A bill that would forbid the state Department of Natural Resources from considering biodiversity along with other uses of state lands, such as public recreation, or logging rights, is moving swiftly in the state Legislature.
More than 130 researchers who oppose it hope Gov. Rick Snyder will veto the bill.
"They are putting a much higher priority on economic development for the here and now, in the short term, at the expense of a long-term vision for how do we keep these resources sustainable – not only for this generation but future generations as well," says the University of Michigan's Brad Cardinale, a professor in the School of Natural Resources.
The bill, introduced by State Sen. Tom Casperson, would:
- Prohibit the DNR from enforcing a rule that designates an area of land specifically for achieving or maintaining biological diversity.
- Delete the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR's forest management duties, and require the DNR to balance its forest management activities with economic values
- Eliminate a requirement for state forests to be managed in a way that promotes their restoration
- Delete a legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity
Cardinale says the bill would gut the DNR's ability to fight invasive species. He says maintaining and protecting biological diversity is the main way invasive species are kept in check.
He says people need only remember what happened to Toledo's water supply this summer to see how important biological diversity is.
Cardinale says there are many helpful species of algae that feed off the same nutrients used by microsystis – the toxic bacteria that shut down Toledo's water.
"That's where we need this lever of biodiversity," says Cardinale. "And if you lose it, you're not going to be able to keep these species out."
Supporters of the bill say it will keep the state DNR from interfering with the public's right to use state lands for recreation, and will protect business rights to use state lands for commercial purposes.