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E-M:/ MI Natural Features CUT from DEQ Budget by Sen Approps



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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ALERT -- CALL THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE RIGHT NOW/TODAY BEFORE 2
P.M.!!!  (see names and addresses below)

SENATOR BENNETT TRYING TO KILL OFF STATE T&E SPECIES IDENTIFICATION EFFORTS

In what has turned into one of the more troubling environmental moments in the
annals of the 1999 Legislative Session, the Senate Appropriations Committee
yesterday voted to PREVENT THE DEQ from contracting with The Nature
Conservancy (not by name, but by extraordinarily specific definition) to
provide scientific and technical review of permits applications to determine
if they will have an adverse effect on sensitive species or habitats.  Today
the same Senate Appropriations Committee will take up a Natural Resource
Subcommittee passed bill for the DNR's funding that will contain virtually the
same language blocking any contracts with The Nature Conservancy. 

The effect could be potentially devastating, not only for the TNC's Michigan
Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), which is the actual target of this assault,
but for the state's capacity to do reviews for rare, threatened and endangered
species as is required under state and federal laws.  In an ironic twist,
those seeking to deep six MNFI may end up suffering from the effect of
killing off the state's ability to contract for work from the only group that
is capable of doing mandated environmental reviews for permits -- thus
potentially preventing permits from being issued because the DEQ staff
will be incapable of meeting mandates under state and federal law.  

MNFI has a couple of dozen employees who provide the centralized information
collection and database management of biological information -- the only such
resource in the State of Michigan.  TNC spent much of the 1980's seeking to
have the state take on the MNFI as an agency within the DNR (as is the case in
virtually every other state in the nation).  But due to declining funding and
the agency reluctance, TNC has continued to run the program. While TNC and
MNFI are not averse to having this program spun off to a university or some
other separate status, the ham-handed approach of this budget boiler plate is
guaranteed to create chaos and undercut the ability of the state to fulfill
its mandated duties.  One can almost guarantee that the abrupt termination of
contracts would bring about a dramatic increase in lawsuits because the state
could not possibly make up for the precipitous loss of the extraordinary
expertise and information that MNFI has.

This whole episode seems almost entirely tied to one golf course developer in
the district of Senator Loren Bennett.  Reportedly a review by MNFI regarding
a proposed golf course triggered an irate response and Senator Bennett was
pressed into service to go after the MNFI.  And Senator Bennett appears to be
producing for his constituent.  Despite extensive laudatory comments and
respectful questions about TNC raised to TND Director Tom Woiwode at the
Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, ALL of the Committee's Republicans
and two Democrats (Don Koivisto and Jackie Vaughn) voted FOR Bennett's
amendment.  There was a total disconnect between the content of the discussion
and the vote.  Senator Bennett has even been sounding as if he supports TNC,
but he alleges that there is a "conflict of interest" having an organization
that in one branch provides information about T&E species and in another
branch acquires land to protect T&E species.  Of course, the MNFI does NOT
any authority to regulate -- it simply tells it as its scientists see it --
so the concept of a "conflict of interest" is baloney, and simply the least
ridiculous argument Senator Bennett can raise to pursue his constituent's
vendetta against TNC.  With the DEQ budget approved by the committee
yesterday, the next stop for that bill will be in the full Senate, which still
has to be scheduled.  BUT THE DNR BILL IS UP IN COMMITTEE THIS AFTERNOON...


YES IT IS LATE BUT YOU CAN STILL HAVE A EFFECT IF YOU CALL RIGHT NOW --

ASK THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBERS TO REMOVE LANGUAGE IN THE DNR
BUDGET (SB 370) THAT WOULD PREVENT THE DNR FROM CONTRACTING WITH TNC TO
PERFORM ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS (please contact Republican members and 

REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE MEMBERS: 
CHAIRMAN HARRY GAST -- 517- 

SENATOR JOHN SCHWARZ

SENATOR GEORGE MCMANUS 

SENATOR GLEN STEIL 

SENATOR WALTER NORTH 

SENATOR JOEL GOUGEON

SENATOR LOREN BENNETT 

SENATOR LEON STILLE 

SENATOR MIKE GOSCHKA 

DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
SENATOR ALMA WHEELER SMITH 

SENATOR DON KOIVISTO 

SENATOR JOE YOUNG JR.  

SENATOR KEN DEBEAUSSAERT 

SENATOR ROBERT EMERSON



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