The twin news stories this week of state-permitted threats to two of Michigan’s iconic natural features, the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the Au Sable River, themselves raise twin questions.
Why is the state sitting back, waiting for, and authorizing activities that jeopardize these two beauties?
Isn’t it time for a state strategy to assure protection of Michigan’s natural crown jewels before they are put at risk?
Obviously I say yes to the latter. My affirmative is based in part on state government’s own logic: that its Pure Michigan tourism brand is strongly identified with Michigan’s natural resources, especially water. Ergo, protecting the economy is more strongly linked with protecting those resources than with exploiting them.
There are other reasons, including, as former Governor William Milliken once alluded, Michigan’s soul.
A strategy would identify the jewels, inventory the threats, and develop means to prevent them — ranging from buying subsurface rights under state parks to prevent mining and oil exploration and development, to adopting policies against new leasing for development of sensitive areas, to buying and creating buffer zones. And much more.
What are the jewels? The places that define and distinguish Michigan? That’s where the state should invite the public in. My list would begin with the Porkies and Au Sable, and also include Hartwick Pines (which the state did guard not long ago), the Warren Dunes and the Nordhouse Dunes. Give me a half hour and I’ll think of half a dozen more. What do you think?