Walker announces legislation to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species
Monday, June 20, 2011
LANSING--State Sen. Howard Walker and his legislative colleagues today announced a comprehensive package of bills designed to protect Michigan from increased ecological catastrophe and millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Senate Bills 508 - 510 will establish a council to determine how to protect the state from continued invasions of aquatic invasive species.
Walker, who is vice chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources, compared the council with the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact.
“First we protected the quantity of the water; now we’re protecting the quality,” said Walker, R-Traverse City. “The Great Lakes Basin Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Advisory Council will be composed of experts from the Great Lakes region who will work on a plan to prevent, eradicate, and monitor aquatic invasive species throughout the region. We cannot continue to deal with threats as they present themselves. We need a long-term and a short-term plan in place now.”
Under the new legislation, the AIS council will work with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Office of the Great Lakes to update and implement the state’s existing AIS management plan. The measures would also require the council to review all existing state laws on aquatic invasive species and make recommendations for strengthening protections against further invasions.
Walker; Sens. Goeff Hansen and Tom Casperson; and business, conservation, and environmental organizations spoke about the proposals at Open Space in Traverse City.
Hansen, chair of the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, stressed the importance of the bills.
“Moving this reform package is critical to the future job creation,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “As someone who represents lakeshore constituents, I understand that a healthy ecosystem is key to our region. Invasive species are threatening our way of life and action is needed now. This legislation is a top priority for me, and the committee members are determined to move swiftly on these important measures.”
Casperson, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, emphasized the economic impact of invasive species.
“Aquatic invasive species have already affected tourism, fishing, and related industries in Michigan,” Casperson said. “In 2006, ship-borne invasive species may have cost more than $200 million in lost economic benefits in the Great Lakes region by reducing sport and commercial fisheries, reducing wildlife watching, and increasing the operating costs for raw water users. This economic loss will only increase if nothing is done to protect the lakes.”
Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, applauded the new legislation.
“The enhanced efforts being proposed correctly reflect the seriousness and urgency of this problem, and the importance of responding in collaboration with other states and provinces,” Eder said.
Rich Bowman, director of Government Relations for the Nature Conservancy in Michigan, also praised the reform package.
“We at the Nature Conservancy are pleased to be working with Senator Walker to address this important issue,” Bowman said. “We think this proposed approach of an advisory board to address pressing threats is smart and will result in positive outcomes for the state both environmentally and economically.”
SBs 508 - 510 are expected to be introduced in the Senate on Tuesday.