Snyder Vetoes Anti-biodiversity Bill

By Michael Eckert, Times Herald

First, I was unexpectedly pleased that Gov. Rick Snyder did something that I thought was reasonable.

Then the very people he said he was trying to help criticized him.

So now I’m just confused — maybe.

Snyder on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have prevented the Department of Natural Resources from having biodiversity as one of its goals in managing state forests. Biodiversity means managing the forests in a way that supports growth of the greatest numbers of native plants and animals.

A wild place with deer and squirrels and frogs and rabbits and trees and flowers and weeds has biological diversity. A field planted in long straight rows of soybeans does not.

“Biodiversity is essential to how our world-class natural resources are managed,” Snyder said. “While there are opportunities to look into our forest management practices, reducing biodiversity authority will only cause confusion and hurt our forests.”

In his veto letter, Snyder sounds like a tree-hugger:

“The proposed legislation — specifically the re-definition of the conservation of biological diversity and the complete elimination of designation options — causes confusion and inconsistencies and could make it more difficult to sustainably manage Michigan’s Public forests and world class natural resources to meet the changing needs of current and future generations.”

But it’s all about business:

“Legislation that may threaten forest certification could weaken existing industries and make Michigan less competitive in attracting additional forest products investment. I believe there is continuing support by the forest products industry to maintain certification and a clear understanding of the need to protect biodiversity.”

He apparently doesn’t know what the forest products industry supports.

The Michigan Forest Products Council issued a press release promptly after the veto, complaining that allowing salamanders to thrive in Michigan forests would render them unproductive and would “severely impact Michigan’s thriving forest products industry.”

Biological diversity is bad for profits unless it means long, straight rows of pulpwood trees, apparently.

But it is good not only for the wild places but also for some of the other things that are important to Michigan’s economy along with the thriving forest products industry. Michigan’s biologically diverse woods support tourism, recreation and hunting and other activities that put money into the pockets of businesses beyond the timber industry.

Turning the woods into pulpwood deserts wouldn’t attract the same sort of economic diversity.

The biodiversity bill wasn’t Snyder’s only veto Thursday.

He also vetoed the bill that would ban using remotely controlled aircraft or watercraft to harass lawful hunters and anglers. He said he vetoed the bill, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, because the Legislature didn’t pass a companion bill that would have prohibited using remote-control drones while hunting.

It’s an unfortunate legal technicality — the bills were written so that one couldn’t take effect without the other.

But they really are separate issues and each deserves to be debated on its merits.

When is the next lame duck session? Maybe they’ll try again.

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