Governor Granholm Signs Directive to Better Protect Wetlands on Public Land
LANSING – Small wetlands areas, often home to rare animal and plant species, will be better protected starting today as Governor Jennifer M. Granholm signed a new executive directive authorizing the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to have a process in place in the next 60 days to preserve these unique ecosystems on public land.
The Governor signed Executive Directive 2004-4 as part of her efforts to honor Earth Day 2004. The directive was part of the Governor’s Special Message to the Legislature she delivered earlier this year.
“Wetlands provide critical functions in our state, and we continue to lose them to encroaching development,” Granholm said. “Our state has a proud history of strong wetlands protection, but we have up until this time failed to take the opportunity to protect some of the most biologically diverse wetlands in our state. This directive sets us back on course to protect these fragile places of natural beauty.”
State environmental laws outline that the DEQ may regulate certain small wetlands when it has determined that such wetlands are essential to the preservation of the natural resources of the state. In 1996, the DEQ completed a survey of critical, non-contiguous wetlands – the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI). The MNFI is the most accurate and comprehensive database of critical, non-contiguous wetlands in the state.
According to the MNFI survey, at least 37 state rare animal species occur in 109 isolated wetland sites. In addition, some 113 rare plant species were found in 389 non-contiguous wetland areas. Nine of these species exist in Michigan only in isolated wetlands.
“Michigan citizens should be pleased to learn that for the first time in 25 years, government is finally taking steps to protect some of the most extraordinary wetlands that exist in Michigan,” said DEQ Director Steve Chester. “This is part and parcel of the Granholm administration’s efforts to establish Michigan as the environmental leader in the Great Lakes Region.”
Directive 2004-4 supports a bill State Representative Paul Condino (D-Southfield) introduced in honor of Earth Day last year, which will require Michigan to protect smaller wetlands on public lands that are not currently being protected.
Approximately 5 percent of Michigan’s wetlands (271,534 acres out of a total of 5,583,400 acres of wetlands) are currently unregulated unless the DEQ or a local unit of government takes action to protect them.
Non-contiguous wetlands are those not connected to lakes or streams, more than 500 feet from a lake or stream, and more than 1000 feet from the Great Lakes. They are also less than five acres in size.
“As we approach Earth Day this week and National Wetlands Month in May, it is important that we recognize the critical role wetlands play in helping shape life in Michigan,” said Granholm. “This directive ensures that some of the most special places in the great outdoors of our state are protected and that rare species of plants and animals are encouraged to thrive.”
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