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E-M:/ in defense of the dwarf lake iris

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

After threatening to do otherwise, Governor Engler signed a bill
designating the dwarf lake iris as Michigan's official wildflower last
week.  The new law, Public Act 454 of 1998, aroused considerable churlish
comment not only from the Governor's office but also from certain newspaper
columnists and at least one widely-quoted disgruntled fan of the trillium.  

It's too bad.  The dwarf lake iris is a beautiful and appropriate symbol of
whether we can preserve wild Michigan in the face of population pressures
and growth trends.  It's a measure of our stewardship. 

Here's why designating the dwarf lake iris makes more sense than declaring
a state song:

1.  The dwarf lake iris was discovered in Michigan and an estimated 95% of
its worldwide occurrences are in Michigan. 

2.  The dwarf lake iris is described by DNR as "distinctive among the
Michigan flora" and as an "exquisite" flower.

3.  The dwarf lake iris is listed as a threatened species under state and
federal law.

4.  The habitat of the dwarf lake iris -- close proximity to Great Lakes
shorelines on sand or in thin soils -- is also where half a dozen other
threatened and endangered species, and a growing number of people reside.
Whether the new state wildflower survives depends on how we treat it.

5.  One-third of the 5,144 flowering U.S. plant species are at risk,
according to the Nature Conservancy.  Raising awareness of the dwarf lake
iris can raise awareness of this threatened mass extinction.

6.  The status of the dwarf lake iris as state wildflower may increase the
ecological literacy of newspaper columnists.

Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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