ACTION NEEDED: CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR AND ASK HIM/HER TO OPPOSE A TIE-BARRED PACKAGE OF STATE FOREST BILLS (SB 1023, SB 1024 and HB 5554) WHICH TAKE MICHIGAN IN THE DIRECTION OF PRIVATIZING OUR PUBLIC STATE FORESTS.
BACKGROUND: Michigan has the largest state forest system in the nation, with almost 4 million acres of public lands throughout the northern lower peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. Michigan’s largest timber companies want new laws that would take Michigan closer to turning over the reins of the nation’s largest state forest system to the industry. The package of bills, SB 1023, SB 1024 and HB 5554, which are tie-barred, has been improved as a result of concerns raised by the DNR, environmental and conservation organizations, but as these bills come to the Senate floor the package is still badly flawed. Unfortunately, the Granholm Administration at this time has cut a deal to support the bills as amended in the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Committee.
If you hunt, fish, hike, camp, pick berries or mushrooms, cross country ski or just appreciate the fact that Michigan’s state forests contribute to both water quality and water quantity in the Great Lakes state, then YOU should be concerned. SB 1023 and SB 1024 open the door to timber industry domination of the management of our state forests, including taking the first steps toward privatization of these lands held in trust for all Michiganders. HB 5554 could be improved and passed, but because of the tie-bar, to pass just one, all three must pass. That means it is CRITICAL to STOP these bills on the Senate Floor, or to REMOVE THE TIE-BARS so that HB 5554 could be amended and passed without the two other bills.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE BILLS:
SB 1023 creates “Pilot Forests”, requiring the DNR to sign contracts to hand over management of up to 2,500 acres in four separate parcels (two for private firms to manage) for five years. The timber industry wants desperately to open the door to privatizing our precious public lands – while this initial proposal is small, the precedent is potentially devastating to Michigan’s public forests. In Canada, where the Crown Lands (their public lands) are leased to private industry in a similar manner, irretrievable damage has been done to the forests, with virtually no benefit to local communities and no sustainability of forest resources. Michigan’s timber industry does NOT need this land – in fact, many of the companies lobbying for this bill have SOLD OFF significant acreages of their OWN lands in recent years, and are claiming they need public state forest land to stay in business.
SB 1024, the Forest Finance Authority Bill changes the make up of a Board that has authority to borrow money against the standing timber on state forest and other state lands and to let contracts for the timber sales on those lands. Four designated slots would be for the timber industry, one for a statewide conservation group, one for a university representative, and three state positions (DNR Director, State Treasurer, and Dept of Labor and Economic Growth Director). The State Treasurer is designated chair of the group and the Board can only be convened if the Treasurer calls a meeting, but the creation of a timber oriented Board to oversee timber contracts on Michigan’s state forest lands means that future Governors might well use this authority to drastically ramp up the timber sales on state forest and other state owned lands, with little or no public input.
HB 5554, as it passed the Senate Committee has many positive features, but because of the tie-bar to the other bills it must be opposed as well. The bill creates a fundamental broad mandate for the State Forest system, which has never existed since their creation 100 years ago. It also requires “third party certification” of state forest lands, something generally supported by all forest interests. An attempt to use this bill to require certification for timber management on all Michigan state lands, including in state parks, recreation areas, linear trails, state fair grounds, etc., has been beat back to require a ‘feasibility study’ of such certification, which puts off this debate for a year. However, the “reporting” requirements in the bill focus on timber production, and do not include protection of non-game species, including endangered species, and other non-consumptive uses. Amendments in the Senate included requirements to report on wildlife habitat management and recreational activities.
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!! The bills could be voted on AS SOON AS TUESDAY, MAY 4th in the morning.
To find the name and contact information for your State Senator go to www.senate.mi.gov and use the Find your Senator button!
To find copies of the bills AS THEY PASSED THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES go www.michiganlegislature.org/ and enter the bill numbers. The versions that passed the Senate Committee will NOT be available at this site, but you can contact Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Committee Clerk Jeff Cobb at Jeff Cobb [JCobb@senate.michigan.gov] or call 517-373-1635 and ask to have the bills faxed to you.
Questions? Please contact Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Woiwode, Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: email@example.com