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E-M:/ Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 13:31:16 -0500



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Enviro-Mich message from Tanya Cabala <tcabala@lakemichigan.org>
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Contact:  Tanya Cabala, Lake Michigan Federation, 231-722-5116 or
tcabala@lakemichigan.org

Press conference scheduled in Lansing on May 17, 2001 to announce new
legislation to protect sand dunes


Dunes Continue to be Destroyed by Mining

Environmental Groups and State Legislators Push for Increased State
Protection of Irreplaceable Natural Resource

Lansing, MI - Two years after the release of the first report on the status
of mining in Lake Michigan dunes, environmental groups are urging the state
of Michigan to move forward quickly to protect one of its most precious
natural assets.  Michigan state legislators Representative Julie Dennis
(D-92nd) and Senator Gary Peters (D-14th) today introduced state legislation
that acknowledges the irreplaceability of the coastal dunes and the
continued threats from mining and calls for a phase-out and ban of mining in
the dunes.  

"Michigan's internationally unique dunes are a tremendously important part
of our state's heritage," said Tanya Cabala, Michigan Director for the Lake
Michigan Federation.  "These irreplaceable land forms deserve our
protection, but the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
continues to allow their destruction for short-term profit even though
alternatives have been available for decades."  

Lake Michigan houses the largest concentration of freshwater sand dunes in
the world, with the majority located in Michigan. This unique ecosystem
holds a special place in the hearts of Michigan residents-who have lobbied
for years for legislation to protect them-and attracts millions of tourists
annually.  The dunes are an integral part of Lake Michigan's coastal economy
that draws visitors and permanent residents alike to a spectacular blending
of vast, rolling sand dunes towering over the beaches of America's largest
freshwater lake.  Last year, over 700,000 people visited Ludington State
Park in Mason County, and farther north, the magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes
National Lakeshore annually attracts over a million visitors each year.  

The dunes are a one-of-a-kind land formation. They were created during the
last ice age, over thousands of years, and cannot be replaced once they are
gone. Lake Michigan's sand dunes support plant and animal life that can't be
found elsewhere and were the birthplace for the field of ecology. In the
1970s, when the public realized that mining was responsible for the
disappearance of many of these massive dunes that had once been important
local landmarks, they called for legislation that would preserve the dunes.
In 1989, a similar outcry led to further strengthening the law.   

A 1999 report by the Federation concluded that many acres of dunes are not
being protected under the law because of poor enforcement and a strong bias
by the DEQ toward the continuation of sand dune mining.  The report found
over that 50 million tons of sand had been extracted from the coastal dune
system since the state began regulating mining in the dunes in 1976 and that
the sand was being sold for as little as $5 a ton.  Further, 12,000
additional acres of "critical dunes" were at risk because of the state's
refusal to place them under protection.

Since the release of the report, the Federation has established a citizen
sand dune task force, held public meetings on the coast, called for and
testified at sand dune mining permit hearings, and worked to begin sand dune
preservation efforts in coastal communities.  Support for increased state
protection of the dunes continues to grow, but the DEQ continues to
regularly grant permit renewals for mining in the dunes -- seven since the
report release date, and seven scheduled for renewal this year.  The DEQ
also refuses to encourage coastal dune mining operations to pursue inland
sand substitutes or non-sand molds and increase recycling of dune sand used
in foundries.   

According to Charles Davis, President of Preserve the Dunes, a southwest
Michigan group, "Regardless of the public's love for the dunes, the DEQ
stubbornly works to ensure that mining operations are granted permits.  In
1998, Preserve the Dunes sued the DEQ and TechniSand, Inc. over the DEQ's
decision to grant a permit to TechniSand to mine in critical dunes. The
group is appealing a court decision that allows the mining if local permits
are approved.   The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), a statewide
coalition of organizations working to protect the environment, also supports
more protection of dunes.  "It's time we came up with sand dune policies as
great as the dunes themselves," said James Clift, MEC Policy Director. "This
new legislation will finally end years of neglect of a majestic natural
resource that helps define Michigan.  The people of this state treasure the
dunes and the Legislature should act on their behalf to protect them."
 
Formed in 1970, the Lake Michigan Federation works to restore fish and
wildlife habitat, conserve land and water, and eliminate pollution in the
watershed of the largest lake within the United States.  This is achieved
through education, research, law, science, economics and strategic
partnerships.




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