By Chris Grubb
With the passing of December, GLAHNF is saying goodbye to 2005’s communications theme. Lest we forget the importance of communication with the excitement of the new storm-water runoff theme, I want to reflect upon a recent successful event on Saginaw Bay focused on getting aquatic habitat and Great Lakes issues in the media.
In my short career in environmental advocacy, it has become abundantly clear that the media plays an important role in shaping public perceptions of an issue. Readers of this column will surely remember the “beach grooming,” a.k.a. coastal wetland destruction, a.k.a. “battle of the weeds,” issue that led to the first substantive weakening of Michigan’s wetland protection Law in 2003. One particularly frustrating aspect of working on this issue was that several news stories mischaracterized the issue as the big bad government vs. the poor private property owner. The critical value of coastal wetlands to the Great Lakes ecosystem (i.e. coastal wetlands are utilized by over 90 percent of Great Lakes fish species at some point in their life cycle) was completely lost.
Press Day on the Bay is Born
As a leader in the fight to protect wetlands in Michigan, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council (Petoskey, MI) hatched a plan to hold Press Day on the Bay events in the “beach grooming” hotspots of Grand Traverse Bay and Saginaw Bay. The events were designed to build relationships among conservation/ environmental groups and outdoor/environmental reporters, and to drive home the importance of coastal wetlands to the Great Lakes. The events were organized by the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, as well as local groups like the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay and the Lone Tree Council.
With expert assistance from Grand Valley State University’s Dr. Don Uzarski – a well recognized coastal wetland expert in the Great Lakes – the reporters were able to greatly increase their knowledge about these unique ecosystems. As the Press Day on Saginaw Bay caravan pulled up to an expansive Saginaw Bay coastal marsh, Dr. Uzarksi had participants rolling up pants, sliding on rubber boots, and strapping on waders – we were about to get wet! As birds flittered around and frogs darted out of hidden refuges, the reporters got a sense of the dynamic nature of Saginaw Bay’s coastal marshes, and had the chance to pepper Dr. Uzarski with questions.
At the end of the day, reporters walked away a bit tired, but with full notebooks and armed with new contacts and a renewed appreciation for an incredible natural resource. Outdoor columns and news stories already generated from this event have demonstrated that the Press Day on the Bay events were a resounding success!
For more information:
Chris Grubb, GLAHNF Lake Advisor
National Wildlife Federation
213 W. Liberty, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 769-3351 • firstname.lastname@example.org