Senate Bill 78 - Biodiversity Stewardship Areas (BSAs)

SB 78 – Biodiversity Stewardship Areas
Summary: Removes Department of Natural Resources authority to section off and create Biodiversity Stewardship Areas (BSAs) on state or private land under the Living Legacies program.
Analysis: Starting in 2006, the DNR’s Living Legacies program was designed to protect and manage Michigan’s areas of unique biological diversity. To do that, the program called for the creation of a statewide network of Biodiversity Stewardship Areas (BSAs). BSAs were described as representing “the best opportunities to manage for our diverse biological heritage (or biodiversity) through long-term conservation of Michigan's ecosystems. Each BSA will include one or more types of ecosystems, and may spread across multiple ownerships.” MUCC was one of a number of partners in this program, and was present at a few of the beginning planning and partner meetings.
In practice, the program turned out to be much larger than had been expected in the program’s concept, and was being interpreted differently by partners and department staff. Instead of a cluster of smaller BSAs, the early plans began designating large areas, some around State Game Areas, that could have potentially stopped or altered human access and use in these areas, or supplanted existing land management plans.
Senate Bill 78 prohibits the DNR, without legislative action, from designating or classifying land specifically for the purposes of maintaining biological diversity.  The bill also ensures the “accessibility, productivity, and use” of the state’s natural resources in the definition of Conservation of Biological Diversity.
Biodiversity is a needed and important part of natural resource management. Biodiversity provides for healthy forests and habitat and creates unique ecosystems that make Michigan the natural resources envy of the country. However, BSAs are not the only mechanism for achieving biological diversity, and, despite the rhetoric surrounding this issue, Senate Bill 78 does not stop the state’s ability to manage our resources with biodiversity in mind. Michigan currently has a diverse array of laws and policies that help protect the biodiversity of our forests, plants and wildlife - from natural and wilderness areas to the state’s annual compartment review process. Biodiversity of our forests and wildlife species should be considered along with the state's other management plans that work in concert with state game areas, wildlife, and forest and timber management.
Current Status: Passed Senate Natural Resources Committee. Before full Senate.
Sponsor: Sen. Tom Casperson (R – Escanaba)
MUCC Action: Supported the amended S-1 version that passed from the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

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