Environment Picture

Michigan Conservation / Environmental Timeline

1837 Michigan becomes a state.
1859 Fish stocks already depleted in Lake St.Clair and Detroit River; first fisheries regulations enacted.
1867 Lumbering boom begins; Legislature establishes committee on tree-planting.
1870s Michigan Sportsman’s Association begins to agitate for controls on fishing and hunting to protect vanishing game.
1878 Last significant roosting of passenger pigeon in Michigan. Estimates of market hunting kill at Petoskey range from 1.5 million to 1 billion.
1887 Michigan becomes first state to create post of paid state game warden.
1880s Lumbering peaks and critics begin to challenge deforestation of northern Michigan.
1888 Legislature creates Independent Forestry Commission to propose forest policy.
1889 Legislature abolishes Forestry Commission in backlash to its conservation proposals. Over 95 percent of state’s virgin forest has been cut, yielding $2.5 billion to private interests, but little of it has been replanted.
1899 Legislature creates new Forestry Commission and gives it power to remove certain state lands from sales to serve as basis for “forest reserves.”
1904 Michigan Audubon Society forms to protect wildlife; Edith Munger becomes President in 1911 and champions bird protection.
1908 Massive forest fires gut northern Michigan, killing dozens, and spark public cry for forestry reform.
1909 Legislature creates Public Domain Commission (forerunner of DNR) to manage forests, fish and game.
1919 Legislature creates state park commission and begins state park system.
1918 International Joint Commission reports on gross pollution of boundary waters, including Detroit River, notes cholera/typhoid deaths from drinking Great Lakes water.
1921 Legislature creates Department of Conservation to replace Public Domain Commission.
1920s Internationally known author James Curwood of Owosso campaigns against “political influence” in conservation policy.
1929 After Curwood’s death, Legislature removes appointment of Department of Conservation Director from Governor and transfers to Conservation Commission.
1929 Legislature creates Stream Control Commission to combat water pollution.
1930s During Depression years, state receives millions of acres of tax-reverted northern Michigan land to further expand forest holdings.
1937 Responding to another legislative attack on the independence of the Department of Conservation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs forms and successfully protects powers of Conservation Commission.
1939 The Detroit Audubon Society was founded.
1945 Conservation director P.J. Hoffmaster and Ironwood businessman Raymond Dick successfully fight off lumber interests to preserve Porcupine Mountains as a state park.
1948 Massive duck kills on Detroit River due to oil and chemical pollution cause public outcry.
1949 Legislature toughens water pollution law and creates Water Resources Commission, but pollution intensifies.
1965 After outcry from citizens about soot and choking air pollution, Legislature passes pollution control law and creates Air Pollution Commission.
1966 Department of Conservation fisheries director Howard Tanner unleashes “coho madness” with introduction of salmon to Lake Michigan, creating a new constituency for cleanup of water pollution.
1968 Voters approve $335 million clean water bond.
1968 West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) forms.
1969 After three-year fight, under prodding from Conservation Director Ralph MacMullan, Michigan becomes first state to ban most uses of DDT.
1969 Department of Conservation becomes Department of Natural Resources, and DNR acquires pollution control functions from Department of Public Health in early 1970s.
1970 Michigan Environmental Protection Act, Great Lakes Shorelands Act.
1972 Inland Lakes and Streams Act.
1976 Organized by MUCC Director Tom Washington, voters approve deposit on beer and soda containers after industry kills bill in Legislature.
1977 Governor Milliken wins tough limits on phosphates in laundry detergent to clean up Great Lakes.
1979 Michigan passes strong Wetlands Protection Act.
1980 Michigan Environmental Council forms.
1982 First state funding for toxic waste site cleanup.
1984 Voters approve proposal to put Natural Resources Trust Fund in state Constitution to prevent raids on land acquisition funding.
1985 Governors sign Great Lakes Charter to stop diversions.
1988 Voters approve $800 million environmental and recreational bond.
1989 Legislature strengthens sand dune protection act to limit effect of commercial/residential development.
1990 Polluter pay law.
1991 Governor Engler abolishes air, water commissions, transfers power to name chair of Natural Resources Commission to himself.
1995 Polluter pay law amended, brownfield redevelopment program launched.
1995 Governor splits DNR into two agencies, creating new Department of Environmental Quality.
1998 Voters approve $675 million pollution cleanup and recreation bond.
2002 Bowing to public pressure, Legislature bans directional drilling for oil and gas under the Great Lakes. Voters approve $1 billion clean water bond by a margin of 60-40%.
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