On Tuesday, December 4th, Michigan’s Senate passed Bill 1211, legislation that eliminates protection for lakes and wetlands, allowing for the dredging, filling, and development of nearly a half a million acres of wetlands and more than 4,000 lakes.
This bill, now under consideration by the House, strips away wetlands, one of nature’s primary means for filtering pollutants from streams and rivers, slowing storm water runoff, and providing habitat that is essential to a healthy ecosystem.
Equally as alarming, according to Tom Zimnicki of the Michigan Environmental Council, the bill creates uncertainty as to how shorelines can be altered, water levels adjusted, or fill added by property owners on prominent and popular lakes like Walloon Lake, Lake Allegan, Lake Doster, Gull Lake, the Big Crooked Lake, Lake Orion, Mullett Lake, Black Lake, Sherwood Lake, Ford Lake, and Belleville (to mention just a few!).
“What this bill does is to introduce uncertainty,” Zimnicki explained. “Currently, there is clarity as to what your neighbor is allowed to do to shorefront property on these inland lakes. That changes under this law as oversight and regulation is diminished. It should be alarming to property owners living on or near these lakes.”
And what happened to Pure Michigan?
According to a report released by Strategic Marketing and Research Insights earlier this year, in 2017 more than 5.6 million traveled to Michigan from outside the state, generating over $2.1 billion in revenue to communities and local business. According to the report, people came to our state because they perceived it as “an outdoor destination, particularly for water-based recreation.”
If we start altering the shorelines of our lakes, allow owners to syphon water to adjust water levels, permit development on the dwindling number of wetlands, or give mining and logging companies the green light to dredge wetlands for “fill material” needed for road maintenance (industry-specific language included in the bill), Michigan will begin to look not so “Pure”.
This legislation affects kayakers, hunters, people who fish, birders, hikers, and all outdoor enthusiasts. When the wetlands disappear, so do the bugs, the fish, the frogs, the birds. So, too, does the clarity and quality of waters downstream—including the larger lakes—still “regulated” but influenced by the small, intermittently-moving streams this legislation targets.
Admittedly, I am an amateur when it comes to understanding the science of ecosystems. But the Latin root of the word “amateur” is “lover.” And I love Michigan’s lakes, beaches, dunes, forests, rivers, streams, and, yes, wetlands.
I read an article entitled “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” featured in the December 2nd issue of The New York Times Magazine. It was a wakeup call.
The author, Brooke Jarvis, focused on the work by amateurs—in concert with scientists—in noticing, documenting, studying, and reporting on the slow extinction of bugs. The natural reaction of many—particularly those suffering from diseases transmitted by insects and ticks—is “good!” In many households, including my own, insects are not allowed anywhere near the perimeter of the foundation. Eliminate wetlands and other natural areas, and eventually, the bugs will disappear. As they are at the bottom of the food chain, other species will begin to disappear too. It is already happening.
Jarvis reports, “It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth’s various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains.”
Do we, in Michigan, really want to destroy the natural resources which make our state unique? Do we want to jeopardize $2.1 billion/year in revenue from outdoor enthusiasts enchanted with all our state offers? Can we afford to increase our cost of cleanup by destroying nature’s filtering of our watersheds?
During this time of giving and receiving gifts, I hope our representatives respect one our greatest gifts from nature, our water, and do their best to protect it by voting NO on SB 1211.
The bill is currently under consideration by Michigan's House of Representatives, one of the "lame duck" pieces of legislation they are trying to pass prior to the holidays. The vote could occur as early as Tuesday. Please take a moment and contact your representative and ask for a NO vote on SB 1211.
PLEASE SHARE THIS EMAIL WITH ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO LIVES ALONGSIDE, NEAR, OR VISITS ANY OF MICHIGAN'S INLAND LAKES.
To learn more about the bill and link to your representative, visit:
or link directly the Michigan House of Representatives at:
or if you live in Allegan County, visit the EZ-SMEZEE page on my website:
Amateur's View of Michigan Wetlands
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