The Black Tern faces an uncertain future in Michigan and across the Great Lakes region. The species has experienced a dramatic population decline over the past 50 years, with only 1.4 percent of the population remaining in the state, according to the USGS Breeding Bird Survey. Storm events and rising water levels caused by climate change are threatening this important species and the habitat it needs to survive, but help may soon be on the way.
Governor Whitmer called on Michigan to become carbon neutral by 2050, which is what we must do to stall global temperature rise and protect the two-thirds of North American bird species at risk of extinction from climate change. In order to achieve this ambitious but critically important goal, Gov. Whittmer tasked the Council on Climate Solutions with drafting a plan that outlines how the state will address the devastating impacts of climate change. While the first draft of the MI Healthy Climate Plan is an important first step towards addressing climate change, it can be strengthened to more rapidly reduce carbon emissions in the state.
By making the following additions, the plan will be strengthened to better protect vulnerable birds and people:
- Expand access to solar energy by eliminating caps on homeowners' ability to sell the excess energy they generate, and recognize the benefits of community solar. Expanded access to solar energy promotes energy independence and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. By eliminating caps on homeowners' ability to sell the excess energy they generate, we can further expand renewable energy generation across the state and allow ratepayers to better access solar energy and be fairly compensated for the excess energy they generate.
- Explore voluntary carbon credit markets, which offer opportunities to reduce harmful carbon emissions. Voluntary carbon markets have the potential to support farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners who are interested in implementing sustainable management practices like planting cover crops, prescribed grazing, and reforestation. In addition to improving the health of working lands, these practices serve as natural solutions that increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil and reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
- Designate an agency to ensure large-scale wind and solar projects on state lands are responsibly sited to protect birds, and ensure adequate staffing and resources to implement the plan once it’s finalized. This plan will serve as the roadmap for Michigan’s energy future, and we should ensure new renewable energy projects, and the plan itself, are properly implemented.
Members of the public were encouraged to provide feedback on the plan. More than 900 Audubon members took action during the public comment period, encouraging EGLE and the Council on Climate Solutions to implement these recommendations into the final plan.
This spring, Black Terns will start their long migration from Mexico, Central America and South America to Michigan’s coastal and inland marshes where they will spend their summer. Audubon Great Lakes looks forward to working with EGLE, the Council on Climate Solutions, and other stakeholders to further strengthen the MI Healthy Climate Plan to ensure that Michigan is a place where Black Terns, other wildlife and people will thrive for generations to come.