Forestland in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} / Flickr

Today, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that attempted to keep state officials from managing the state's forests and parks for biodiversity.

Senate Bill 78 was sponsored by State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and it passed the Michigan Legislature during last year's "lame duck" session.

From Gov. Snyder's veto letter:

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Update: January 15, 2015:

Gov. Snyder has vetoed the legislation.

Original post:

More than 130 scientists and the state’s environmental groups are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a bill they call anti-science. The bill would forbid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from protecting native wildlife and plants on the pure merits of protecting nature.

  • The bill would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing state lands for biodiversity.
  • It would prohibit the agency from managing forests for restoration.
  • It would end work to eliminate invasive species.
  • It would strike from the law the finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

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.

A group of scientists from 13 Michigan universities is urging Governor Rick Snyder to veto a bill (SB 78) if it reaches his desk. 

The bill prohibits the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from setting aside land specifically for maintaining biodiversity. The state Senate has passed the bill. It’s now being considered by the state House.

Bradley Cardinale is an associate professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. He wrote a letter to Governor Snyder and so far, more than 100 of his fellow academics from the state’s universities have signed it.

“There are a number of items in this particular bill that seem anti-science and run counter to the best available knowledge we currently have about how to manage natural resources sustainably.”


Should the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have the power to set aside an area of land specifically to maintain biological diversity?

It means protecting the variety of plants and animals living in that area.

The question has fueled passage of Senate Bill 78 in the State Senate. It awaits action in the State House.

The bill would prohibit  the Michigan DNR from setting aside land specifically for maintaining biodiversity.

The MDNR would have to ask permission each time it wanted to set aside land.

Senate Bill 78 is sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba).

He thinks the MDNR should have to request approval from the Legislature each time it wants to set aside land.

Two weeks ago, Stateside spoke with Senator Casperson about the bill.

"Biodiverity can mean different things to different parts of the land. We think there should be oversight. It seems like it's dependent on who's in charge that gets to do that. And we have a concern with that, especially when you look at what they already have. A lot of the argument against this was designed to sound like, if they don't have this specific ability that they're done. They can't do anything to protect biodiversity. I don't believe that to be true. Not with 22 tools in the toolbox to do that."

The MDNR had been planning to create "Biodiversity Stewardship Areas" on both state and private land.

These areas would assist in encouraging biodiversity.

It seemed that most everyone was on board - environmentalists, hunting groups - and then things got derailed with the new bill.

Today, we got a chance to speak with  Marv Roberson, a forest ecologist with the Sierra Club.

He gives us insight on what Biodiversity Stewardship Areas could do for Michigan and how Senate Bill 78 will have an impact on our state.

Listen to the full interview above.


The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The State Department of Natural Resources has been in the planning process of this idea to create what it calls Biodiversity Stewardship Areas.

These areas would include both state and private land.

All the stakeholders were on board in the early planning process - hunting groups, environmentalists - most everyone - until someone became alarmed because the plan could have potentially stopped human access to some areas.

Well, if you even hint that hunters or timber companies can’t have access, you’ve got a problem.

State Senator Tom Casperson (R- Escanaba) has introduced a bill that would prohibit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from setting aside an area of land specifically for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity.

In part it reads:


According to Casperson, the MDNR should request approval for each proposal from the State Legislature.

“It’s not that they can’t do it, but it needs oversight,” Casperson said in an interview with Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham.