GOPocrisy, Michigan Republicans — February 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

UPDATED – GOPocrisy Alert: Michigan GOP legislators want to take control of overseeing our natural areas


It’s like they don’t realize how ironic they are being

Currently in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in in charge of protecting and preserving land and other property under its control from damage or improper use. The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act says that “it is the goal of this state to encourage the lasting conservation of biological diversity.” Republican state Senator Tom Casperson from Escanaba, however, wants the legislature to take over that overseeing of the protection of our natural areas in Michigan and to forbid the DNR from passing any laws or taking any action that will set aside land for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity.

This is from the party that repeatedly tells us that regulations are strangling our state and frequently advocates for a part-time legislature. The irony is rich and deep.

Senator Tom Casperson-R (Escanaba) has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 78, that would prohibit the DNR from setting aside an area of land specifically for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity (basically, to protect the variety of plants and animals that live in an area). The DNR could not make or enforce a rule to do that.

This bill is similar to one Senator Casperson introduced last fall, SB 1276.

Casperson says he’s concerned the DNR wants to set aside too much land, and that people won’t have access to it.

“If they’re focusing on biodiversity and that’s including the idea and concept of keeping people out of it, I guess that’s one thing I’m going to challenge, because they’ve been marching forward pretty hard with that kind of stuff,” he says. {…}

[H]e wants that oversight to come from the Legislature.

If the bill is signed into law, it would change the way DNR manages land.

It takes away the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR’s duties.

It requires the DNR to balance management with economic values.

And it strikes language from an existing act that states that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.

Here’s the actual list of things that would change if Casperson gets his way:

  • Prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Natural Resources Commission from promulgating or enforcing a rule or an order that designates or classifies an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity.
  • Delete the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR’s duties regarding forest management, and require the Department to balance its management activities with economic values.
  • Eliminate a requirement that the DNR manage forests in a manner that promotes restoration.
  • Provide that a State department or agency would not have to designate or classify an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity.
  • Revise the definition of “conservation” with regard to biological diversity.
  • Delete a legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.

So, Casperson wants legislators to take over the job of the department specifically set up for that purpose and he wants science to take a back seat to economic concerns. Oh, and to put the cherry on top of the cake, he wants to be sure that losses of biological diversity aren’t attributable to human activity by striking that language from our law. Who knew it was that easy?!

Not surprisingly, actual scientists think that Casperson is full of crap:

Brad Cardinale is a professor of conservation biology at the University of Michigan.

“That is an extremely well justified scientific principle that humans are the direct cause of modern biodiversity loss. By striking it, it leads me to believe that Casperson is perhaps not aware of the vast scientific evidence for that,” he says.

Cardinale says areas with more biodiversity offer all kinds of benefits for people and wildlife… and he says this bill doesn’t consider those.

“And all of the language is essentially arguing that we need to give people higher priority to have access to the land, to be able to extract resources from the land.”

I guess what is the most astonishing thing about Michigan Republicans isn’t that they SAY they are for less spending, less taxes and less regulation and yet operate in exactly the opposite fashion. What’s the most astonishing is that people still believe these hypocritical liars when they claim they are for all of these things.

Adding… As Susan points out in the comments, Casperson “worked for 27 years in his family’s log trucking business, including 12 years as its owner and operator”. Surely, as Susan notes, Casperson can’t be considered a “disinterested party”. In fact, given this history, it seems clear he’s trying to keep as much public land open to be exploited by businesses like the one he and his family runs as possible.

One other thing: as my friend Bill W. pointed out on the Eclectablog Facebook page, “Can you say ‘fracking’?”. Bill’s right. There is a LOT of natural gas in Michigan and being able to pump it out of the ground from public land is an attractive business proposition. And where there is natural gas production there is fracking which represents a HUGE threat to our state’s aquifers and water resources. In fact, it’s in the very areas that Casperson’s bill covers — areas with healthy biodiversity — that our water resources are most precious and fragile. Leave it to a Republican like Casperson to put economic considerations and business profits above preserving our state’s most precious resource.

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]