A Choice for Governor, A Choice for Conservation
By Dave Dempsey, Policy Advisor, Michigan Environmental Council
LANSING -- On August 6, the worst modern-day era in Michigan conservation will move noticeably closer to its welcome ending. The stakes couldn't be higher for
all who love and live in northern Michigan.
The primary election that day will result in the choice of candidates for Governor from the two major parties. They will then square off in the
general election on November 5, hoping to succeed three-term incumbent John Engler, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits in Michigan's
Under Engler, say most observers, state government has abandoned a 70-year bipartisan stewardship of land, water and air and the living things that
depend on them. Engler, said Booth Newspapers columnist Peter Luke, departed "from Michigan's rich tradition of environmental protection simply because
that's what business wants."
The North Woods Call, a bimonthly publication that is the leading independent voice on conservation and environmental
issues in the state, has roundly criticized Engler for abolishing natural resources boards that take public input, for installing political appointees
in key management positions of the state resource agencies, for putting the issuance of habitat destruction permits ahead of resource
protection and for supporting legislation putting timber harvest ahead of forest
In the campaign to replace Engler, all gubernatorial candidates have made a point of distancing themselves from the incumbent's record on conservation.
On the Republican side of the ballot, Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus has called for a "Marshall Plan" to protect the state's water and State Senator
Joe Schwarz has said he will lead a crackdown on toxic mercury pollution.
The Democrats have all released extensive environmental proposals, stressing protection of the Great Lakes, reduction of waste imports to
Michigan and help from the state for communities that want to address urban sprawl and smart growth issues.
Of all the candidate voices, however, only one has consistently called for a revival of Michigan's traditional emphasis on inviting citizens into the
natural resources decision-making process. Attorney General Jennifer Granholm has pledged to "open the process up to Michiganians" by creating
citizen boards to serve as watchdogs on natural resources decisions, by renewing the past practice of inviting members of the public to serve on
task forces and advisory committees helping shape state conservation policy, by ordering natural resource agencies to post more information about their
practices and pending decisions on the Internet and by working with communities affected by proposed development.
More than any "top-down" change made in Lansing, putting out the welcome mat for the public at the
state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Deprtment of Environmental
Quality (DEQ) has the potential to restore Michigan's traditional leadership on conservation and environmental protection.
"To keep our families healthy and prosperous, to sustain and improve this state that we love, we must commit ourselves to become intelligent and wise
stewards of our natural resource heritage," Granholm has said.
What would a Granholm Administration mean for conservation in the Keweenaw
It would likely mean, first and foremost, a listening ear to the needs and wishes of the peninsula's residents. Rather than imposing visions from
elsewhere, state government would be working in tandem with the region's citizens to define the future. But it would also mean that decisions would
be hammered out on the anvil of a conservation ethic, which keeps in mind the needs of future generations and the value of the Keweenaw's majestic
beauty, not just monetary values.
It is perhaps ironic that a candidate billed as representing a "new generation of leadership" is also being credited by the
North Woods Call for her enlistment of some of the great names of Michigan's conservation past as
advisors. Among them are former Department of Natural Resources Directors Michael Moore and Howard Tanner.
In endorsing Granholm, the Call's editor Glen Sheppard said, "She is up to
speed, and will come to the governor's desk with the finest cadre Michigan's conservation community can muster." Even more importantly, Sheppard said,
"Granholm deeply values and comprehends nature's mystique, resilience and fragility. As far as we know, no one can sincerely question her
intelligence, stamina and integrity."
August 6 is a watershed for Michigan's modern-day history and for its future as a place of beauty and conservation leadership.
Learn more about the author of this guest column, Dave
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|Note: Views expressed by our guest columnists are not necessarily the views of Keweenaw Now.