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E-M:/ dwarf lake iris lovers unite!



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Enviro-Mich message from davemec@sojourn.com (dave dempsey)
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Now that Michigan has a state game mammal, how about a state wildflower?
It's more serious than it sounds.  A bill to designate the dwarf lake iris
will be heard on Thursday, June 19, at 8:30 a.m., in the House Regulatory
Affairs Committee, 4th Floor, Capitol.  The bill is H.B. 4923 and it was
introduced this week by Rep. Liz Brater of Ann Arbor.

While the bill will undoubtedly attract some not-so-friendly fire from
editorial writers wondering why the Legislature doesn't tackle more serious
issues, H.B. 4923 would serve an important natural history purpose,
educating Michigan's citizens about the status of many species threatened
by development as well as our unique natural heritage.

Following is a column co-authored by Bill Lewis, Chair of Citizens Against
Pollution, Inc., and me regarding the designation of the dwarf lake iris,
FYI.

IRIS NO DWARF TO BIGGER COMPETITOR
FOR TITLE OF STATE WILDFLOWER

by Bill Lewis and Dave Dempsey

        When tourists from across America think of visiting Michigan, they
don't  think of redwoods, manatees, or salsa.   They think of Great Lakes,
auto manufacturing, and our wondrous north country.
        Yet there are some in Michigan who think we should advertise
ourselves nationally with a state wildflower that is as prolific as bunny
rabbits and as common as a one-dollar bill.  Although a lovely feature of
the forests of Michigan (as well as dozens of other states and several
Canadian provinces), the trillium doesn't distinguish the state like the
prime candidate for state wildflower, our very own Dwarf Lake Iris.
         Why should we care which (if any) becomes the state wildflower?
Here's why:
        *  The Dwarf Lake Iris first became known to science on Mackinac
Island in 1810 through the work of Thomas Nuttall, a renowned naturalist
and explorer.  Its only known habitat outside of Michigan is on Ontario's
Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, and Wisconsin's Door Peninsula.  Its
prime habitat is the northern Michigan shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan
where it may be found in generous numbers. By contrast, the Reader's Digest
book "North American Wildlife" describes the general range where the
trillium grandiflorum is likely to occur as including all states east of
the Mississippi and provinces north to the Yukon.  This trillium is also
the symbol of Ontario and is described as a flower with a faint fetid
(obnoxious) odor.
        *  The Dwarf Lake Iris is a federally-listed threatened species.
Because of its limited range, it has caught the attention of the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, which proposed it for listing under the federal
Endangered Species Act.  Its habitat is under attack from shoreline
development and reckless recreation by some in Michigan.  Its survival will
show that the people of Michigan have learned to enjoy the Great Lakes
without destroying them -- that we have learned to live with, instead of
dominating, our own habitat.
        *  The Dwarf Lake Iris is a beautiful wildflower.  Even such
usually prosaic sources as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
describe the plant as "an exquisite miniature iris."       It produces
delicate, lavender to violet flowers, and in the 70 or so Michigan
locations where it appears, it lays for 2-3 weeks in May and June a
heavenly carpet best trod by an admiring eye.  In  Michigan's Thompson's
Harbor State Park near Presque Isle and several other locations, a rare
white-flowered form may be found by those with keen sight.
        Fortunately, State Representative Liz Brater of Ann Arbor agrees.
She will introduce a simple one-sentence bill to make the Dwarf Lake Iris
Michigan's wildflower later this year.  If successful, her legislation will
put the iris literally on the map -- the highway map issued by the State
Department of Transportation -- and help us tell the story of Michigan's
work to protect this little monument to the work of God.
        Nothing against the trillium, but the Dwarf Lake Iris has it beat
hands down in the competition for state wildflower. Now is the time for all
friends of the Dwarf Lake Iris to rise to the defense of their favorite --
an emblem of Michigan's proud natural heritage and proof that we are a
state committed to rescuing and protecting the best of wild Michigan for
future generations.


Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
(517) 487-9539
(517) 487-9541 (fax)



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