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Great Lakes champion Buchsbaum, Rouge restorer Craig earn top environmental awards

Michigan Environmental Council to honor pair June 24 in Ann Arbor
Jun 19, 2015
The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) next week will honor two outstanding advocates for the Great Lakes and Michigan's inland waters and wildlife.

Andy Buchsbaum -- whose leadership and vision made possible recent landmark protections for the Great Lakes -- will receive the Helen & William Milliken Distinguished Service Award.

Bill Craig -- a tireless volunteer dedicated to restoring the Rouge River and conserving natural areas -- will receive the Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership.

The awards will be presented Wednesday, June 24 at a celebration in Ann Arbor starting at 5:30 p.m. For information on the event, call 517-487-9539.

The Milliken Award -- named after former Gov. William G. Milliken and his wife, Helen -- is bestowed annually on a person who has made extraordinary contributions to protect Michigan's natural resources. The Petoskey Prize is given annually to an individual nominated by an MEC member organization whose commitment, creativity and courage have inspired others to safeguard Michigan's air, land and water for future generations.

Andy Buchsbaum
With the 2008 Great Lakes Compact and the 2009 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), advocates achieved two once-a-generation policy victories in back-to-back fashion. It's no coincidence that Buchsbaum helped captain both winning teams.

Now the national Vice President of Conservation Action for the National Wildlife Federation, Buchsbaum long served as the Regional Executive Director of NWF's Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor.

He co-founded and for eight years co-chaired the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, the leading nongovernmental voice for the GLRI. Buchsbaum's leadership, organizing skills and deep understanding of regional and national politics were invaluable in helping the coalition map a winning strategy to get the initiative through Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The ongoing program has invested about $2 billion in more than 2,000 projects around the Great Lakes basin, each one bearing the stamp of Buchsbaum and the other coalition members who crafted the restoration plan and worked hard to put it into action.

Buchsbaum also was a lead negotiator in securing the Compact -- the landmark accord to protect the Great Lakes from harmful withdrawals within the basin and diversion outside it -- whose strong leadership kept the talks on track when disagreements between environmental and business groups threatened to derail them. The region's governors and premiers in 2005 signed the Compact language that Buchsbaum helped to craft. After working to achieve the agreement's passage by state legislatures, he played a key role in securing the votes in Congress that put the Compact on the desk of President George W. Bush.

He also played a key role in passing Michigan's Polluter Pay Law for toxic cleanups, and was part of the legal team behind the ongoing, $29 million cleanup of dioxin pollution along the Tittabawassee River.

Buchsbaum has shared his deep knowledge of law and science through congressional testimony and major research reports, and passes along that expertise to future leaders as an adjunct law professor at the University of Michigan.

"Andy Buchsbaum's political instincts and deep understanding of Great Lakes issues have put him among the most successful champions of our freshwater heritage," said Chris Kolb, MEC president. "I think what makes him so effective is that all of his work is rooted in a genuine love for the Great Lakes and a passion for preserving them as a source of enjoyment and wonder for future generations. We are grateful to Andy for his efforts and honored to recognize his achievements -- and I know there are many more to come -- with this award."

Read more on Andy Buchsbaum.

Bill Craig
Craig has spent 25 years as President of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association. Born of a dispute over a proposed golf course development, the group has since worked to unite the community around the 500-plus-acre Wayne County sanctuary as a beloved refuge for recreation and education.

But that's just one branch of Craig's long and varied career of volunteerism on behalf of southeast Michigan's waterways and wildlife. A chief focus of that work has been restoring the Rouge River, Michigan's most developed watershed.

Craig for six years chaired and for 10 years was vice chair of the Rouge River Advisory Council, the local stakeholder group convened by the Department of Environmental Quality to restore the watershed and work toward its removal from the list of toxic hotspots known as Great Lakes Areas of Concern. He also chaired the council's habitat committee, on which he still serves. And he represents the Rouge watershed on the Statewide Public Advisory Council, which facilitates public input on all 12 of Michigan's AOCs.

Since 1988 Craig has run the Holliday Preserve cleanup site for Rouge Rescue, an annual volunteer event held at dozens of sites in the watershed. He secures sponsors, creates cleanup plans, coordinates volunteers and leads them in cutting stubborn, invasive honeysuckle, and wading into Tonquish and Morgan creeks to remove trash and manage logjams.

Removing logjams was long a main Rouge Rescue activity, but that changed when Craig learned that keeping some woody debris in the stream was important for wildlife habitat. He conducted in-depth research and -- finding only technical reports and little practical instruction -- developed guidelines for when to remove, move or even add woody debris to maintain a healthy stream environment. A publication on woody debris management that Craig helped author is now used in watersheds across Michigan, and the guidelines are even used by the DEQ.

"Bill Craig has spent decades working steadily and with little fanfare to restore the Rouge River, conserve wildlife and reconnect local residents with nature," Kolb said. "He leads by example, generously volunteering his time and doing whatever is necessary to achieve progress, whether that's wading chest-deep in a stream with a chainsaw to manage woody debris, helping kids create wildlife habitat in their schoolyards or serving on advisory committees to help steer the Rouge's recovery. Bill's commitment is admirable, and his impact on Michigan's environment is immense."

Read more on Bill Craig.

Photos of the award winners are available upon request.

Past winners of the Milliken Award are Steve Hamp, Peter Stroh, Peter Wege, Marty Fluharty, Peter Karmanos, Congressman John Dingell, Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Mary C. Brown, Bunyan Bryant, PhD, Lana Pollack, Faye Alexander Nelson, Becky Humphries, Rosina Bierbaum, Dave Dempsey and Rich Vander Veen.

Past winners of the Petoskey Prize are Debbie Romak, Alison & David Swan, Diane Hebert, Terry Swier, Michelle Hurd Riddick, Don A. Griffin, Lynn Henning, Carol Drake, Rusty Gates, Margaret Weber, Ken Smith, Blair Miller, Bob Andrus and Steve Hamilton.

The awards will be presented at MEC's 17th Annual Environmental Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor City Club, 1830 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor. Tickets are $100. For more information, call 517-487-9539 or visit www.environmentalcouncil.org.
Andy McGlashen: 517-420-1908
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