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E-M:/ First Countywide Wetland Ordinance in Michigan Passed in Antrim County

Enviro-Mich message from "Scott McEwen" <scott@watershedcouncil.org>

Antrim County Commissioners Vote to Protect County’s Waters

On December 13 the Antrim County Board of Commissioners took an important
step toward protecting their lakes and streams by passing a wetland
protection ordinance.  It is the first countywide wetland ordinance in the
State of Michigan. Read more about this important success in the Traverse
City Record Eagle.


For the last year Antrim County has been exploring ways to better protect
its wetlands and water resources.  Due to a loophole in the Michigan wetland
law, any wetland that is not within 500 feet of a lake or a stream receives
no regulatory protection (unless habitat for an endangered species or in
some other way highly unique).  These wetlands, called isolated wetlands,
headwater wetlands, or vernal pools receive no regulatory protection
whatsoever.  This means that an 80 acre cedar swamp that is an important
wintering yard for whitetail deer, if not within 500 feet of a lake or a
stream, can be filled or drained without any type of permit.  Likewise, a
shallow isolated marsh that is preferred habitat for such waterfowl as loon,
bittern, and many ducks species, can be filled or drained without a permit.

This lack of protection is not because isolated wetlands are less important
than wetlands that receive protection under State and Federal law.  Indeed,
science now shows that many of these wetlands, on a per acre basis, provide
more flood control, water purification, and wildlife habitat than protected
wetlands.  The lack of protection of these wetlands is not founded in
science, but from a political compromise when the original law was passed.
Based on Michigan law, the only way that many of these valuable water
resources can be preserved is by a local government enacting their own
Wetland Protection Ordinance.  The Antrim County Planning Commission drafted
such an Ordinance and unanimously approved it in the fall of last year.
Additionally, many residents of Antrim County have been working tirelessly
for months to protect these fragile landscapes.  Congratulations to all in
this groundbreaking success.

Scott McEwen
Water Resource Program Director
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

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