Washington, DC — The governor who signed Michigan’s model wetlands protection legislation into law 30 years ago believes it is vital to keep that commitment even in tough economic times, according to a statement by former Gov. William G. Milliken posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Former Gov. Milliken’s statement comes just days before the Legislature decides whether to follow current Gov. Jennifer Granholm in her call for abolishing the state wetland program in order to save approximately $2 million in state funds.
A towering figure in state politics, Milliken is Michigan’s longest serving governor (1969-83) who retired after being elected to three terms. His tenure was marked by many enduring environmental achievements, including passage of a bottle deposit law, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and the Natural Resource Trust Fund. Besides wetlands protection, Gov. Milliken has been a consistent advocate for improving water quality as a key to protecting both the natural as well as the economic health of the state.
In a March 13, 2009 statement, the former Governor, a lifelong Republican –
• Calls repeal of the wetlands law “a huge setback to this and future generations”;
• Says “Federal agencies simply do not have the authority nor the funding to administer adequately the protection of Michigan wetlands”; and
• Argues that the state law “has protected large amounts of valuable wetland resources from alteration and destruction” and “remains a national model”.
Reversing years of support for wetlands protection and key tenets in a state plan for Great Lakes restoration issued only this January, Gov. Granholm called for the repeal of the wetlands law in her February 3rd State of the State speech. Just days later, President Obama unveiled a half billion dollar Great Lakes partnership that relies on the very program that Gov. Granholm would axe.
“Governor Milliken speaks with the wisdom of what he calls ‘the long view of what is best for the state and its natural resources’,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that experts estimate that the state will lose much more money from higher flood damages due to wetlands losses than it will save from repealing the program. “Michigan’s recovery depends upon clean waters that spring from safeguarding the state’s base of wetlands.”
Legislative hearings on the wetlands program begin tomorrow.