Environment Picture

MEC environmental heroes

Lana Pollack is at home in the boisterous halls and backrooms of the State Capitol. Rusty Gates is more comfortable wading in the cold clear waters of the Au Sable River.

Both have made innumerable contributions to environmental protection in Michigan—Pollack as State Senator and leader of the Michigan Environmental Council and Gates as the founder of Anglers of the Au Sable, a group that has beaten back numerous attempts to despoil the world class northern Michigan trout stream.

Both environmental heroes were honored April 30 by a room packed full of supporters at the Michigan Environmental Council’s annual awards celebration.

Pollack earned the state’s highest environmental honor, the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. Gates was awarded the Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership given annually to a grassroots activist.

Special recognition was given to Troy High School student Zach Kilgore for his tremendous work on behalf of Troy’s remaining wetlands.

Close to 200 guests, including a slate of state and local elected officials, packed the Cobblestone Farm community center in Ann Arbor to pay tribute to the trio.

“It was a tremendous turnout on a rainy night for two people whose accomplishments speak for themselves and for one young man from whom I suspect we will hear more in the future,” said Chris Kolb, Michigan Environmental Council president.

Pollack was the author of numerous environmental protection measures, including the groundbreaking “Polluter Pay” statute, during her 12 years as State Senator. More recently, she led the Michigan Environmental Council to prominence as one of the state’s most respected nonprofits during her 12-year tenure that ended with her retirement in 2008.

Gates was instrumental in the adoption of the “no-kill” fishing regulations on a prime stretch of the Au Sable River—a controversial measure that split the angling community and earned the soft-spoken Gates death threats. Gates also founded the Anglers of the Au Sable organization, whose impact on the health of the river has ranged from tree planting programs to ferocious David-vs.-Goliath legal victories against foes as powerful as oil and gas interests and the federal government.

Kilgore, the high schooler, has produced award-winning videos documenting biological diversity in the fragments of wetlands that remain near his home in Troy. He has appeared before the Troy City Council, lobbying for a wetlands protection ordinance, and is working with the MEC member group East Michigan Environmental Action Council to protect the sensitive areas.

Past winners of the Milliken Award: Steve Hamp, Peter Stroh, Peter Wege, Marty Fluharty, Peter Karmanos, Congressman John Dingell, Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Mary C. Brown, Bunyan Bryant, PhD.

Past winners of the Petoskey Prize: Debbie Romak, Alison & David Swan, Diane Hebert, Terry Swier, Michelle Hurd Riddick, Don A. Griffin, Lynn Henning, Carol Drake.
-Hugh McDiarmid, Jr.
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