Letter: Michigan governors: Support state's natural assets this November

The Detroit News

One of the greatest responsibilities of the governor of Michigan is stewarding and protecting many of the world’s most beautiful and unique natural features — from the wooded hills of Mackinac Island and Bois Blanc, to the sand dunes that grace the Lake Michigan shoreline, to Detroit’s riverfront, once the center of state commerce, now a place where families bike, fish and play. All of us — Republicans and Democrats alike — have taken this duty to heart.

For more than 40 years, Michigan has dedicated royalties from oil and gas drilling on public lands to protecting iconic places and ensuring all Michigan residents have access to our Great Lakes and great outdoors. This policy has allowed us to spend $1.1 billion protecting lakes and streams; conserving land for hiking, camping, fishing and hunting; and building state and local parks and nature areas. To continue and expand on this unparalleled conservation legacy, we encourage you to vote "Yes" on Proposal 1 this November.

A man looks out over Lake Michigan as waves crash near Lions Park Beach in St. Joseph, Mich., Wednesday, Sept, 30, 2020.

Proposal 1 is a constitutional amendment that will do two very important things. First, it ensures that all future state mineral royalties are dedicated to conservation and recreation. Second, it requires that at least 25% of expenditures of these funds are used for activities like building trails, restoring historic structures or reclaiming land for urban parks so the public can use and enjoy these special places, and at least 25% continue to be used to acquire and protect lands.

When we buy land for conservation with these dollars, it’s not just about their beauty. Many of these places guard the lakes and streams that our drinking water comes from and flows through. For example, the Clinton, Shiawassee, Huron and Flint rivers all start in northern Oakland County. When we protect these headwaters, we protect the source of drinking water for millions of Michigan residents.  

And as we live through the coronavirus pandemic, the availability of nearby natural areas and recreation opportunities has never been more important. Now more than ever citizens rely on parks, trails and outdoor spaces to maintain their mental and physical health. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources saw a 45% increase in camping over the summer. Travel Michigan noted in May that 80% of Michigan residents said they wanted to find fun things to do outdoors and avoid crowded spaces. These are all signs that we are finding escape and personal restoration in the kinds of places Proposal 1 helps us protect.

Notably, Proposal 1 does not raise taxes. This work is funded by royalties from the oil, gas and mining industries, ensuring that a portion of profits made from extracting minerals from Michigan’s public lands are reinvested in our natural resources and outdoor spaces. It is a public-private partnership that has the support of industry and environmentalists alike.

A year ago, as the campaign for Proposal 1 began, Michigan mourned the passing of William Milliken,  its 44th governor. It was under his administration in 1976 that this program was developed and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was created. Each of us as governors benefited from and built on his work, which has created an enduring legacy for generations to come.

Michigan is a beautiful and precious place. You can help ensure it stays that way.

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan

Rick Snyder, 48th governor of Michigan

Jennifer Granholm, 47th governor of Michigan

John Engler, 46th governor of Michigan

Jim Blanchard, 45th governor of Michigan