LANSING - Chicken Little famously exclaimed, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Today, as you may have recently read, environmentalists hysterically proclaim, "Biodiversity is ending! Biodiversity is ending!" as they fill the role of Henny Penny with their erroneous claims that biodiversity is imperiled by Senate Bill 78.
So, why does SB 78 serve them as Chicken Little's acorn? Frankly, they do not want the Legislature to use its constitutional authority over natural resources to ensure that real conservation of natural resources is achieved while allowing use of the resources for recreation, tourism and economic activity.
Instead, they want department bureaucrats to unilaterally develop policies that will result in public land being managed to prohibit human activity. This extreme philosophy promotes the misconception that humans, true conservation and protective measures can't exist together. The reality is that SB 78 maintains the current law that affirmatively declares biodiversity is important.
If SB 78's purpose were to impair biodiversity, it could do so by eliminating Part 355 of the state's natural resources law and prohibiting the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from doing anything to promote biodiversity. But it does not do that. The bill preserves the importance of biodiversity while also acknowledging that management of land for multiple purposes, including conservation of natural features and use by people, is consistent with the state's Constitution. Therefore, SB 78 aims to simply stop the DNR from implementing the biodiversity stewardship area (BSA) program, which would severely limit or preclude human activity on the land.
Sportsmen, businesses, and recreational enthusiasts asked for this legislation because the BSA program was designed so that the DNR could designate land to be managed specifically for biodiversity with DNR staff describing the purpose to limit or prohibit human activity on that land.
In fact, back in 2010, the DNR designated 678,000 acres in Northern Lower Michigan as BSAs. That included 205,000 acres of private land! When questioned, the DNR initially downplayed the issue and proposed changes to the program. Even the DNR now concedes the BSA program should not be advanced.
That is in part because the current leadership of the DNR recognizes that more than 20 other programs and designations already exist in law to conserve and protect special flora, fauna, features and organisms. These programs and designations include wild areas, wilderness areas, natural areas, environmental areas, wetlands, critical dunes, old growth forests, threatened/endangered species and many more.
Rather than shriek that the sky is falling, opponents of SB 78 should answer how diverse plants, animals, organisms and features that make Michigan so special have survived for centuries without a BSA program.
If extreme environmentalists were honest, they would confess that they are upset that their agenda to stop people from being able to access our natural resources is being disrupted by SB 78.
They would admit that the legislation does not write biodiversity out of state law but simply ensures a new government program is not created because existing laws and programs already appropriately ensure biological diversity.
The sky is not falling. Biodiversity is not ending. Senate Bill 78 ensures that balance is remaining between the conservation of biodiversity and the wise use of the natural resources, by preventing bureaucrats from precluding human activity on hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private land.
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Sen. Tom Casperson, R- Escanaba, represents the 38th District. SB 78 would prohibit the DNR or the NRC from designating or enforcing orders or rules specifically for biological diversity.