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MEC's 2012 awardees make impacts globally, locally

Statwide environmental honors to be bestowed Wednesday on Rosina Bierbaum, Blair Miller
Jun 18, 2012
Rosina M. Bierbaum shaped environmental policy on stages including the Oval Office, the World Bank, and the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources (SNRE).

Blair Miller shook up his rural township government with no-holds-barred activism, then brought the community together with tireless work, restoring a bike/hike trail that now connects local schools, neighborhoods and businesses.

This Wednesday, June 20, they will share a podium when they receive the Michigan Environmental Council’s annual awards for environmental leadership and grassroots activism.

“Both these leaders have made extraordinary contributions to protecting our natural resources and public health, albeit on very different stages,” said Michigan Environmental Council President Chris Kolb. “Michigan has a proud tradition of citizens seizing the initiative to make a difference in their communities and their world. These two exemplify that Michigan spirit.”

Rosina Bierbaum
Bierbaum, the recently retired dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment, will receive the state’s highest environmental honor – the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented annually for outstanding leadership, enduring commitment and extraordinary public service in protecting natural resources at the local, state and national levels.

She has served in the Office of Science Technology and Policy in the Executive Office of the President where she was senior science advisor on environmental issues and had oversight of the nation’s $5 billion research budget in that area. She represented the U.S. at many international science meetings and regularly briefed President Bill Clinton’s administration on climate change issues; she also served as acting director of OSTP in the transition to George W. Bush’s administration.

She continues to serve on President Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and was recently appointed to the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee and as a World Bank Fellow. At the University of Michigan she enhanced an SNRE master’s program curriculum that now includes multiple disciplines, ranging from ecology to economics to public policy to urban planning and engineering. The interdisciplinary approach helps bridge the disconnect between science, academia, business and the real world, as Bierbaum says: “To equip a new generation of environmental problem-solvers with the tools of many disciplines to tackle the increasingly complex environmental issues, and to foresee and forestall as yet unrecognized ones.”

SNRE now regularly turns out students whose natural resource degrees are paired with degrees in business, engineering or law. The result is scientist practitioners who are trained to apply their knowledge in more than an esoteric way.

Blair Miller
Miller is a controversial figure in rural Vermontville Township, where he was elected and then promptly recalled from the Township Board after scraps with the “good old boy” network. But his latest endeavor is a labor of love for his community.

He is the force behind the unearthing and restoration of a forgotten stretch of public trail and greenway connecting Maple Valley High School with the business district in Vermontville – about 25 miles southwest of Lansing. The 1.5-mile restoration includes a trestle spanning the Thornapple River and protection for natural vegetation and wildlife along the river floodplain that has remained virtually unchanged in 200 years.

The project has been a catalyst for environmental education in the schools and community, non-motorized recreation, including students going to and from school, future plans for more trail restoration, and a river cleanup that has made a stretch of the Thornapple navigable for the first time in decades.

Miller enlisted the assistance of the schools, the community, volunteer groups, the federal Safe Routes to School Program and a partnership with MEC member group Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA).

Miller will receive the Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership, awarded annually to a person, nominated by an MEC member organization, who demonstrates courage, commitment and creativity in protecting Michigan’s natural resources and quality of life.
 The Michigan Environmental Council's 14th Annual Environmental Awards Celebration fundraiser will take place Wednesday, June 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor City Club, 1830 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor. For ticket information call 517-487-9539 or email Andy McGlashen, andy@environmentalcouncil.org. Media arrangements may be made through Hugh McDiarmid Jr., 248-660-4300 or hugh@environmentalcouncil.org.
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 and Becky Humphries.

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 and Ken Smith.
Hugh McDiarmid Jr., 248-660-4300
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