconsin will most certainly lead to a situation where first class mail in the Upper Peninsula stands no chance of next day delivery. It is simply unacceptable and unfair to the U.P.’s business community and area residents. 

“Countless U.P. businesses depend on overnight first class mail delivery, and the discontinuation of this service will, with real significance, adversely impact many small businesses—that are already facing a number of other real challenges locally.”

Senate Resolution 192 states that the U.S. Postal Service plans to close or consolidate the Kingsford location on Jan. 5, 2015.

The resolution urges congressional intervention to stop the proposal, stating: “The consolidation will severely delay first class mail delivery and result in a degradation of postal service standards by virtually eliminating overnight first-class mail delivery in large portions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

SR 192 was adopted by the Senate and will be sent to the president of the U.S. Senate, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representative and each member of the Michigan congressional delegation.  

 

Senators call on Congress to rein in the EPA and U.S. Forest Service

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      Contact: Sen. Tiffany 608-266-2509
November 6, 2014                 Sen. Casperson 517-373-7840
      

LANSING, Mich.—Wisconsin Senator Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, issued the following statement:

“On Tuesday, voters sent a clear message across the country that impediments to job creation must be swept away.

“We are calling on all members of our congressional delegations, Republicans and Democrats alike, to reign in federal intransigence, in particular, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). 

“There are thousands of jobs waiting to be created in northern Michigan and Wisconsin if the USFS simply permits the Allowable Sales Quantity (ASQ) to be harvested on federal lands. If the USFS is unable to complete the preparatory work to implement the ASQ, our states stand ready to help them fulfill their mission.

“There is no bigger threat to affordable, reliable electrical service to our districts than the EPA.  The only electrical generating plant in the Upper Peninsula, the Presque Isle plant, may be forced to shut down if the EPA forces it out of business because of unrealistic performance standards.  Likewise, the paper industry faces foreign competitive pressures. Mills should not have to worry about our own federal government forcing them to shut down or move overseas.

“As directed by Congress, agencies of the federal government should be coordinating their actions with state and local units of government. The states of Michigan and Wisconsin are ready to enact solutions that work for federal, state and local governments to balance the needs of our natural and human environment.”

 

Citizen-led measure to help manage Michigan wildlife approved by the Legislature

LANSING, Mich.—Citizen-initiated legislation to ensure that Michigan’s fish and wildlife are managed using sound science and to protect hunting and fishing rights received the final stamp of approval on Wednesday with passage by the state House, announced Sen. Tom Casperson.

The Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA) was initiated by the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, a group of statewide hunting, fishing and trapping organizations – with tremendous support from Upper Peninsula sportsmen.

Casperson, R-Escanaba, had the following to say:

“Sportsmen and conservationists of this state should be commended for bringing this initiative to the Legislature to help stop the anti-hunting groups from using their multi-millions to manipulate Michigan residents into opposing sound management of wildlife.

“Approval of the Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act is a victory for the Upper Peninsula and those who worked so hard to see it through to completion. I would like to thank the many volunteers who made this possible, the 300,000 plus individuals who signed a petition in favor of the initiated law and my legislative colleagues for approving it.”

###
 

**PHOTO ADVISORY**

For Immediate Release                                                                                
Aug. 18, 2014         

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840                                                                           

LANSING, Mich.— Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, (center-right) is flanked by Gov. Rick Snyder and Steve Parks, Delta County prosecutor, (right) whose 11 year effort got the word “Yooper” included in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which defined the term as “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan —used as a nickname.”  Emily Brewster, the associate editor of Merriam-Webster, (left) was on hand for the presentation, and got an opportunity afterwards to travel to see some of the iconic treasurers that make the Upper Peninsula someplace truly special.

Editor’s note: For a print-quality version of this and other Casperson photos, click the image or visit SenatorTomCasperson.com and click the Photowire link.

Citizen-led measure to help manage Michigan wildlife passes Senate

For Immediate Release 
Aug. 13, 2014
    
Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840      

LANSING, Mich.—Sen. Tom Casperson announced that citizen-initiated legislation that ensures that Michigan’s fish and wildlife are managed using sound science passed the Senate Wednesday.

The Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA) was initiated by the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, a group of statewide hunting, fishing, and trapping organizations, with tremendous support from Upper Peninsula sportsmen. The groups joined together and gathered more than 374,000 signatures in support of the initiative to ensure that sound management is achieved while protecting hunting and fishing rights from attacks by anti-hunting organizations.

“Management of wildlife is an issue that constituents routinely raise as one of great concern for economic, recreational and social reasons,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “In 1996, the voters wisely decided that they wanted the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to regulate the taking of game based on science. And, from what I continue to hear, especially lately, the belief that we need to manage game scientifically is even more strongly held today.” 

The Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act aims to maintain and build upon that objective while ensuring that management by hunting and fishing is preserved for the future. The act would also allow for free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for active members of the military and provide appropriations for aquatic invasive species prevention, control and eradication efforts such as for the Asian Carp.

“The Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance (UPSA) with its 26,000 members strongly supports efforts of the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management to advance the SFWCA,” said Tony Demboski, UPSA President. “We believe that professional biologists should be relied on to advise the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and NRC members and that our active duty military members be allowed to hunt and fish free of charge.  The UPSA is grateful to the many volunteers and the people in the UP who joined together and made the petition drive a success. It is indicative of the knowledge and respect they have for resource management.”
“Through their tremendous grass roots efforts, the sportsmen of this state should be commended for bringing this initiative to the Legislature to help stop the anti-hunting groups from using their multi-millions gained through deceitful television ads to mislead Michigan residents into approving their anti-hunting agendas,” said Casperson. 

Passage of this measure by the Senate now means the citizen-led initiative only needs approval from the House of Representatives for the initiative to become law. Such action is anticipated by the end of the month.