Building Stronger Coalitions in Michigan

Building Stronger Coalitions in Michigan

The past few months have seen a flurry of coalition building in Michigan. The reason for this heightened activity is twofold. One, there have recently been a number of high stakes environmental issues, most notably the debate over directional drilling under Lake Michigan and the Perrier water withdrawal and out-of-Basin water export that have galvanized opposition to these efforts. Two, Governor John Engler, who is term-limited after twelve years in office, will soon be replaced by a new administration.

These issues and many others have spurred the conservation and environmental communities to focus on issues and build an agenda where they can find consensus. This past October the Michigan Environmental Council and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs hosted a Conservation Summit of fifty-eight different groups. Two of the primary goals of the summit were to illustrate how the current administration is failing in its duty to protect the State’s natural resources and to create a proposed “blueprint” for the next executive and legislative branches of government.

The document produced as a result of the Conservation Summit addresses a wide range of environmental issues, but a significant portion of the document focuses on protecting the water resources of the Great Lakes. Some specific items addressed in the document include: water use and out-of-Basin diversions, providing more complete protections of Michigan’s wetlands, striving to eliminate the introduction of exotic species, ensuring the monitoring and protection of Michigan’s beaches, reducing mercury emissions, protecting Michigan’s unique dune ecosystems, and providing better enforcement activities and more citizen oversight.

In the long term, what is perhaps an even more significant accomplishment was to help dissolve the barriers that have traditionally existed between “conservationists” and “environmentalists” by finding the common ground between the different groups of the “conservation” and “environmental” communities.

Another ongoing coalition building effort is called the “Water Policy Planning Project.” This planning project, funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, is helping to define and direct a “water oriented agenda” for the coming years. A steering committee composed of Michigan conservation and environmental organizations is currently developing an agenda for a Michigan Citizen Water Conference tentatively scheduled for March of 2002. Michigan citizens who are interested in attending this summit are encouraged to contact Scott McEwen

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.