LANSING, Michigan – June 13, 2018 – The Michigan House of Representatives passed a pair of bills Tuesday that would streamline the process to restore wetland habitats across Michigan, improving water quality for millions of people and habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals.
The bills are co-sponsored by Rep. Gary Howell (82nd District) and Rep. Joseph Bellino (17th District). House Bill 5854 passed 65-44 and House Bill 5855 passed 64-45 on bipartisan votes. Due to time constraints, the bills were passed in the House with plans to work over the summer with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and stakeholders to strengthen the bills and determine where the program should reside.
House Bill 5854 outlines criteria for obtaining a voluntary wetland restoration permit and has a narrow list of wetland restoration organizations and agencies that can apply for this permit. The bills ensure that these permits cannot be used for mitigation purposes and must be on a completely voluntary basis. Under the legislation, the DNR would issue permits and would consult with the DEQ to ensure only the most qualified projects are successful. However, negotiations are expected to lead to an amendment that would keep permitting with the DEQ.
House Bill 5855 defines different types of adversely affected wetlands and creates a new category of wetland restoration permit for organizations and agencies looking to engage in voluntary wetland restoration.
Wetlands are crucial for people and wildlife in the Great Lakes, including waterfowl. Wetlands act as nature’s kidneys by filtering pollutants from rainwater before they enter waterways. Wetlands also help refill groundwater, prevent flooding downstream and provide habitat for more than 900 species of plants and animals.
Michigan has lost half of its historic wetlands, including up to 90 percent lost in some parts of southeast Michigan near Lake Erie. Ducks Unlimited, the leader in wetlands conservation, has restored, protected or enhanced more than 81,000 acres of wetlands throughout the state.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.