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Michigan ranks last in funding resources


Preliminary findings of a new national benchmark study of natural resources conservation and management funding indicates that Michigan ranks as one of the nation's top states in the amount and diversity of its natural resources, but is below all other states in spending to protect those resources.

The conservation study was conducted jointly by the Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy and by the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University (MSU). Funding was provided by People and Land, an initiative supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and by the Americana Foundation.

The study considered natural resources data, conservation spending, socio-economic data, and political factors to develop a model to predict expected levels of conservation spending. Those figures were compared with actual spending to determine the ranking for the lower 48 states. Results indicate that a strong disconnect exists between conservation spending at the state level and a state's natural resource base, and that a state's macro-economy, in terms of poverty rate and public debt levels, can have a profound impact on the proportion of conservation spending.

"These results reinforce the gravity of the funding deficit," said Rachel Kuntzsch, executive director of Heart of the Lakes. "To thrive in changing economic times, Michigan leaders must recognize the return on investment a strong and healthy natural resource base has on our economic prosperity. Not only does Michigan reap significant returns through resource-based industries, but our ability to attract businesses and workers is integrally linked to the quality of life we have to offer. We need to invest in these assets rather than neglect them."

Changes in policy that strengthen the state's commitment to managing its infrastructure could address the disparity in conservation spending in Michigan, improve the state's economic climate, and enhance the quality of life of its citizens.

According to Soji Adelaja, the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy and Director of the Land Policy Institute, who led the study team, "While the State of Michigan continues to face significant budgetary challenges, the solutions are not simple. Investing in green infrastructure is a strategy that some states are using and Michigan should consider this strategic approach."

Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy is a nonprofit established in 2004 to serve as the voice for Michigan's land conservancies and to educate policy makers on key conservation issues.

The MSU Land Policy Institute is a research-based unit of MSU with the mission of delivering science-based solutions to pressing policy issues related to land use and economic prosperity.

To download a copy of the preliminary findings, go to www.landpolicy.msu.edu or http://www.heartofthelakes.org/ or call the Land Policy Institute at 517-432-8800.

Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation
July 13, 2007

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