February 14, 2019
In December 2018, during the lame duck session, legislators in Michigan proposed to remove protections for 600,000 acres, roughly half, of remaining wetlands in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 1211 (SB 1211), presented a threat to wetlands less than 10 acres, along with wetlands that were created or are artificially managed—both critical to vulnerable marsh bird species such as Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Tern, and Common Loon. Additionally, analysis of wetland and Important Bird Area (IBA) data showed that more than 70,000 acres of wetlands within IBAs would have been vulnerable to unchecked development, if the measure became law.
The benefits of Michigan’s remaining wetlands cannot be overstated. Michigan lies wholly within the Great Lakes watershed and every single wetland helps to maintain the waters of our Great Lakes. Wetlands are critical for bird habitat, filter harmful nutrients from water, and provide protection against flooding and other benefits to nearby communities. SB 1211 jeopardized all of that.
Audubon Great Lakes staff, chapters, and advocates in Michigan came together to sound the alarm to protect birds and the places we share with them. Audubon conservation staff carefully analyzed the devastating effects the proposed measure would have on birds and their habitat and prepared testimony for the Michigan Competitiveness Committee. Chapter leaders published a Letter to the Editor and an opinion article in their community papers, testified before a state House committee, and met with their legislators to discuss the value of Michigan’s wetlands. Network advocates sent more than 3,500 individual messages urging their state representatives and Governor to oppose the measure and protect Michigan’s natural heritage.
The expansive Audubon network of staff, chapters, and advocates came together in Michigan to protect the state’s precious natural spaces and lawmakers listened. The Michigan Legislature passed a significantly weakened version of SB 1211 that stripped out the most egregious provisions for birds, other wildlife, and communities. This would not have been possible without the energy and passion of the Audubon network.