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Michigan Statewide Wildlife Environmental Assessment



FIRST ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW IN NATION OF STATE-WIDE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
GRANTS REQUIRED IN MICHIGAN

On October 4th, comment period closed for the first Environmental
Assessment ever required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a
state Wildlife Restoration Act Grant (a.k.a. Pittman Robertson funds).
The requirement to complete the EA came about as a result of a letter
sent to USFWS by Sierra Club, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition
and the Michigan Biodiversity Project in September 1995 as Michigan's
five year, $35 million Wildlife Restoration Act grant was about to
begin.  The environmental groups have long been seeking significant
reform of the planning and on the ground management practices of the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources with regard to the 3.8
million acres of State Forest lands, which are co-managed by the
Forest Management Division and the Wildlife Division.  Their comments
and request for environmental review are focused on addressing the
severe deficiencies that currently exist in both public input and
management for non-commodity and non-consumptive uses of Michigan's
forests.

The grant application was the result of consolidation of five
individual grants previously given to the Wildlife Division of
Michigan DNR under the federal law, and affects all Wildlife Division
and Forest Management Division lands, as well as wildlife management
on other land ownerships in the state.  The environmental
organizations applauded the consolidation, which has a potential to
increase coordination and integration of management across the
landscape, but also recognized that the size of the grant and the
scale of impact on the state of Michigan was enormous and should
require a full Environmental Impact Study to be conducted under the
National Environmental Policy Act.

Of particular concern in the environmental groups' original 11 page
letter to the USFWS were claims that the program, including the
contribution to planning and completing 40,000 of clear cutting on
State Forest lands each year, would not have any adverse environmental
effects.  The organizations provided extensive documentation of the
lack of clear guidance and any systematic review process, as well as
extreme deficiencies in public input opportunities, that exist under
the current planning and implementation process on State Forest and
State Wildlife lands.  

The EA has attracted extensive criticism from many sectors.  While
written primarily by the staff of the MDNR Wildlife Division, the
responsible agency for the review and determination of sufficiency of
the EA is the USFWS.  The comments submitted by the Sierra Club
encompassed extensive documentation of deficiencies in complying with
requirements under NEPA, as well as signficant comment about the lack
of depth of factual and substantive information provided.  The 26 page
set of comments asks that a full Environmental Impact Statement be
completed.

Those interested in receiving additional information on this topic
should contact Anne Woiwode, Program Director for Sierra Club's
Michigan Forest Biodiversity Program at anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org or
call (517) 484-2372.