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E-M:/ Conservation Summit Update
- Subject: E-M:/ Conservation Summit Update
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 09:21:38 -0500 (CDT)
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Included below you will find the latest version of the Conservation
Summit - Agenda for 2002. We will continue to accept comments via e-
mail on the document through the end of the end of the day (9/19).
The Conservation Summit will be held on Thursday where the final
revisions will take place. We appreciate the feedback received from
people across the state to-date. It is important to keep in mind as
you review this document that it is not necessarily the top agenda
items for any of the participating groups, but includes those items in
which agendas overlap among a wide variety of groups statewide.
James Clift, Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
Conservation Summit - Agenda for 2002
Protection of Great Lakes
Water Use and Diversions
Statement of problem: There has been increasing pressure on the Great
Lakes ecosystem to provide the necessary fresh water for domestic,
commercial and industrial users. This pressure will only increase in
the upcoming decades. Currently, Michigan's only protection flows from
a federal law, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which
allows the Governors of Great Lakes states to veto out-of-basin
withdrawals. Population shifts from the Great Lakes region to the
Southwest make many in the basin nervous that WRDA may be repealed or
amended in the future by Congress. The Governors and Premiers of the
Great Lakes States and Provinces just signed an amendment to the Great
Lakes Charter called Annex 2001, which strengthens protection of the
lakes. If fully implemented, this agreement will allow this region to
demonstrate its leadership in stewardship of the lakes.
Policy change needed: Under Annex 2001, Michigan agreed to add another
layer of protection to the lakes by enacting a water withdrawal
statute. Currently, Michigan is one of two states in the Great Lakes
basin without such a statute. This water withdrawal statute will
incorporate a new decision-making standard that will require any
applicant for a new or expanded use to demonstrate a need for water
that cannot be met through water conservation. In addition, the
applicant must show how the proposal will result in a net improvement
to the affected water resources. The state must make full
implementation of Annex 2001 a high priority to complete the necessary
agreements by the deadline date of 2004. .
Statement of problem: Elevated mercury levels cause Michigan to
issues health advisories urging proper preparation and moderation in
the consumption of fish caught in lakes. Modern pollution control
equipment could substantially reduce the mercury being emitted by
coal-fired power plants, incinerators and other sources.
Policy change needed: All sources that emit mercury into the
environment should be required to reduce emissions levels by 90% by
2010, and reach "virtual elimination" of emissions by 2020.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Statement of Problem: Invasive species continue to be one of the most
significant threats to the fish and aquatic wildlife of the Great
Lakes. Present invaders are altering the ecology of the Great Lakes,
devastating some of our native species, and are imposing millions of
dollars in costs upon our communities. This invasion is not over.
New species from around the world continue to arrive uncontrolled,
threatening further ecological disruptions and placing additional
native aquatic species and sport fishing at risk. The main route by
which the approximately 145 current invasive species were introduced
is through ballast water dumped by ships entering the lakes from
Policy Change Needed: The ideal solution is for Congress to mandate
treatment of ballast water before it is released into the Great Lakes.
However, if Congress and federal regulators fail to properly regulate
these vessels by the end of 2002, the State of Michigan should take
the lead by enacting its own regulatory statute that requires
mandatory treatment of ballast water before it is dumped into the
Great Lakes. In the case of federal inaction, the State should also
sue the federal government for violation of the Clean Water Act.
Statement of problem: The State receives approximately 1800 permits
applications each year requesting permission to destroy wetlands. In
the last five years, over 80% of these applications were approved.
Seventy-eight percent of artificial wetlands created to replace
natural ones were deemed failures. At the same time, prosecution
against illegal activities in wetlands declined from 45 criminal
prosecutions in 1996, to only 28 in 2000. Loopholes in the law,
including exemptions for small, isolated wetlands, drain work, and for
agricultural activities, have made it difficult to effectively
regulate much wetland-related development.
Policy change needed: The legislature and administration should
undertake the following actions:
· Close loopholes in the law that allow for exemptions for
agricultural activities and drain work, and tighten regulation of
small, isolated wetlands.
· Recognize that given the dismal track record on creating new
wetlands that developers should be required to meet a higher burden
before being allowed to fill existing wetland, especially high-value
wetlands that are close to impossible to replace.
· Concentrate greater effort on completing an inventory of existing
wetlands and place the ones of highest value in conservation easements
for permanent protection.
· Enact legislation to permanently protect from development all
wetlands identified in the 1996 report "The Critical Non-Contiguous
Wetlands of Michigan."
Statement of problem: In 1992, the Governor's Relative Risk Project
identified the lack of land use planning as the most serious
environmental risk faced by Michigan citizens. The failure of the
state to address this issue has resulted in the fragmentation and
consumption of Michigan's land base to continue at an unprecedented
rate. Projections show that during the time period of 1990-2020 as
much land will be converted to serve the needs of the 1.1 million new
residents of Michigan as was used in 1978 to support the entire state
population of 9 million people. In Michigan, sprawl is not the result
of population growth but rather the result of increasingly inefficient
land use patterns.
Policy change needed: There are several policies that state and local
governments could adopt to reduce sprawl, among them:
· Establish land use goals - Pass legislation that creates statewide
goals for the use of our natural resources including agriculture,
tourism, recreation, forestry, mining and other land based industries.
· State investment strategies - Require state agencies to prepare an
analysis of major funding decisions that demonstrate they have
considered the environmental impacts and are proceeding with the
proposal that will best help preserve Michigan's natural resource
· Coordinated planning - Pass legislation that creates a Coordinated
Planning Act that requires local units of government to have
comprehensive land use plans and coordinate those development efforts
with regional impacts.
Funding for Open Space Preservation
Statement of problem: Even though Michigan recently enacted into law a
mechanism to protect farmland and open space through purchase of
development rights (PDR), no significant funding source has been
earmarked to support the program. A PDR program works by landowners
selling to the state the development rights to their property. This
forever protects the land for agriculture, open space and wildlife
harvesting (if landowners so permit). Property owners could thereafter
sell the land as long as it is not developed further. Since Michigan
has lost farmland at a rate of about 10 acres/hour every hour for the
last 25 years, if some effort to stop the conversion does not begin
soon, we will have lost another 2 million acres of farmland by 2020
Policy change needed: Provide an adequate funding source for the
State's Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. Suggested
funding sources include:
· Conversion fees of 5%, 7% and 9% based on parcel size and type of
· Increase in Real Estate Transfer Tax by 1.25%
· A bond proposal to protect farmland and open space.
· Restaurant meals tax
Recreational Opportunities and Access
Statement of Problem: Michigan has 7.5 million acres of public land,
3.9 million in the state forest system and 2.9 million acres in
national forests. These lands face tremendous pressure due to the
dwindling amount of private lands available for outdoor recreation and
the conflicts that arise between user groups. Many areas also lack
suitable management plans, which further limit outdoor recreation
opportunities. This shortage is especially acute in our urban areas,
placing an additional burden on residents with time or mobility
restrictions that make it difficult to access to our public lands.
Policy Change Needed: The state should continue its efforts to
preserve open space and develop and renovate parklands, especially in
and around urban centers. In addition, the state needs to increase
public access to more private lands. State programs designed to
encourage private landowners to open their property to public access
should be examined and expanded wherever possible.
Statement of the Problem: Billboards have led to visual impairment and
devaluation of the scenic resources in the State of Michigan that are
essential to the success of our tourist and vacation industry.
Policy change needed: Enact legislation to stop the issuance of any
new state permits for billboards. The legislation should also
authorize city, village, township and county governments to enact
ordinances to limit billboard numbers, and permit local entities to
amortize for nonconforming billboards.
Statement of problem: The state forests in Michigan are used by a
variety of parties including timber-related interests, trail users
(both motorized and non-motorized) hunters (both wildlife and
mushrooms) and others. Decisions regarding timber harvesting, access
and development can be contentious.
Policy change needed: To help sort out competing interests, the State
must conduct more long-term planning of state forests. This process
should be enhanced through adoption of standardized criteria that
address competing interests. The state should publish a report on the
current status of forest plans and make planning money available to
draft and update plans where necessary. Decisions to harvest timber
or conduct development in forests without plans should be curtailed
until such plans are completed. Department management professionals
should establish timber harvest levels.
Statement of problem: For decades, inadequate sewage treatment has led
to the closure of bathing beaches across the state. This sewage comes
from combined sewer overflows, wet sanitary systems, failed septic
tanks and runoff from agricultural operations. In addition to
restricting our use of public beaches, these overflows drain oxygen
from the water thereby endangering fish and other species that rely on
fresh water to survive.
Policy change needed: The state needs to increase its investment in
updating public wastewater treatment facilities. These state
investments should also be used to leverage additional federal funding
when possible. In addition, the State must improve monitoring systems
to identify the sources of overflows and contamination. The public
should have easy access to that information and up-to-date data on the
status of beach closures around the state. To reduce non-point source
contamination, the state should require at the time of sale testing of
all home septic systems, and require maintenance and upgrades when
Statement of problem: Coal-fired power plants generate over 75% of the
electricity in Michigan and emit air pollutants that contribute to a
host of respiratory diseases, damage our natural resources, and
contribute to global warming. Emissions on hot summer days contribute
to high ozone levels (smog) and particulate matter in the atmosphere
that trigger asthma attacks and increase the hospitalization and even
premature death of seniors with certain heart or respiratory problems.
These facilities also emit mercury and other toxics that are poisoning
lakes across Michigan.
Policy change needed: All power plants that rely on fossil fuel should
be required to update their facilities by adding modern pollution
control equipment within the next five years. The pollutants that need
stricter control are nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide
and mercury. New rules should be adopted to make it easier to produce
and sell renewable energy and encourage a greater emphasis on energy
Statement of problem: Children face a variety of challenges to prepare
themselves to compete in today's global economy. Unfortunately, many
school children are hindered by exposure to toxic chemical due to
aging facilities, schools built on contaminated property, and pest
management practices. These conditions have led to children being
exposed to asbestos, lead, dioxins and other toxics that have been
shown to impair learning ability or lead to other diseases.
Policy change needed: New schools should only be constructed on clean
sites, and those already built on contaminated parcels should be
cleaned up and monitored on an annual basis to limit any exposure to
children. The state needs to invest in upgrading dilapidating school
infrastructure to ensure that students have an equal opportunity to
clean and healthy learning environments across the state. School
personnel must also be trained in the latest techniques of integrated
Statement of Problem: In 1999, Michigan recycled only 16% of its
solid waste stream, compared to an average of 26% among our Great
Lakes neighbors. This failure to recycle results in greater demand for
virgin materials, wasted energy, and the need for more landfills.
Policy change needed: The state should mandate pay-as-you-throw
systems to provide an economic incentive to reduce waste by requiring
haulers to charge based on the quantity of waste discarded. The pay-
as-you-throw system should be coupled with increasing the availability
of recycling though either curbside or drop-off recycling programs.
The state should provide additional leadership on this issue by
instituting a purchase policy for state agencies that mandates
purchase of products made from post-consumer recycled materials, and
instituting mandatory recycling rates.
Expansion of the Bottle Bill
Statement of Problem: One very visible portion of that solid waste
stream is single serving beverage containers, such as water, juice,
and tea containers. Currently, there are 800 million of these
containers that are not part of our current deposit system.
Policy change needed: Michigan's bottle deposit law should be amended
to include water, juice, and tea containers. The legislature should
pass legislation that will include these containers or be put on the
next general election ballot.
Government - For the People
Citizen Board Oversight
Statement of problem: Since the split of the Departments of
Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Natural Resources (DNR), the director
of the DEQ has operated without the oversight of a citizen board.
This is a departure from previous practice under which the Natural
Resources Commission or other boards served an oversight role for
department decisions. Consequently, citizen oversight and input have
been reduced, resulting in a significant loss in the protections
afforded natural resource in the state.
Policy change needed: Through either legislation or executive order a
citizen board should be established and empowered to make final
decisions at the DEQ to ensure that sound science, and not politics,
is the basis for those decisions. The legislation should include the
scope of authority, the make-up of the board and a specific list of
duties and charges.
Statement of problem: Michigan's natural resources are the driving
force behind much of its economy including farming, recreation and
tourism. To achieve the goal of sustainable development in Michigan,
it is essential to encourage a sense of responsibility for our
environment. In many cases, people make decisions unaware of the
environmental impacts that may flow from those decisions. In other
cases, there may be substitutes or alternatives to products or
services that substantially reduce environment impacts but consumers
don't receive sufficient information on those choices.
Policy change needed: The state needs to place a greater emphasis on
environmental education for both students and consumers. Environmental
education needs to be recognized as quality education, extending
beyond science classrooms, and be mandated throughout the K-12
curriculum. Existing infrastructure should support these activities
as much as possible, such as through existing regional Mathematics and
Science Centers. Environmental education programs can provide
students with hands-on experience in a real-world context, in programs
related to water quality monitoring, energy conservation and outdoor
Statement of problem: On the whole, Michigan's statutory framework
for protecting its natural resources is sound and restricts behaviors
that can damage or impair those resources. However, over time, the
level of effort placed on enforcing those laws has fluctuated.
Without a credible enforcement program, there will be people willing
to pollute or destroy our resources, either out of carelessness or in
an attempt to avoid the costs related to proper stewardship of our
Policy change needed: The state should double the number of
environmental conservation officers charged with enforcing our laws
and regulations. Further, the state should showcase its enforcement
record by preparing an annual report that documents the number of
inspections conducted and the compliance rate for various state
programs. The report should also document the number of citizen
complaints, the follow-ups on complaints conducted and the results of
those investigations. These actions would maximize the deterrent
effect of our program, and contribute to a level playing field
throughout the state for both citizens and businesses.
Statement of problem: The Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA)
states that no impairment or destruction of our natural resources
should be permitted if a feasible and prudent alternative exists.
Nonetheless, major pollution sources continue to spoil Michigan's
Policy change needed: Every polluter who receives a permit from the
state should be required to demonstrate that they have fully explored
pollution prevention methods and have incorporated into their
operations those applications that are feasible and prudent. This
should be done through administrative rule changes or through the
addition of language to Part 13 ("Permits") of NREPA.
Freedom of Information Act
Statement of problem: The usefulness of the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) has diminished due to the changing nature of government
and, in part, to current interpretations of the statute that are
designed to limit public involvement. FOIA was written at a time when
most government work was conducted via paper documents. The computer
age has changed virtually all aspects of department decision-making,
document creation and retention. FOIA was originally designed to
increase public access to government and provide oversight of
government operations thereby exposing abuse and ineffective
Policy change needed: The Freedom of Information Act should be
updated to allow for greater disclosure of electronic information in
useable formats. The exemptions should be narrowed to avoid
situations in which the administration is able to shield documents
from public scrutiny or delay disclosure until after key decisions
have been made. Lastly, provisions that allow for the waiving of fees
in the "public interest" should be broadly applied.
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