Conservation Resource Alliance
Call 231-946-6817


The Future of Conservation, the CRA Way

September 27, 2006

Back in 2004, an essay entitled, “The Death of Environmentalism” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus caused a nationwide debate among eco-minded people that’s still ongoing today. Global warming and rampant air and water pollution—two headline-grabbing issues that 30-years ago sparked the environmental movement—are now topics that no longer seem to pack the same emotional punch for the general public.

Nowadays it’s up for debate what constitutes “the world’s most serious ecological crisis.” Is it a hole in the ozone or the apathy of everyday American people who are tired of being told they’re to blame for the world’s environmental woes yet at the same time feel personally powerless when it comes to affecting real change?

The widely published essay by Shellenberger and Nordhaus simply brought to the forefront a question many have long been considering: Has the modern-day environmental and conservation movement lost its way? And, further, how can these groups remain relevant in our modern, results-oriented age where everyone is not only a well-informed skeptic but also not likely to give support or money unless it can be shown how a plan or initiative can directly benefit them?

Whether talking ways to curb global warming or the rallying cry that prods local people to roll up their sleeves and open their wallets to protect a river or patch of woods outside their back door, when it comes to talk of what serves the greater environmental good who’s to say what matters more?

National environmental groups are not the only ones struggling to find projects that strike a resonance with everyday people. Nor are they the only ones struggling to get actual work done beyond all the legislative wrangling and paper-pushing required nowadays to move funding for critical projects forward. According to DEQ press secretary, Robert McCann, even government agencies like our own DEQ are having trouble getting it all done these days. But here in Northern Michigan local communities and organizations are making a difference.

“As the DEQ, DNR, and all other state departments continue to go through difficult budget cycles, the roles of local organizations will continue to expand. Our partnership efforts will become more and more vital to our ability to fulfill our responsibility to the people of Michigan,” said McCann.

For 30-years, this idea of community-based conservation has always been a cornerstone of the philosophy of Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA). There’s a culture of conservation here in Northern Michigan. But that’s not the only reason that CRA membership and support continues to increase even while most other national conservation and environmental groups are reporting a slump.

It’s because of ambitious projects like the latest completed past March—a five-year restoration effort on the Manistee River watershed. CRA’s goal was to not only repair a century’s worth of abuse and neglect of one of Northern Michigan’s most famous rivers, but also show how that work had a quantifiable impact on the reduction of sediment loading into the Big Manistee, Bear Creek, and the Pine River.

The Manistee is one of this region’s greatest trout, salmon, and steelhead fisheries, a world-renowned river loved by fishermen, canoe and kayak enthusiasts, wildlife watchers, hunters, and a legion of downstate Michigan residents who visit the country simply for the soul-rejuvenating affect big woods and moving water have on us.

From locals and weekend tourists all the way up to the government offices in Lansing in charge of managing Michigan’s natural resources, the people connected to the Manistee already knew it faced some challenges.

"Sediment is recognized as the largest single water pollutant in the state," said DEQ Director, Steven Chester. "Preventing unnecessary sediment from getting into our streams will protect native fisheries and ensure a healthy aquatic ecosystem."

But not even the DEQ could do it alone.

Funded in part by a $676,691 grant made available through the Clean Michigan Initiative, CRA organized and directed local grassroots support with the help of the Pine River Restoration Group, the Lower Manistee River Partnership, the Upper Manistee Restoration Committee, the Bear Creek Watershed Council, along with other partners including the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Not only seeking to maximize contributions while also rallying bureaucratic and public support, CRA also organized the manpower necessary to target and repair a total of 11 critical stream crossings as well as five eroding stream banks on the Manistee River, three banks on the Pine, and three on Bear Creek. Through CRA’s work, 412 yards of sediment were stopped from flowing into the Manistee each year.

The project was deemed a success, according to DEQ officials, and also went to further illustrate the power for change local non-profit groups have when it comes to protecting Michigan’s natural resources.

“Local conservation and environmental groups play a large role in protecting and enhancing Michigan's environment,” says McCann. “The DEQ often sees our greatest successes when we can partner with local groups to clean up rivers, revitalize brown field sites, and work together for healthier communities.

“Local groups often have a much greater awareness of the issues affecting them,” he continued. “Many of the actions taken by the DEQ are made possible by the groundwork already done by local non-profit groups.”

Non-profit groups like CRA. For 30 years, CRA has been an organization with a track record for inspiring communities and individuals to work together for positive environmental change—changes people can see—which only excites these same individuals to spread the word and do even more. How does CRA do that? By talking up to people, not down on them; by not only working to obtain the money necessary to fund protection and restoration projects but also putting that money into the hands of likeminded people who can impact immediate and tangible change. Planning for the future by taking action today—that’s the CRA way.

Bob Butz is a frequent Interlochen Radio Commentator and an award-winning book author and essayist. He was recently named a finalist in the Sierra Club’s “Why I Hunt” essay contest. He latest book, Beast of Never, Cat of God: The search for the eastern puma is available in bookstores and on the web at www.amazon.com


Archives
2019
May (1)
June (1)
July (1)
2018
May (1)
2017
May (3)
June (2)
July (1)
2016
May (2)
June (2)
July (1)
2015
May (2)
June (1)
2014
May (3)
June (5)
July (5)
2013
May (1)
July (4)
2012
May (2)
2011
May (1)
June (4)
2010
June (2)
2009
May (3)
June (1)
2008
May (1)
June (1)
July (3)
2007
May (5)
July (3)
2006
June (2)
July (3)
2005
June (1)
July (5)
2004
May (2)
June (1)
2003
May (8)
June (4)
July (3)
2002
May (4)
June (2)
July (3)
2001
1999
June (1)

Become a CRA Member

Our partners and supporters, like you, are what really make a difference. Your support of our organization and projects are what make the biggest impact. We appreciate your investment. Together, we do great work. 

E-Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep current with news and other happenings at CRA!

Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817

SIGN UP