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E-M:/ enviro/business coalition for Washtenaw land proposal

------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from mike garfield -------------------------------------------------------------------------
News Release

Washtenaw County Approves Natural Areas Ballot Language
Environmentalists and Business Groups Unite for Land Preservation

Less than two years after environmentalists and developers waged the most bitter, and expensive, ballot campaign in Washtenaw County history, the groups have united behind a new proposal to save thousands of acres of the county's finest remaining natural areas. Last night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted 12-2 to place the proposal on the November ballot.

The current proposal was drafted by four environmental organizations - the Ecology Center, the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club, the Huron River Watershed Council, and the Washtenaw-Potawatomi Land Trust. It would raise $25 million over ten years to acquire the county's most environmentally sensitive natural areas. The proposal has drawn the support of the Home Builders Association of Washtenaw County, the Ann Arbor Area Board of REALTORS, and the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce.

In contrast, the homebuilders and realtors led the opposition to the 1998 proposal, a four-part land preservation program. In that campaign, opponents and supporters spent a combined $560,000 (or $6 per voter), tripling the past spending record for a county ballot issue.

"I'm delighted that environmentalists and business leaders are now working together to do something about the sprawl that is overwhelming Washtenaw County," said Doug Cowherd, Chair of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club. "This is the first of many side-by-side steps we will need to take if we want to preserve the character of our community."

Along with approving the ballot language last night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved amendments to an accompanying implementation ordinance. If approved by voters, the program will be managed by the County's Parks and Recreation Commission, with acquisitions recommended by a seven-person technical advisory committee. The program focuses on the protection of the county's rivers and streams, wetlands, other water resources, and threatened plant and animal habitats. The program would be entirely voluntary for landowners.

Contact: Mike Garfield, Ecology Center (734) 761-3186 ext. 104
or Doug Cowherd, Sierra Club (734) 662-5205


Mike Garfield
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3186 ext. 104
(734) 663-2414 (fax)

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