Conservation advocates push for renewable energy to help preserve Michigan wetlands

renewable energy

Lansing Township wetland (Michigan Advance/Susan J. Demas)

By Michigan Advance

June 6, 2024

BY LUCY VALESKI, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—A mix of state-level policies and funding can help Michigan preserve wetlands and reduce flooding, according to speakers at Audubon’s Great Lakes Advocacy Day.

Conservationists gathered in the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate for wetland protection through policy measures. The event was hosted by Audubon Great Lakes, an organization focused on protecting birds and their habitats.

The group highlighted recent policy and funding opportunities in Michigan to support wetlands and wildlife and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The event featured state House Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adviser Steven Chadwick and Audubon Great Lakes policy director Marnie Urso.

The Michigan DNR is using COVID-19-era federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for some conservation projects around the state. One opportunity would include wetland restoration, Chadwick said. Another project he mentioned was restoring a wetland in southeastern Michigan to help prevent algal blooms in Lake Erie, which may help protect drinking water.

“There’s some opportunity to purchase some agricultural ground that has some wetland restoration potential,” Chadwick said. “That’s a big chunk of money, and we’re working on that process. Hopefully we have that wrapped up here this summer, as well.”

Chadwick also spoke about funding in the Michigan DNR budget that can be used for wetland restoration and flood prevention in rural and urban areas. The DNR was given $2 million in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget for wetland restoration projects.

Pohutsky, who serves as a chair of the Natural Resources, Environmental, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee, spoke about Michigan’s Clean Energy Future Package, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed last year and supports a goal of the state using 100% carbon-free energy sources by 2040.

Urso said Audubon was pushing for the initiative to be fully implemented and funded, so the collection of bills could reach the set-out clean energy goals.

“We needed an aggressive plan, and it is one,” Pohutsky said. “… One only needs to look around at changing climate patterns, increases in extreme weather events and the impact that all of those things have on wildlife, to recognize that we’re, frankly, on borrowed time when it comes to correcting our course.”

Urso said Audubon was also invested in renewable energy policy, including SB 152, which would create community solar energy projects.

Pohutsky also highlighted the importance of state investment in environmental goals, including wetland protection.

“We’re all very proud to call ourselves a Great Lakes State, and I’m happy that we are able to put our money where our mouth is,” she said. “But investment is just that. It requires consistent investment. Looking forward, that is a huge goal of mine, to make sure that we continue to put money into our wetlands and make sure that they’re as protected as we can get them.”

She ended her talk calling out the mission of Audubon as being uncontroversial and cutting through some polarization that surrounds environmental policy. Pohutsky joked that many of her colleagues had strong negative reactions to renewable energy sources, but “no one has anything bad to say about birds.”

READ MORE: Michigan United Conservation Clubs challenges shortened coyote hunting season

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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