Changes to DNR’s “Eco-regions” under consideration

By AMY ROBINSON
Legislation’s been introduced in Lansing to make some changes in how the DNR purchases state land.
The issue centers on what are called “Ecoregions.” Those are large areas of the state with similar ecologies.  The DNR uses the regions when considering land acquisitions.  
But now, Republican State Senator Darwin Booher said ecoregions are too broad a basis for land purchases.  Senator Booher will take over as Chair of the Capital Outlay committee in January.
“We are the only ones who can spend it, but we have to have the project that we’re spending on, specific. That’s not what Ecoregions do. Ecoregions gives you the whole state, you can buy anywhere within the whole state.”
The DNR said it developed ecoregions in the 1960. There are four ecoregions in Michigan. They’ve been used for considering land acquisitions since the mid-2000s.
Still, Ed Golder with the DNR said the department is ready to take a look at the changes that Senator Booher is suggesting.
“We haven’t done a thorough analysis of this bill, but in terms of Senator Booher’s overall point of wanting more transparency in the process and wanting to know which specific parcels we’d like to acquire, we’d certainly like to work with him on that.”
Senator Booher’s bill on ecosystems has been introduced and is headed for hearings in the Natural Resources committee.
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This weekend is the first North American chestnut growers workshop in 20 years

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
We’ve all heard the famous carol…chestnuts roasting on an open fire. 
Now, the healthy, gluten-free nut is offering more than just a familiar tune, it’s being highlighted as a profitable crop in a workshop this weekend. 
The North American Chestnut Farm Workshop will be held in Jackson. 
It’s the first of its kind in twenty years and targets established chestnut growers and people who are considering starting a chestnut orchard. 
The demand for chestnuts has increased over the years, and this is a way to reach out to new growers to help meet the need. 
Dennis Fulbright is a professor at Michigan State University. He said there will be speakers at the workshop. 
“We have some speakers from different countries in Turkey, Italy, China, Australia and they’ll be telling us because chestnut’s a worldwide nut. It’s the most popular nut in the world and these people have been growing and researching nuts for a while so we can learn a lot from them.”
Fulbright said there is a 100 dollar fee to attend the workshop. He said that will cover the cost of food.

The DNR reminds residents of fire safety tips this Labor Day

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
Labor Day weekend awaits us, which means it’s time for outdoor activities with the family like hiking, biking and maybe even sitting around a campfire. 
Although it all sounds fun, the DNR wants to remind everyone to keep fire safety in mind this upcoming holiday weekend. 
Anyone who stayed in Michigan this summer would agree that we had an extremely hot summer with low rainfall for many areas. 
These dry conditions have increased the potential for fires. 
Usually the late August period is when temperatures start to cool down, but this upcoming weekend is expected to reach high temperatures. 
Paul Kollmeyer is the Fire Prevention Specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. He said there have been a number of fires this year. 
so far in 2012 the state of MI, department of natural resources has responded to 441 fires which total 23,375 acres which is a large amount of acreage 
Kollmeyer said campfires and barbecues are prone to causing forest fires. 
He said the best way to practice fire safety is to make sure to clear out all vegetation, have water handy and put the fire out before leaving.  

Cherry Growers, Inc investing in northern Michigan economy – getting incentives from the MEDC

BY JESI MUNGUIA
The Michigan Business Development Program is supporting the expansion of Cherry Growers and Materne North America. The companies are investing $35.9 million and adding 137 new jobs in Michigan.
In a statement announcing the deal, the CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the companies, “exemplify Michigan’s improving economy and it’s strategy to help companies flourish and grow.”
Amy Deprez is Director of Development and Finance for the MEDC. She said Cherry Growers and Materne are partnering up to manufacture healthy and convenient pouch-based fruit snacks… 
For 15 years these two companies are gonna work and actually co- exist to manufacture the product that is currently only manufactured I think in France. Cherry Growers is existing in the state of Michigan where Materne was not. It was a french company so it’s a partnership between the two.
Deprez said that even with the lack of fruit crops this year the companies will not be affected. The two companies are in a agreement to have fruit shipped in from other states if need be.

Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Earns National Recognition

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy has been preserving land and wildlife for the central Michigan area for more than twenty years. Now, the organization has received national recognition for its conservation efforts. 
The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy was awarded accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. 
To receive this honor, a third party looks at how an organization assesses properties, conducts business management services and makes sure it’s following legal practices. 
The conservancy has preserved land in Isabella, Mecosta, Clare, Gratiot and Montcalm counties through limited land acquisition, conservation agreements and education. 
Stan Lilley is the Executive Director for the conservancy. He said all of the organization’s hard work has paid off. 
“This is really big news in our world. There are about 1700 conservancies or land trusts around the country and we are part of 181 that are currently accredited by the land trust accreditation commission so it’s certainly a thrill for all of us and just a culmination of all the hard work to prepare us for the process.”
Lilley said the accreditation validates the organization’s efforts. 
He said the accreditation provides a concrete way to demonstrate its commitment to the community.

MI Supreme Court hearing will zero in on ballot controversies

BY RICK PLUTA
The Michigan Supreme Court will hold a hearing Thursday on whether four questions should appear on the statewide November ballot. The court’s expected to rule very quickly to meet election deadlines. 
The proposals would guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, allow more casinos in Michigan, require super-majorities before the Legislature can increase taxes, and demand voter approval before the state could build a new international bridge to Canada. 
Some of the campaigns, the ones blocked from the ballot, want to see some changes in how elections decisions are made. They say a state elections board should not make determinations on whether proposals meet the requirements of the Michigan Constitution, that’s up to the courts. 
They say campaigns that gather enough petition signatures should be approved. 
One of the campaigns also says it’s too easy for a question to get bogged down because it takes a vote from both a Republican and a Democrat on the board to get on the ballot. 
Copyright 2012, MPRN

Midwest legislative confab generates ideas and suggestions for feds

BY AMY ROBINSON
Midwestern state lawmakers will watch this fall to see if some of their summer work takes root.  
The legislators met at a regional conference and sent a number of proposals on to federal lawmakers.
A couple of proposals championed by Michigan Senator Darwin Booher include one pushing for improved care and management of public lands and another for increased controls of Cormorants.  The birds were endangered in the 1970s and have rebounded since and become a nuisance to, particularly waterfront, communities.
Senator Booher said state lawmakers from the conference are promoting their proposals to federal legislators, but as for what will happen from there…
“Well we will have to wait and see what that does. We sent a copy to our congressman and our senators so that they know that this is not just Michigan. This is all of the states in the Midwest.”
Senator Booher said he’s hoping the proposals gain some attention since they already have the support of lawmakers from a number of states.