Over the past 20 years, we have published a series of articles on the management of our public forests in Michigan, both state and national. The articles have documented the lack of critical habitat for the game species and others that inhabit them.
The wealth that we share as residents of our state is found in the ownership of our publicly owned forests, our accessible lakes and streams and the wildlife that reside there. The law requires the people who we hire to manage these natural resources using sound science. Are they?
Wildlife habitat and producing forest products can go hand in hand if managed properly. Is it? Several years ago in their infinite wisdom boilerplate legislation with a mandate that the DNR is required to make 53,000 acres of state forests available to the timber industry for cutting each year.
In all of the dealings within the DNR forest Management Division, there is never, never any mention of the wildlife that resides within our state forests, but rather how they are providing services to the timber industry. Recently, Bill O’Neill, DNR State Forester advised the Natural Resources Commission that they would be harvesting 61,000 acres each year for the next ten years. In a press release he states “Working together with the US Forest Service we are better poised to meet the goals and objectives outlined by Governor Snyder at the 2013 Forest Products Summit which will help increase the industries economic impact on state wide regional economies from 14 billion dollars to 20 billion dollars each year.
In 2015 DNR Director Creagh received the annual Tuebor Award from the Michigan Forest Products Council, which among others, recognizes significant accomplishments in promoting business. Governor Snyder’s 2017 budget recommendations call for 2.1 million dollars to further enhance the Vegetative Management System to provide a more customer friendly, efficient and effective for monitoring timber sales. An additional 2.1 million dollars for 7 more staff to help increase the supply of sustainable timber in an effort to attract further commercial investment in Michigan.
In February 2015 the DNR director advised the House Appropriations Natural Resources Committee that the DNR has created a new management plan and has brought business interest into the advisory committee that reviews land transactions. The department is also working to better corporate holdings into economic development.
Russ Mason, DNR Wildlife Division chief wrote an article titled Natural Resources Vital To State’s Economic Recovery that appeared in the 2/13/15 edition of Michigan Outdoor News. The title speaks for itself.
In every proposed action taken by the DNR the write up includes three categories: Biological, Social and Economic. Economic is a fairly new addition. If our natural resources are managed for the best they can be then business will and do follow. Under the Governor Snyder administration there is a dollar sign placed in front of every natural resource that we all own. Our natural resources do not owe anyone a living yet every portion of our natural resources is expected to contribute to Michigan’s economy. Overwhelming evidence is showing that managing for the dollar is the major thrust in the management of our natural resources.
The current DNR management considers Michigan’s citizens as customers, with their “Customer Service Centers”. Collectively, though our taxes and fees we hire the DNR to manage our natural resources. We are their employers not their customers. Businesses are not accountable to their customers but state agencies are.
Ten years after leaving office, Governor Bill Millikin gave this speech to an MUCC banquet. “In Michigan, our soul is not to be found in steel or concrete or sprawling new housing developments or strip malls. Rather in the soft peddles of trillium, the gentle whisper of a headwater stream, the vista of the Great Lakes shoreline and the wonder in a child’s eye upon seeing his first Bald Eagle. It is this soul that we must preserve”. It is very sad that our current governor does not share the same vision.
I will share an article that I read several years ago. “Michigan established its first state forest in 1903, but land in public ownership was mostly treated as a resource to be exploited for its commercial value-an idea that lives on today with renewed vigor. Its no wonder that those who love natural land for its own sake have so revered people like P.S. Lovejoy for wanting to set aside a place like the Pigeon River Country. Lovejoy, Herman, Lunden and others stand tall when compared with the short-sighted advocates of denying us the land that we hold together on behalf of the overall health of the land itself and all living things that benefit from it.”