Conserving Michigan's Natural Resources
And while commercials tout the Pure Michigan brand all around the world, the hard work of protecting and restoring our great outdoor heritage, as always, falls on the shoulders of the conservation-minded folks who frequent its woods and waters. Michigan's natural resources not only improve our environment and enhance our lives, they enhance the special places that attract visitors and might again inspire our young people to stay, play and invest their ingenuity and creativity in our state.
By facilitating a stronger place-based quality of life strategy and more effectively collaborating to connect, restore, enhance and promote these natural assets, Michigan’s outdoors and natural resources—Pure Michigan—can become a much larger and more significant economic development tool for attracting talent and rebuilding our state’s overall economic vibrancy.
Natural resource assets would help achieve better connections between public and private agencies working to protect, enhance and promote these resources. Opportunities to better partner with regional and state groups include initiatives around rural asset identification, habitat restoration, stormwater management, green infrastructure, forestry, trail development and land acquisitions.
The traditional avenues by which our natural resources are tapped for economic gain—timber production and mining, for example—are alive and well in Michigan today. From woody biomass utilization to natural gas recovery technologies and new mining plays in the Upper Peninsula, interest in these components of Michigan’s natural resource economy is on the rise. Understandably, these job-creating opportunities are enjoying strong support from Michigan lawmakers and agency staff.
But delivering on the full economic potential of the Pure Michigan brand (and the places that are its foundation) should also mean that, as these extractive operations are undertaken, we look ahead to ensure that the state and local communities have a plan for after the operations are gone. By and large, these industries are relatively short-lived. Once the timber and minerals are removed, the companies and jobs move on, often leaving rural communities with little to show for their efforts.
How might the state and local partners capture additional financial benefit from these one-time removals and invest the money in things that will make local communities attractive and economically sustainable in the future? Could a new mining haul road be built, for example, to also one day provide improved recreational access?
Michigan is currently under-utilizing its natural resource base as an economic development strategy that embraces and employs these assets as place-based, quality of life investments in the emerging, talent-based economy. Conservation, environmental and outdoor recreation groups can help communities and leaders identify strategies and rally public support for a natural asset-based economic development strategy that would put our state’s outdoor quality of life on par with other urban redevelopment and extraction-driven natural resources initiatives. The end result would be a set of implementable natural resource-based economic development plans, with local support and implementation teams, to fully utilize and protect the unique conservation, natural resource and outdoor recreation assets of Michigan’s diverse landscape.
MEC Conservation Priorities
- Support existing laws that preserve of Michigan’s greatest and most iconic natural assets: sand dunes, natural rivers and free-flowing blue ribbon trout stream, clean beaches, and contiguous forests.
- Promote Michigan’s natural assets such as parks, beaches, forests and rivers as critical components in building a New Economy based on talent attraction; tap these assets to build a strong brand of a fun and healthy state with lots of access to the great outdoors.
- Secure and expand appropriate public ownership and access to Michigan’s great outdoors and encourage a stewardship ethic and appreciation for nature in current and future generations.
- Transition Michigan toward more sustainable harvest practices and focus on building more diversity and resiliency into the management approaches for the state’s forests and recreational lands.
- Preserve critical habitats and representations of Michigan’s unique and fragile natural ecology, and support efforts to restore healthy ecosystems where they have been degraded.
- Use both strategic financial incentives and appropriate growth management regulations in Michigan to guide land use and development in ways that protect our amazing natural resources, cultural heritage and agricultural viability.
- Ensure that mining, drilling, logging and other potentially harmful industries proceed only when negative impacts are either avoided or minimized, and that these short-term industries pay their fair share to support a transition to sustainable uses of the natural resources such as tourism and recreation.
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