Michigan Environmental Report

News from Michigan Environmental Council on public policies affecting the health of Michigan's people and environment

Organization forms to improve economic, environmental conditions for farms

Tuesday marked the launch of an organization aimed at improving the economic and environmental conditions hindering Michigan farms.

Michigan Agriculture Advancement, or MiAA, will advocate for statewide policies and programs that promote farm prosperity, weather resiliency, water quality and rural economies. Michigan Environmental Council will be a strong supporter of its efforts.

MEC’s 2020 Petoskey Prize Winner: Gary Rayburn, Pine River protector

Don a coat and walk to the Pine River’s edge in Gratiot County during Michigan’s winter months and you’d think the Pine River “was the most wonderful river in the world,” said Gary Rayburn.

Gary Rayburn is not fooled, though. The high E. coli levels are always there. And when the weather warms, the algae rise from the depths, a thick, neon green sign of nutrient overload from manure runoff. 

MEC’s 2020 Milliken Award winner: Bill Rustem, conservation champion

When Bill Rustem stepped away from his countryside home in Frankenmuth and into Lansing, he never stopped birding among the pine trees and fishing from trout streams. In the 50 years since, he has never stopped shaping landmark policies and laws that protect the nature he has deeply cared for.

Rustem’s passion for the public good is decades deep, and his work’s legacy will extend for decades more. He led a ballot campaign to create the state’s revolutionary bottle deposit system. He helped create a public land and recreation trust fund powered by energy industry revenue. He shaped policy on water and wildlife protections. And he continues to strengthen the protections he helped create through partnership, patience and persistence.

Historical markers reveal Michigan’s long legacy of environmental activists

In 1959, E. Genevieve Gillette gathered conservation organizations and citizen activists like herself together. She was tired of the neglect faced by Michigan’s new state park system, which she had helped create.

The Michigan Parks Association was born from that meeting, and Gillette, its president, fought to improve the funding and direction the state gave to Michigan’s parks.

Soon after, she successfully lobbied the Michigan Legislature to pass a massive park bond. The following year, at 62 years old, she lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass a conservation fund and create Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Eventually, the two governments heeded all her demands.

More than 60 years later, civil servants gathered around a remembrance for Gillette: a newly erected historical marker at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park near Muskegon. Now, residents and tourists can read how one Michigan citizen led the charge in creating, expanding and funding Michigan’s state park system.

A school’s location can harm students’ health, education

Many Michigan families once had a set routine on school day mornings. Now, they are hazy due to COVID-19. The pandemic not only threatens public health and school openings, it could impact how well children concentrate and succeed academically.

Some families, however, have struggled to get children to school and to learn effectively at no fault of their own long before the pandemic began.

PFAS limits for drinking water have been established

Wednesday was historic in the fight for clean water. Michigan adopted enforceable limits on harmful chemical compounds in drinking water. The move, years in the making, will boost the physical and developmental health of those that have fought for years to make the limits a reality: the people.

A joint committee in the state’s legislature quietly allowed proposed limits on seven per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, in drinking water to lapse, setting the limits into law. Some limits are the lowest in the nation.

“These limits were long-needed and were long-supported by the vast majority of Michigan residents,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for Michigan Environmental Council, who testified before the joint committee Wednesday. “These limits will have long-lasting benefits, too. They will prompt more site testing, place pressure on companies to stop using PFAS and galvanize more statewide PFAS protections.”

Algal bloom prediction proves governments must improve their nutrient pollution plans

Thursday morning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its partners released the 2020 Seasonal Forecast of Harmful Algal Blooms for Lake Erie

NOAA predicted a moderate bloom severity of 4.5 out of 10 that could possibly reach 5.5. An index of 5 indicates severe algal blooms. In 2015, the governors of Ohio and Michigan, along with the premier of Ontario, set a public goal of reducing nutrient pollution by 40% by 2025, with 2020 as a halfway interim goal of 20%.

In response to today’s report, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Freshwater Future, Michigan Environmental Council, and Ohio Environmental Council are calling on the governors and the premier to improve domestic action plans to provide a blueprint, not just a long list of best management practices, that the public can use to hold decision-makers accountable.

A Second Space to Advocate

Michigan Environmental Council’s board of directors is composed of 17 members committed to Michigan’s environment and whose experiences and perspectives make them champions of it. Jeremy Orr - Natural Resources Defense Council attorney and MEC board member representing the Michigan NAACP - is protecting Black Lives Matter protesters and their rights as a legal observer for the Detroit and Michigan chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.