Gov. Rick Snyder’s spending plan for the coming fiscal year contains boosts to both the state’s conservation efforts and the fight against invasive species.
“We have great quality of life in our state, but we can continue to enhance that,” the Republican incumbent said Wednesday morning during his annual budget address. The new spending plan includes:
■ $3.5 million to add 25 new conservation officers this year, capping an increase of more than 40 new hires since 2010.
■ $6 million for the “prevention, detection and eradication of invasive species.” In his State of the State address, Snyder said he wanted to prevent the Asian longhorned beetle from migrating up from Ohio and laying waste to Michigan’s forests and maple industry.
■ $6.5 million in funding to help restore Michigan’s state parks.
■ $2.5 million earmarked for developing a trail system that would eventually stretch “from Belle Isle to the Wisconsin border in the Upper Peninsula” — part of Snyder’s plan to brand Michigan the “Trail State.”
■ $4 million to hire new foresters to assist in wildfire protection and forest management.
■ $2.5 million to assist private land owners with their own forest management practices.
The laundry list drew praise from some conservation groups Wednesday. Officials with The Nature Conservancy lauded the first increase in general funds for conservation efforts in 30 years.
“Gov. Snyder recognizes that natural resources are fundamental to the economic future of Michigan,” said Tom Cook, chair of The Nature Conservancy’s Board of Trustees for Michigan, in a press release. “... Funding to these programs is critical to the health of our natural resources and the future of our state.”
At the same time Snyder’s administration released its budget proposals, another Michigan elected official was taking steps related to invasive species. Michigan Rep. Candice Miller introduced the Defending Against Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2014.
The proposed legislation calls on the U.S. Army to create a physical barrier between the Mississippi River System, where invasive Asian carp have an established population, and Lake Michigan. Residents of the Great Lakes region fear that if the carp reach the lakes, they could do permanent damage the fishing and tourism industries.
“...I believe total separation is the only way to make sure that Asian carp do not enter the Great Lakes,“ Miller said in a press release. “This project will require the buy-in of stakeholders from across the country and significant resources, but we must have the political will to protect our magnificent Great Lakes.”