OUR VIEW: Leave our resources to scientists, not politicians


By Daily News • Last Updated 9:52 am on Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Michigan Senate on Tuesday quietly approved Senate Bill 78, a bill that slaps handcuffs on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ ability to manage its Biodiversity Stewardship Areas (BSAs) and Living Legacy Programs.

SB 78 removes DNR authority to section off and create biodiversity areas on state or private land. Authority for such action shifts to the Legislature. The Michigan Environmental Council strongly opposes the bill.

The controversial measure now moves over to the House, but as more people realize this dramatic transfer of authority, there could be more to this story.

To quote the Department of Natural Resources; “From piping clover to lake trout, Karner blue butterflies to white pine, and even the microscopic organisms living in our soils and waters — scientists call this rich biological heritage Michigan’s biodiversity.” Conservation of this heritage is the DNR’s proclaimed mission and responsibility.

There’s no doubting the DNR has zealously guarded its authority to control the management of state lands and waters. Protecting the state’s natural resources is essential, but the practice inevitably frustrates people who see things differently.

Enter State Sen. Tom Casperson, sponsor of SB 78.

He says, SB 78 “aims to simply stop the DNR from implementing the Biodiversity Stewardship Area program, which would severely limit or preclude human activity on the land.”

Casperson is concerned about extreme environmentalists whose agenda is to stop people from accessing our state’s natural resources. He cites hundreds of thousands of acres of land designated as BSAs — more than 200,000 of which were private land. He is not against biodiversity, but he does want legislators to have more control over what is off limits to the public.

It’s easy to be critical of the bureaucracy in our state agencies, especially when they possess more authority and job security than our elected officials. But preserving our precious natural resources includes the work of serious science professionals.

We’re speaking here of the underpinnings of Pure Michigan. The issue is complex and serious, but the differences on the surface appear to involve merely scale and scope. We don’t yet know where the devil lurks in the details, but we do know that in this matter the dedication of the scientists will outlast the attention span of the politicians.

We still like the idea of preserve and conserve.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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