money, citizen vigilance will be key to environmental health
May 9, 2002
The Sierra Club
is pleased to see so many of its issues embraced by state
Sen. Ken Sikkema and both sides of the aisle in "A Citizens'
Agenda -- An Action Plan to Protect the Great Lakes," the
report resulting from public meetings last fall around Michigan.
The environment should not be a partisan
issue, as it has been for the past 12 years, but the responsibility
of all Michigan citizens. Of course, it's one thing to make
recommendations, and it's another to act on them. Michigan's
public health, environment and economy will depend on action.
Luckily there have been attempts, notably
by Congressman Vern Ehlers and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow,
among others, to bring more money for protection and restoration
into the basin. More money will be the key to any restoration
and protection program.
The Citizens' Agenda executive summary
states the task force "issued a series of findings and recommendations
which will serve as a catalyst for significant policy changes."
Significant policy changes, aye, there's the rub.
Policy changes are easy to make when Michigan
citizens make their wishes known. Note the recent ban on
Great Lakes directional drilling that Gov. John Engler didn't
sign but allowed to take effect. He bowed to citizen pressure.
But is there enough funding to implement
policy changes? Michigan citizens might assume so, but that
may not be the case. Michiganians might also assume that
the recommendations will be implemented soon.
Once this year's election cycle is past,
however, it will take unrelenting citizen pressure to ensure
the recommendations will be implemented within the next
five years. Visible and measurable results will take much
longer. It will be up to Michigan citizens to make sure
our policymakers don't lose sight of the goals of the Citizens'
Several issues in the Citizens' Agenda
are related to public health (such as enforcement of environmental
protection laws, airborne toxins, land-based issues, fishery
health and management). These will bear close watching.
The Engler administration has fought against
fish advisories that are complete, easy to acquire, easy
to read, and easy to understand. Hey, are these things available
in any language other than English? Well, no, they're not,
according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
And this year, officials are telling us
the 2002 fish advisories will be available on the Web. That's
great, but I have several family members who don't have
computers. As far as distributing hard copies, anglers will
no longer be able to get them from fishing license dealers.
They are available to those in the WIC program or from local
Why are they no longer printing as many
copies? Lack of funding, according to the Michigan Department
of Community Health. The woman on the phone was quick to
offer to transfer me to their communications office for
Why are the fish advisories so important?
Because every inland lake in Michigan has an advisory for
mercury, a chemical associated with slowed learning and
development in children, an obvious public health concern
with important implications for Michigan's future economic
Michigan citizens will need to closely
guard against bad choices being made by policymakers. When
election time rolls around, we need to remember who supported
the wrong decisions.
The Engler administration just last week
decided to allow General Motors in Lansing to spew more
pollution, including mercury, into the air, pollution that
will rain back down onto lakes and into children's playgrounds.
These are the policies that Michigan citizens need to watch
closely and remember when those running for office are waving
the Citizens' Agenda banner.
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