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Remarks by Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, a candidate for Governor

The Great Choice

February 22, 2002 |
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Thank you for the kind introduction, President Steve Williams.

Congratulations on the 80th Anniversary of the Izaak Walton League and on the 75th Anniversary of the Dwight Lydell Chapter of the Izaak Walton League here in West Michigan.

It is truly an honor to join you this evening. While in Michigan everyone appreciates our great outdoors, it is my experience that the residents of West Michigan have a special appreciation for our state’s wonderful natural resources and it is always a pleasure to be here.

As you all probably know, in the course of the early European exploration of America over 300 years ago, when the first crude maps of what is now Michigan were being drawn, some religious scholars took particular note of the shape of the Lower Peninsula. They openly speculated that Michigan was shaped the way it was because here the Creator had touched the earth with His left hand to begin it spinning on its axis.

Indeed, as the state motto says: If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you. Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice. Now, you should know that Granholm is a Swedish name. In Swedish it means "peninsula of trees." It’s a sign!

Surely, those of us living in Michigan today know that our state has been uniquely blessed. Its beauty, resources and natural endowments are unparalleled. We share 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes, 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, abundant and beautiful forests, wetlands that produce fish and wildlife while filtering pollutants, magnificent sand dunes and stunning vistas.

Ours has been a history of impairment and destruction by the hand of man and a rebuilding through the help of man. This history, which holds for us great lessons, is one that from the early 1900s to 1990 made us a national conservation leader. I have to take time out for a quick commercial plug and tell you that this history is chronicled in a book written by Dave Dempsey titled "Ruin to Recovery." The book is available from the Michigan Environmental Council in Lansing and it is well worth the time and money for anyone who cares about these issues.

It was 75 years ago that Dr. Walter G. Kinyon, a Michigan district officer of the Izaak Walton League stated: "If the Grand Traverse region is to retain its enviable reputation as ‘The Heart of Nature’s Playground,’ then the Boardman River must be cleaned of its human sewage and become once again the habitat of the brook trout, the German brown and the Rainbow Trout as it was some 15 years ago. Our beautiful Grand Traverse Bay, instead of being an open cesspool, must be cleaned of its refuse and once again become the mecca of the perch and Mackinaw trout fisherman."

We have come a long way in cleaning up the Boardman River and Grand Traverse Bay in the last 75 years and members of the Izaak Walton League clearly had a hand in that work. However, when the swimming beaches on Lake St. Clair are still closed most of the summer from bacteria attributed to combined sewer overflow; when the head waters of our blue ribbon trout streams are threatened from development; when there is no law regulating groundwater withdrawals; and when we have allowed the public voice to be shut out of the regulatory process -- there is clearly a lot of work requiring many hands, still to be done.

There have been many heroic efforts in the past – all at the hand of citizen conservationists, like members of the Izaak Walton League, who had a vision and devoted their passion to the place we call Michigan:
After our great forests were plundered, it was the hands of thousands of Civilian Conservation Corps leaders that planted tiny tree seedlings to restore our woodlands.

It was the hand of Karen Hartwick that signed the deed protecting the Hartwick Pines as a living memorial of Michigan’s white pine past.

It was the hand of people like Genevieve Gillette who spent long hours writing letters to state leaders to get them to build and maintain a park system that gives all Michiganians convenient access to some of our crown jewels of water and land. Thanks to Genevieve Gillette and many others, more than 25 million visitors enter our state parks each year.

It was the hands of an army of petitioners that circulated petitions to get the state’s bottle bill on the ballot and then to get it passed in 1976. And maybe there will be another army of hands that will pass the petitions to extend the bottle bill to juice and water containers.

And it was the hands of true conservation leaders like Governors G. Mennen Williams and William G. Milliken that signed truly monumental laws to protect the quality of the Michigan environment. Laws like the Michigan Environmental Protection Act…the Wetland Protection Act…the Sand Dune Protection and Management Act.

It is in that same spirit that the next Michigan must reach beyond the concerns of just the present generation and assure that future generations of Michigan citizens, yet unborn, will share in the bounty and the beauty of our state. Michigan’s next generation of leadership must embrace the principles of stewardship and sustainability, and must manage and conserve our natural resources by recognizing our responsibility to future generations. The next Michigan must establish and advance a conservation and environmental ethos that protects and celebrates Michigan’s natural resource heritage. And the next Michigan must recognize, once again, its responsibility and its fiduciary role as the trustee of Michigan’s public trust resources.

In this we are on a solid legal foundation. Article 4, Section 52 of our 1963 Michigan Constitution states:

"The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people. The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air water, and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction."

This constitutional prescription, buttressed by the Public Trust Doctrine established under Michigan’s Common Law, places our natural resources in a "public trust" of which Michigan’s citizens are the beneficiaries. It was application of the Public Trust Doctrine in a case brought by Frank J. Kelley, my predecessor, along with others that resulted in the $172 million Ludington fish mortality settlement that created and funded the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and brought into public ownership 28,000 acres of undeveloped land and 70 miles of undisturbed waterfront.

The Michigan Supreme Court characterized the legal duty to protect natural resources under the Public Trust Doctrine this way:

"In this right, [our natural resources] are protected by a high, solemn and perpetual trust, which is the duty of the state to forever maintain."

Fidelity to these constitutional and common law principles should be the legal cornerstone of our environmental policies.

As the Attorney General – the state’s chief law enforcement officer and co-trustee over the state’s natural resources – I have been troubled by the state’s departure from our long term commitment to the conservation and preservation of the quality of our natural resources and the environment in Michigan.

We have drifted away from the conservation legacy of Governor Milliken and many other leaders who taught us that a healthy environment was part of a healthy economy.

While we have always had the legal foundation to protect our ecological treasures, our state’s system of environmental laws and programs is nearly in ruins from more than a decade of neglect and indifference. I agree with my fellow candidate for governor, Lt. Governor Posthumus who tacitly acknowledges that war has been waged on our environment for the last 11years when he repeatedly calls for a "Marshall Plan" to save and protect our lakes and environment.

As all of you historians know, General George Marshall was asked to put together an emergency program to rebuild Europe from the total destruction of World War II. Michigan does need the commitment of a Marshall Plan in a new era of environmental leadership that will restore Michigan’s environmental greatness.

To do that, the next Michigan will need leadership that will fight to protect our natural resource endowment through sound conservation and resource protection policies.

We need a governor who understands that the decisions we make today, if wrongly chosen, can limit the options for our children and our children’s children.

As someone who intends to exercise leadership in the next chapter of Michigan’s future, I intend to extend my hand to the members of the Izaak Walton League…to conservationists and environmentalists across the state…and to all the people of Michigan in an invitation to work together to restore our natural heritage and to build a lasting legacy for those who will come after us.

I strongly believe not only that power derives from the people, but also that the people of Michigan, if heard and respected, are the basis for any hope of reestablishing our national environmental leadership. Rather than close the door on the public, the hand of the Governor should open it wide for a robust public debate and an environmental decision-making process that they can trust.

If the people see fit to make me their governor, here is what my administration will do.

First, I will work to recombine the DNR and DEQ. There needs to be one department protecting our natural resources. The right hand needs to know what the left hand is up to. The enjoyment of our natural resources is not separate from enforcing the law with respect to its protection.

More important than anything else, however – we will defend our most valuable and vulnerable resource, water. As precious to us as blood is to the body, water is our defining resource – and it is our solemn duty to protect our legacy, our endowment, and the character of Michigan by becoming the world’s best water guardians.

In spite of the sacrifices Michigan citizens have willingly made in the past, we have so much work to do in order to defend our water heritage. And we must begin now.

And so, here is my 10-point water plan, called "Clean Water Forever."

  1. First, I will work to protect the quantity of the Great Lakes. The low water levels of the Lakes today are a hint of what the future may be like if we can’t stop misuse of Great Lakes water. Our recreational boating industry, our commercial shipping industry, fishing and waterfowl hunting – our enjoyment of Great Lakes beaches – all these depend on protecting the Great Lakes water.

    As Governor, I will exercise my authority under federal law to veto any proposed export or transfer of Great Lakes water that is not coupled with measures that improve the ecosystem both locally and as a whole. Therefore, I will oppose with all the vigor I possess any unilateral scheme to market, bottle, trade, or give away Great Lakes water to anyone, anywhere, anytime!

    But saying "no" is not enough. Michigan must demonstrate its water ethic through action.

    I will lead the fight to enact a state water protection law that will base decisions about future water use on what is right for the ecosystem – and therefore, the people of Michigan – in the long run.

  2. I will direct state agencies to develop plans to promote comprehensive water conservation by all Michigan citizens. We ought to return to a conservation ethic, where we "conserve" our resources. Yet too often in today’s culture, people are obsessed with "use and toss." We consume rather than conserve. We are interested in maximizing our own individual situation rather than being focused on the greater good. An ethos of conservation.

  3. I will direct state agencies to manage water based on watersheds. Surface water does not respect lines on a map; it does not know geopolitical lines; it flows where the topography allows. I will create a comprehensive database where information concerning our lands, rivers, wetlands and aquifers will be collected and analyzed so that we can make intelligent and informed decisions on the use of our waters.

  4. I will carry forward and expand upon the work of the Council of Great Lakes Governors in developing a program of regional cooperation and consultation among all the affected states on all major water uses and their effects on the ecosystem.

  5. I will protect the quality of our water as well. The people of Michigan have poured over $1 billion into water cleanup programs in the last 30 years, and they’ve supported the tough actions needed to deal with pollutants like DDT, PCBs, and phosphorus. In attacking these toxic pollutants in the 1960s and 1970s, Michigan didn’t wait for others – we had the courage and the vision to act first when the science and popular will supported it. To face a new host of threats to the quality of the Great Lakes, we need to lead again. I will base decisions upon science, not politics.

  6. I will step up the attack on the sea lamprey and other exotic species that menace the Great Lakes and our world-class sport fishery. I will challenge the other Great Lake states to join Michigan to pony up in contributing funds to the war on the lamprey. I will also ask our sister Great Lakes states to join Michigan in passing tough legislation to curb the dumping of exotic species from the ballast water of oceangoing vessels that pass through the Lakes.

  7. I will seek state funding and assistance to address the old and new water pollution problems that taint and kill fish, poison our drinking water, and close our public beaches. I will support community efforts to identify and remove threats to drinking water and beef up sewage treatment and storm water control. I will lead a state attack on the worst chemicals plaguing the Great Lakes (PCBs – Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls). More than a decade ago, the International Joint Commission urged the Great Lakes states, Ontario and the two federal governments to phase out the worst chemicals that threaten Lake Superior. Despite promises, little progress has been made. I don’t believe future members of the Izaak Walton League should need to consult "fish consumption guidelines" to determine how many ounces of whitefish or steelhead they can eat each week because of toxic contamination.

  8. I will also deploy science and the volunteer energies of Michigan citizens to protect aquatic habitats. In no other area is the combination of our scientific excellence and our public’s determination to contribute to environmental recovery more powerful.

    I keep talking about engaging citizens in government – I need you and groups like you to partner with government to make our waters cleaner every year.

    I believe in the wisdom of the scientists who populate our state natural resource and environmental agencies. I believe in the enthusiasm of citizens all across Michigan who are pitching in to create fisheries habitat, to clean up stream banks, and to monitor lakes and streams for pollution. Who better than a member of the Izaak Walton League to help document and track the condition of our cold water streams and lakes as they wait for a hatch or troll for trout and salmon?

    I so strongly believe in citizen action that as Attorney General I have established an online environmental complaint form so that citizens can report on suspected environmental misdeeds attaching digital photos.

    As Governor, I will use our scientists and citizens to protect the lake and stream habitats that are of such enormous value to Michigan. I will seek expanded state grant funding for volunteer habitat programs. And I will ask our scientific experts to recommend new measures to protect lakes and streams. Specifically:

  9. I will ask the Department of Natural Resources to recommend new rivers and streams worthy of protection under our nationally-recognized Natural Rivers Act.

    I will also ask the department to begin at once to designate for protection-isolated wetlands that protect habitat for living things and that store floodwaters and cleanse pollutants.

  10. I will call for creation of an office of environmental ombudsperson in state government to assist communities wishing to enact ordinances to protect wetlands, river corridors, drinking water supplies and other important water resources.

The ombudsperson will also cut through government bureaucracy to resolve citizen environmental complaints and concerns expeditiously.

Water and wetlands are the very blood of this state; however without wise land use we will never be able to truly protect our water resources. We need to protect our farmlands and forests for the health of our economy and our water.

In 1992, the Michigan Relative Risk study identified land use and sprawl as the most important environmental issue facing Michigan. Yet in the ten years since that study, those risks have been largely ignored by the state. Last year the Michigan Environment Roundtable sponsored an eye opening study on this issue. The study titled Michigan Land Resource Project was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Frey Foundation, a West Michigan institution and is available through online through at www.publicsectorconsultants.com.

Among the reports findings, which are based on historical land use patterns:

  • Michigan will lose 25% of its orchard land in the next 40 years.

  • Michigan will lose 1.9 million acres of farmland in the next 40 years. By my math, that is over 3,000 square miles of some of the most unique agricultural land in the world lost.

  • The amount of land available for hunting will dramatically decrease because each new house built in a forest or farmland takes about 15 acres out hunting because of the 450 foot buffer zone.

  • Water quality will necessarily be effected because when a forest or an orchard or a hay field is replaced with streets and parking lots, the rain will no longer soak into the ground or be absorbed and filtered by wetlands. Not only will this put oil and other containments into the water, but it will also raise the water temperature in nearby cold water streams.

As Governor I will take a leadership role in addressing wise land use by the following 6 actions:

  1. I will appoint a nonpartisan blue ribbon panel to develop a long-term wise land use plan for the state.

  2. Through leadership or legislation, I will encourage cooperation between local units of government in their master planning, zoning and transportation decisions.

  3. I will strive to provide wise land use tools like the purchase of development rights or the transfer of development rights so local units of government can control the growth of their community to preserve the quality of life and the environment.

  4. I will seek the resources to do the first complete state land use inventory in over 20 years.

  5. I will encourage reinvestment or redevelopment in our cities where infrastructure exists and not subsidize sprawl.

  6. Finally, I will reopen the doors of state government to you, the citizens of Michigan to ensure broad public participation in the development of environmental and conservation policy.

I want to leave you with a quote from John Voelker, a man who appreciated Michigan’s natural resources like few others and had the talent to write about it. You might say John Voelker was Michigan’s own Izaak Walton as Izaak Walton himself could have written Voelker’s Testament of a Fisherman.

In an article published in the May 1984 edition of Fly Fisherman magazine, John observed:

"Now if you’ve never heard the call of a loon, there’s no use in my trying to tell you about it, and if you have I mercifully needn’t bother. In either case, whenever I hear the call of a loon I invariably get an attack of the chilblains running up and down my spine. It’s not so much a feeling of fear as a sudden sense of the remoteness and solitude of both men and loons mingled with the uneasy feeling that maybe both of us are but fleeting pauses in the immeasurable unraveling of time. Loons, you see, not only give me the chilblains but small attacks of wrestling with destiny."

In an election year we, as a small "d" democratic state, have an opportunity to wrestle with our destiny. Our decisions may well decide whether there will be clean lakes with nesting loons calling out to future generations giving them an attack of the chilblains.

It is the year 2002. There are many blank pages of history to be written, you hold the pen. How will our history read in the year 2102, 100 years from now? Like our ancestors who led Michigan’s environment from ruin to recovery, will we accept the challenge and write a story our descendants will be proud of? I hope so, and I am offering you my hand to write that history together.

Thank you.

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