After finally getting the MDNRE back as one department again, new incoming governor Snyder plans to go the expense, time, effort and chaos to split the MDNRE again into the MDNR and DEQ.

In the past, based on my experience and many confidential communications I received from insiders, this was simply done to make it easier to abuse various permitting systems that were important to protecting our extremely valuable natural resources. Michigan is one of the few states that is able to manage its own wetlands instead of just the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Enough abuse of the permitting process occurred that the US Army Corps threatened to take away the wetlands permitting privileges from Michigan. One particular permit battle over an out of state developer who wanted to destroy a valuable wetlands in NW Michigan along a trout stream appeared to be a catalyst to then governor Engler going back on his word to the MUCC board of directors shortly before he took office that he would not split the MDNR.

This is what one reporter, Howard Meyerson of the Grand Rapids Press ( wrote at the time Governor Granholm decided to finally recombine the agencies after 15 years of a split – a move that probably would have been much better received if done early on in her administration rather than later after her popularity sank so low.

“Engler split the agency to get accountability from the environmental protection side. He favored less environmental protection and more expedient permit issuance to business and industry. Those were permits to pollute air and water and fill wetlands.

Engler also abolished the environmental commissions, the air and water pollution commissions, the Toxic Substance Control Commission and the Wilderness and Natural Areas board, among others.

Environmentalists were very unhappy. Splitting the agency weakened environmental enforcement and the commissions were open, public forums. Public access to environmental decision making was reduced dramatically.”

There were many allegations of previously denied permits and state contracts including some involving friends and relatives that were then approved after the DEQ was split from the MDNR and all their natural resource experts and stewards.

There are always consequences to our votes and we must be vigilant regardless of which party is in control to make sure our voices are heard when it comes to protecting our incredibly important and valuable natural resources from potentially unwise use and misuse.

We can’t afford to toss our valuable resources to business interests that may be more concerned with maximum short-term profit than reasonable alternatives and better practices. I firmly believe we the sportspersons are the best stewards to make sure the pendulum does not swing too far either way to over-restricted or under-protected. There are plenty of examples on the Internet if you search, of individuals whose main, and often apparently, only concern is to be able to ‘extract our resources.’

I believe separating the resource protector experts from the resource permit grantors is a bad move for the future of our natural resources, our air, water and wetlands particularly, in Michigan.

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