Michigan slacking on conservation spending despite ‘Pure Michigan’ campaign
In a recent interview former Dept. of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries compared the ‘Pure Michigan’ marketing campaign to “putting pretty paint on a house that is structurally unstable.”
In an interview with the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine, Humphries, who led the DNR from 2006-2010, predicted that cuts to conservation programs could come back to haunt Michigan.
From increased beach closures due to fecal contamination from storm water runoff to neglected maintenance at state parks, Michigan’s charms are fading as the state shifts spending from conservation to advertising.
And some cuts could have catastrophic public health consequences:
- The DNR’s forest fire-fighting crew was 20 percent smaller than minimum staffing levels when a lighting strike in 2007 triggered a wildlife fire in the Upper Peninsula. Fueled by high winds, dry conditions and an understaffed crew of first responders, the Sleeper Lake fire near Newberry burned 18,000 acres of state forest and cost the DNR $7.5 million. The state’s current forest firefighting crew of 72 is half of the optimum staffing level.
- The state knows the location of nearly 9,200 leaking underground storage tanks, but has nowhere near the sums to clean them up. Left unchecked, those sites could poison groundwater and drinking water wells with a variety of harmful toxins.
The Dept. of Environmental Quality has been cut more severely than almost any other state department.
DEQ Director Dan Wyant told Bridge Magazine that his dept. plans to review the leaking underground storage tank program but he indicated the agency would focus on preserving natural resources through developing “partnerships” with the industries that it regulates.