Michigan Chapter

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State Forests, Public Lands, and Biodiversity Stewardship Areas

Forest near Lake Superior, 2002.

Sierra Club is Protecting Michigan's Special Places

Sierra Club members and staff are working together to help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) seek out, identify, and designate the most special places in Michigan.

In 2004, the DNRE began a process for meeting certification requirements under the Sustainable Forestry Act, signed by Governor Granholm in 2004.  Part of the certification process included identifying, and then beefing up, the state's activities to protect "high conservation value forests", and to adopt and implement a biodiversity planning initiative.  See more here.

The DNRE set up a public nomination process which allows the public to identify and nominate special places in the state to be managed foremost for maintaining biodiversity.  In 2009, the Sierra Club held workshops to train citizens to identify and nominate the areas of our forests most appropriate for preservation and even restoration.  Our volunteers have scouted out appropriate areas, and then submitted nominating forms to the MDNRE for consideration.

Sierra Club Forest Ecologist Marvin Roberson participated on the Core Design Teams for the Western and Eastern Upper Peninsula, and for the Northern Lower Peninsula, working with Chapter Coordinator Amanda Hightree to train our volunteers.  Those processes are still ongoing, with public comment still to be taken sometime this fall. 

Clean Water Program Director  Rita Chapman will participate in the Southern Lower Peninsula Core Design Team (SLP CDT). Monthly meetings began in mid-August 2010.  Watch this page for more information on the process as it becomes available.  

 

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter's Forest Biodiversity Project

Hermansville, MI, clearcut, image courtesy of Michigan State Public Library(click photo for enlargement)
Three centuries ago, much of Michigan's landscape was covered by many hundreds of square miles of forest.  In our country's early history, settlers saw financial opportunity in those forests - and they began cutting them down.  By the late 1800s, devastating clearcuts had leveled nearly every forest.  The leftover slash burned in raging wildfires that scarred the land, even sterilizing the soil in some places.

Recovery from this overwhelming mismanagement was slow in coming.  In the late 1980s, the Michigan Chapter began working to help Michigan's forests recover by focusing attention on the state’s forest management policies.  Many varied interests kept the state’s department of natural resources from treating the forests as anything other than habitat for game species such as White-tailed deer.  Hundreds of hours were spent in research, attending meetings, talking and gathering input, and convincing our state’s forest managers that we must protect not only game species, but all native wildlife, and their habitats.

Today, Michigan has approximately 4 million acres of State Forests, with lakes, rivers, vernal pools, and other gems.  Our forests host important unique ecosystems with hundreds of species of plants and animals that exist nowhere else in the state.  Our cleanest rivers originate in our forests.  In the early 1900s, timber barons razed our forests, who thought they were endless.  Since then they've slowly been recovering from this devastating logging and mismanagement.  They're on the verge of recovering their former beauty, and more importantly, their biological diversity.  But now our forests face pressures from climate change, bad decisions on oil and gas development, mining proposals and road building, and even destruction for "biomass" for energy.  Our society must choose carefully whether to let our forests recover, or tragically to allow industrial pressure to set the biological diversity clock back another century.

Michigan's forests face threats from many quarters:
  • Climate Change, which will bring weather regimes very different from those that today's forests grew up with; 
  • The timber industry, which proposes turning our wonderful forests into nothing more than tree farms; 
  • Organizations that advocate managing for game species only, to the detriment of many sensitive non-game species; 
  • Development that fragments and destroys native ecosystems and habitat;
  • Bad decisions on oil and gas infrastructure development;
  • Spread of destructive exotic species such as the Emerald Ash Borer, which may worsen with warmer winters.

Our Mission

  • Protect and restore the biodiversity and majesty of Michigan's forests that once were here, are now returning, and could be great again
  • Enhance public trust, give Michigan citizens input into management of the forests and public lands they own
  • Help threatened native wildlife

Our Priorities

  • Expand awareness among Michigan citizens of the importance of our Forest ecosystems
  • Increase the level of public participation in decisions regarding our Forests and public lands
  • Protect the rarest, most important places and species
  • Promote policies and management decisions that move Michigan's Forests toward restoration of their native grandeur
  • Promote policies and management decisions that increase our native ecosystems' ability to survive climate changes

Our Methods

We use all lawful advocacy methods, including activist training, litigation, and public input. The Michigan Forest Biodiversity Program has a 10 year history of innovative work, using multifaceted, strategic approaches, looking at the big picture long-term, including:

  • Integrating the work of volunteers and staff
  • Training activists in methods to participate in public forest management decisions
  • Securing more open public input processes for state forest management
  • Prompting the National Forests in Michigan to designate over 300,000 acres of Old Growth Forest.
  • Suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service for accountability in management of wildlife on 4 million acres of state lands in Michigan

Marvin Roberson, the Sierra Club's Michigan Forest Policy Specialist since 1994, is a highly respected expert on public forest policy and natural resource management.  Marvin has a masters degree in Forest Ecology from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.  As a volunteer leader, Marvin was the first chair of the Sierra Club's national Wild Planet Strategy Team.

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