Snyder vetoes biodiversity-restricting bill

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Environmental groups hailed Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday for vetoing a bill that they say would have hindered the state’s ability to protect its native plant and animal species.

The Republican governor vetoed a bill by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, that would have barred Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources from designating certain public and private lands as biodiversity stewardship areas. Such designations would allow the state to limit activities in those areas that threaten native species.

“Biodiversity is essential to how our world-class natural resources are managed,” Snyder said in a statement released Thursday. “While there are opportunities to look into our forest management practices, reducing biodiversity will only cause confusion and hurt our forests.

Casperson, who used to work in his family’s Upper Peninsula log trucking business, has criticized the DNR’s efforts at protecting biodiversity as “bureaucratic overreach,” arguing they could continue to seek biodiversity while allowing human use of the forests.

“Residents across the state made it clear in supporting Senate Bill 78 that they want to see a balance between protection of our resources and their wise use for recreation, tourism and economic development,” Casperson wrote last month in a post on his website.

“Michigan has much to offer in terms of natural resources, and we need to ensure that the people of this state can enjoy them without overly restrictive regulations imposed by department bureaucrats that will only serve to hamper our way of life with no real need to do so being apparent.”

On Thursday, Snyder’s veto drew praise from the Michigan Environmental Council.

“Gov. Snyder’s decision today shows a respect for and understanding of science, and honors Michigan’s heritage as a conservation leader,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president, in a statement. “Rather than letting anti-science fear steer our state policy, this veto ensures that our state’s trained biologists, ecologists and foresters can continue to take a holistic approach to the management of our public lands and the diversity of plants, animals and natural resources they provide.”

But the forest industry was disappointed, saying the legislation was needed to ensure balanced forest management in the state.

“While we disagree with Gov. Snyder’s actions, we remain committed with the new Legislature and administration to work toward a solution,” said Scott Robbins, director of sustainable forest industry and forest policy for the Michigan Forest Products Council.

Also Thursday, Snyder vetoed a bill that sought to prohibit hunters from using unmanned aerial vehicles for scouting wild game for hunting. Senate Bill 927 was tie-barred to Senate Bill 926, which would have prohibited animal rights groups from using drones to harass hunters.

But Senate Bill 926 died in the House during last month’s lame-duck session.

“As a result, I am unable to consider SB 927 for signature as this is only one half of what was intended to be a multi-bill legislative package,” Snyder wrote in a veto letter to legislators.

Snyder added that he supported both bills and that “it is unfortunate that the full legislative package failed to” pass.

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Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.