Email from reader & letter to Detroit News:
I ask that you please post this letter written by a lady who watched the fight to save the last large forested wetland along Lake St. Clair for years. She wrote this letter to a reporter for the Detroit News, never dreaming that a larger audience might see it. A group called 'Saving Wetlands and Trees of Chesterfield Township' filed a Michigan Environmental Protection Act lawsuit to try to save 46 acres of this forest but Judge Donald Miller never let our lawsuit get its day in court. He dismissed it. The MEPA is in danger. In Macomb County it doesn't seem to have a chance. We agree with all of the environmental groups calling on Gov. Granholm to step up to the plate now!!! Every day that goes by sees more natural areas disappear.
Hello Mr Schabath,
Thank you for your story in the Sunday paper, dated 11/23/03. I only hope it was carefully read and informed the readers what is going on in this state of Michigan that has been blessed with Lake St. Clair and 5 Great Lakes.
For 6 years I have known of a small group that have worked long and hard trying to save a forested wetland area that is over 100 acres in size that drains into the Salt River which flows directly into Lake St Clair. A large portion of this land was puchased by developers who were well aware that it contained wet lands. Who can blame them? They are in the business of building and beautiful locations are no longer plentiful in this area. Or, for that matter, miles around this area.
So whose job is it to protect our wetlands and keep our water clean? And who will see to it that THESE individuals do THEIR job!? In other words, "Where does the buck stop?"
There is even a natural spring that has never stopped flowing for longer than is known. Many, many people get their water there. We have gotten water there for over 40 years ourselves. No doubt this will end when all the concrete is poured and all the homes are built, and (as is natural with us humans) the pollution from every day living begins. To my understanding, this group
saw that their township wanted the development (even though years back they had talked of plans to buy this property and set it aside as a park for the people to enjoy). There are many different types of animals, plant life and birds in this rich woods. This forest contains just the right tree habitat to house bats. One type in particular is an endangered bat that would migrate to and from the same roosting spot each year. Although there was never a study to confirm the presence of the endangered bats, the possibility must have been strong because 1 1/2
years ago the developer had many of these "trees of choice" chopped down all throughout the property. (The sad note here is that the State of Michigan's Fish and Wildlife Department assisted by pointing out the 25-100+ year old trees most favored by bats!)
From the history of New Baltimore, I heard at one time this area contained a Native American village and cemetery and that artifacts had been found there. Who should have been in charge of saving these important woods that filters the water going
into Lake St Clair and had so much wild life and history for our
children (for now and the far future) to enjoy? I am entering the last of my life but when I think of nature and freedom I enjoyed as a child, I cry for my grand children and the children to come. I enjoy the life style of today but there should be set aside and
protected the wonderful parts of the life we leave behind. Children should be taught how this earth has served us and will continue to do so if it is managed right and cared for by each of us. This small but dedicated group saw that where money is to be made there is little hope of appealing to the hearts of man for them to see that money can never replace nature and the wondeful way it serves and protects our lives and health.
They decided to go to congresswoman Candice Miller to help them with grants to try and purchase the land because her platform is based around the environment and its protection, particularly the protection of Michigan's Great Lakes and the wetland areas around it. After numerous failed attempts to meet, or even speak, with her they finally had the opportunity to
approach her at a local event. But after expressing their oncerns, she simply said she was sorry but she couldn't help them because there was a conflict of interest as her husband, Judge Miller of Macomb County, was assigned to a case, filed by County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga. involving the developer of the woods.
As a last resort, they filed a MEPA suit thinking JUSTICE is the answer. We can still depend on the USA for justice and honor!.
BUT- can we? They were assigned a judge who (it had been said) was a nice, likeable man. Yet, even though he knew the developers were aware that the land they purchased contained wetlands, he was quoted as saying, "It should be up to the owner of property to do as they pleased with their land".
When the suit was filed the group explained the situation they had encountered with Rep. Miller and asked if they could be assigned to another judge. The clerk understood and did assign another judge. Yet, when they met with the developers and Judge Miller they saw they were very angry. The developers were not willing to have another judge and Judge Miller was not willing to step down. He said he would not let another judge have
the case and besides there was no conflict of interest, implying his
wife had been mistaken. The group thought since there was no conflict of interest they could approach Rep. Miller again for help. But there was no return of their calls and she has been unreachable to this day.
Things dragged on as the developers kept working long and hard to get as much done as quickly as possible. There were false accusations made about the group working to save the woods but they believed American justice would at least see they had their day in court and their cause would be heard. Even if they lost, they would have known they did their best and had their day in an American court andthere could be no better chance.
But did they? After days of waiting while more and more of the woods were cleared the lawyers asked for a hearing. There was no "stop work order" issued to the developers and as they waited for a court date, the woods were disappearing. A few days later, after all the effort that had been put forward, the
professional witnesses contacted and the esculated expenses,
the judge dismissed the case without allowing the group to have their day. They were never allowed to present their case or say one word. He figured this dedicated group was destroyed and an appeal (which there are great grounds for) could lead to a long drawn out wait and more expense than could even be imagined!
In the meantime the developers were ready to start paving roads. By the time they may could have had their day in court to plea for the life of these woods, the homes would be up and sold. There would be no woods to save!
The developers did their work unapposed by anyone of power or
importance, so they were not to blame. The lawyers did their work and waited. The group that cared for the work the woods could give the lakes and the community, did more than anyone could ask. There was no one of power they could turn to for more help and they still never had their say in court.
This is American justice?? Yes, for the developers, the lawyers, the judge the congresswoman.
The woods no longer will serve man nor will they need the help of man. THEY ARE GONE------
The law passed in 1979 to help save wetlands, could not help because there were not enough inspectors to enforce this law!
In Dec., 2003, 24 years later, there are still not enough inspectors to enforce this law!
Replacing destroyed wetlands with man-made wetlands miles apart, does not work. This has been proven for 24 years. Isn't that enough time to be convincing?
This law seems to be just a game to the developers! A game called "Catch Me If You Can"
How can a man-made wetland, miles away from a destroyed God-made wetland, protect and clean water going into a near by lake of the orginal site?
Am I correct in understanding that developers believe they have a 75% chance of not being caught (saving them thousands of dollars) and believe that is good enough odds to break the law!
Michigan will then be the loser of thousands of dollars of fines as well as the state of cleaned water.
If the wetlands law, passed in 1979, is too tough for the state of Michigan to enforce and the man-made wetlands are not,(in fact, they cannot) doing the job the orginal wetlands are doing, then
why have the law? Isn't 24 years proof enough (as well as the fast disappearance of our wetlands and closed beaches, etc.) to jar us awake and aware of what should be done? Could we have a law with enough teeth to see it is strickly enforced!?
If not, then I guess, there is only one way to go---------- WAIT FOR TIME to give us the truth. We may not ever know but our children and grandchildren will. We may be all wrong and over reacting but what if we are right?
When I started writing, I was only going to tell you how I appreciated your story in the News about the wetlands. But the words kept spilling out and I know you may not have time to read this and I understand. However---If you did stay with me, I want to thank you for reading my thoughts. It means so much
Bettye Hardy (age 73)