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Re: E-M:/ MACKINAC hits Engler's Outdoor Agenda



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Jeanna:  Thanks for the explanation regarding possible impacts on the license
plate, however don't feel too guilty -- the undermining had occurred well
before you spoke those fateful words to the Sec of State or anyone else.  The
original license plate bill in the last session (95/96) of the Legislature
made it through the House with no opposition, if I recall, and then got to the
Senate Committee, where suddenly the DEQ popped up with an amendment to make
them the recipient of the funds for extremely vague water quality related
activities.  The result of this action was to kill the bill at that time.

The Lake St. Clair proposal came later -- and has complicated this
issue, but this issue has faced major barriers from the get go.  Back when
originally proposed, the biggest opposition was from then Sec. of State Dick
Austin's office because they refused to consider going with alternate color
and design license plates.  Once that was resolved after Miller took over,
then other license plates started getting added in.  From the beginning, 
there were always proposals to have University Plates simultaneously with a
Natural Heritage Plate, inevitably diverting funds from NAtural Heritage.

The real tragedy of this is that this debate obscures the fundamental issue:
Michigan WOEFULLY underfunds its Natural Heritage Programs, and for many too
many years the supporters of these programs have sought to find dedicated
funds to help them begin to do the job they are supposed to do.  Proposals for
this kind of dedicated funding have routinely resulted in the funds being
diverted under our noses.  Back when the Nongame Tax Checkoff was passed, the
Childrens Trust, a worthy cause though it is, was added on after years of work
trying to get the check off, and then was also given top billing on the tax
form.  

Michigan has had one of the worst funded programs in the region, and
among the worst in the country for many years.  Back in the 1980's the Nature
Conservancy actually funded the DNR to hire a Natural Areas Coordinator
because the state had defunded this position -- the expectation was that the
state would continue that spot after TNC had funded it for a few years, but
the state almost immediately reneged and the position disappeared until just a
few years ago.

This disdain for funding these absolute, bedrock critical programs in a state
that claims to love the outdoors has always baffled me.  The Natural Heritage
Program have gotten increased support and attention within the DNR during the
last several years, which has gone a long way to improve their functioning and
provide more stability.  However, the programs have continued to be scorned
and ignored by political types from the Governor on down.

Anne Woiwode


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