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E-M:/ legislature should reject bill weakening coastal wetland protection

Enviro-Mich message from "Dave Dempsey" <davemec@voyager.net>

October 31, 2002				Contact:  Scott McEwen, 231-347-1181, ext. 114
								Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
							Terry Miller, 989-686-6386
								Lone Tree Council
							Chris Shafer, 517-371-5140, ext. 2805
								Cooley Law School
							James Clift, Dave Dempsey, 517-487-9539
							Michigan Environmental Council


Conservation, Environmental Groups Urge Michigan Legislature
To Reject Bill Exposing Valuable Habitat to Destruction

	Lawmakers should reject a bill that would let private interests destroy
thousands of acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands without state oversight,
conservation and environmental groups said today.

	House Bill 6418 would let property owners along Michigan’s coast alter the
valuable coastal habitat, which is important for fish and waterfowl as well
as native biological diversity, without getting a permit from the state
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The environmental groups said a
coalition of the property owners is pushing for legislative approval of the
bill in the lame-duck legislative session that begins in two weeks.

	They challenged candidates for state legislative office to declare before
the election whether they will support “privatizing” coastal wetland by
voting for H.B. 6418, or will protect coastal habitat by opposing the bill.

	The groups opposed to coastal habitat destruction pointed out that a 1994
report by The Nature Conservancy entitled The Conservation of Biological
Diversity in the Great Lakes Ecosystem describes Great Lakes coastal marshes
and lake plain prairie systems, including those of Saginaw Bay, as globally
imperiled natural communities recognized for their tremendous, and in some
cases globally significant, biodiversity.

	“These wetlands are of tremendous ecological important for fish, shorebirds
and migratory waterfowl, and have significant economic value for fishing,
hunting and nature photography,” said Cooley Law School professor Chris
Shafer, who formerly managed the DEQ’s Great Lakes shorelands programs.

	Ecologist Dennis Albert said, “The cumulative effect of hundreds of coastal
landowners grooming their shoreline is the loss of many square miles of
wetland habitat of immense wildlife value. The wetlands are also significant
for protection of shoreline property. Widespread alteration of coastal
wetlands through ‘beach grooming’ has the potential for impacting not only
the local landowner, but also the Great Lakes fishery and the immense
waterfowl population that migrates along the Great Lakes flyway.”

	Terry Miller of the Lone Tree Council, a group leading opposition to the
privatization of publicly-owned coastal wetlands, said, “A well-organized,
well-funded group representing private property interests, and calling
itself euphemistically ‘Save Our Shorelines’ threatens the public's right to
clean water, fishing, birding, and wildfowl
sports – we can't let that happen.”

	“Supporters of this bill are trying to mislead legislators by saying
coastal wetlands provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes bearing West Nile
Virus,” said Scott McEwen of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “But
only three of the more than 400 cases of the virus identified this year are
from counties along Saginaw Bay. We're all concerned about the virus, but
using it as a pretense to justify this bill is inexcusable.”

	“Great Lakes shoreline property owners are privileged to have direct access
to these magnificent public waters,” said Jim Lively, planner and shoreline
protection specialist for the Michigan Land Use Institute. “The economic
value to Michigan of protecting the natural processes of the Great Lakes is
much greater than any short-term personal gain that could be achieved by
private property owners who want to alter the natural lakeshore simply to
meet their personal preference. We cannot afford to create public policies
that attempt to preserve private citizens’ aesthetic perspective of what the
Great Lakes shoreline should look like.”

	Groups opposing H.B. 6418 include the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council,
the Michigan Land Use Institute, the Lone Tree Council, Friends of the Boyne
River, the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, the Michigan Environmental
Council, and Clean Water Action. They pointed out that under current law,
coastal property owners can apply for permits to intrude on the state-owned
bottomlands for routine beach grooming and can then demonstrate whether or
not it is justified, following state review and an opportunity for public
comment. H.B. 6418 would completely eliminate such public oversight.

	John Nelson, the Grand Traverse Baykeeper, said, “The interface of land and
water is a very dynamic place.  The change is day to day, week to week and
year to year.  The effects of the activity envisioned in H.B. 6418 could
have ill-considered and unintended consequences, not only on the natural
environment, but also on the adjacent riparian landowners for great
distances along the shoreline.”


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