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E-M:/ ALERT! Anthony Prescribed Burn Bill up in Committee Tuesday

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Enviro-mich friends:

This session, for the second time, an ill-conceived bill (HB 4049) has been
introduced that proposes to so severely restrict the ability of the DNR to
conduct prescribed burns for fire dependent ecosystems that it would
effectively eliminate this critical tool.  The bill has been proposed by
Representative Dave Anthony (D-Escanaba).

AND MINERALS ON TUESDAY, JUNE 3, AT 10:30 A.M.  Rep. Anthony chairs the
committee and last year was not terribly open to opposition to this bill.
PLEASE take a minute to:
     a) Read through this to see what the bill does
     b) Look through the list of legislators on the House Forestry and Mineral
Rights Committee, see if yours is listed, and contact yours, and Rep. Anthony,
and or all of the Committee members, urging them to vote down HB 4049; then
do one or more of the following
          1) call your representative if on the committee and/or Chairman
               Anthony telling them you disagree with the bill
          2) fax a letter to your rep or Chairman Anthony or other committee
          3) plan to testify on Tuesday at the Committee -- at rooms 424/425
               in the Michigan Capitol Bldg.
     c) Tell others about this bill and the problems with it, and urge them to
do the above to try to strike it down.

While Sierra Club disagrees with DNR on a lot of management issues regarding
state lands, this is one issue in which we and most conservation groups are in
almost total agreement with the agency.  Prescribed burns are one of the most
important tools for restoring ecosystem functions in fire dependent
ecosystems. Although a threat of the fire spreading beyond the boundaries that
the prescribed burn sets is a serious potential problem, NOT burning some of
these areas may pose an even greater threat by allowing a build up of fuels to
a dangerous level, leading to much hotter, more dangerous fires in the future.
>From an ecological standpoint, many of the most endangered ecosystems in
Michigan are fire dependent ecosystems. In our state, these systems can be
wiped out by the encroachment of other plant species, which can destroy the
habitat by converting it to other types of habitat. In some cases, the only
way to restore an ecosystem is through an effective burn.

To do a burn well, however, the weather conditions must be right.  As a
result, the managers will usually set a month or more during which time they
will be prepared to do a burn on any day IF the moisture level is right, the
winds are right, etc., etc.  These precautions are critical to assure both the
best conditions for the burn, AND to provide the safest possible conditions
for a burn.  Unlike many management activities where the timing is flexible,
for burning the timing is very difficult to pin down, AND is critical to the
success of the burn.

HB 4049 is misguided because it would require the experts in prescribed burn
to GUESS AND COMMIT to when they will do a burn.  While Sierra Club applauds
public notice provisions, and believes that public notice can well be done
about proposed burns, the notice provisions called for in HB 4049 are
ridiculous if the goal is to actually be able to conduct a burn.  We would
urge that reasonable public notice provisions, such as incorporating
consideration of a prescribed burn into the compartment review process,
requiring extensive notice about this in the course of deciding management in
that compartment, and giving a window of a month or more during which a burn
is likely to happen, would solve the public notice problem without foreclosing
the needed flexibility. The bill would mandate that the managers commit to
doing the burn in a one week window, and that is just too short a period of
time to allow the needed flexibility.

Also, the bill calls for a 1/4 buffer between a burn and private land to be
provided on state land around any prescribed burn site, unless the private
owner agrees to have their land burned as well.  This arbitrary distance is a
serious problem on state lands, which are often highly fragmented and
interspersed with private lands.  Ecosystems do not follow ownership
boundaries, so this will almost guarantee that the proper management will be
foregone in areas simply because the buffer zone will not be enough.

It is possible to provide good law on a notion like this, but HB 4049 is
really not good law and is likely to undo efforts pursued by ecologists and
biologists for many years to try to get good management of some of our most
sensitive ecosystems.

Forestry and Minerals Committee membership
(ALL addresses are Michigan House of Representatives, Lansing, MI 48913--
phone numbers follow names -- call to get fax numbers)

Dave Anthony, Chair, (D-Escanaba)  517-373-0156
Michael Callahan, V-Chair, (D-St. Clair Shores) (517) 373-0113
Tom Alley (D-West Branch)  (517) 373-3817
Rose Bogardus (D-Davison) (517) 373-3944
Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) (517) 373-2577
Tom Middleton, Minority V-Chair, (R-Ortonville) (517)373-1798
Larry DeVuyst (R-Ithaca) (517) 373-0834
John Gernaat (R-McBain) (517) 373-1747
Allen Lowe (R-Grayling) (517) 373-0829

THANK YOU!!!   Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club -- for any questions, contact us at
(517) 484-2372

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