Monday, August 8, 2022

Groups give day attitude

April 20, 2001
Ann Arbor resident Jeff Irwin stands inside a life-size puppet of Gov. John Engler on Thursday at the Capitol. Protesters gathered outside to show their disapproval of environmental policies by the Engler administration. —

LANSING - Michigan environmental groups, including ECO, an MSU environmental club, gathered on the east steps of the Capitol on Thursday to condemn Gov. John Engler’s environmental policies and protest the Department of Environmental Quality.

More than 100 people attended “Earth Day with an Attitude” to protest environmental problems such as water quality, factory farming and drilling of the Great Lakes.

“We need to conserve our priceless natural resources,” said Liisa Bergmann, an environmental policy sophomore and co-coordinator of ECO. “Today is more against the DEQ. They’ve become very laxed under the Engler administration.”

The day-long event began at 11 a.m. with a public forum at the Central United Methodist Church, 215 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing, and ended at 5 p.m. with local bands performing outside of the state Capitol.

Speakers like state Sen. Dianne Byrum, D-Onondaga, rallied the crowd.

“There is a lot to protect in Michigan with the Great Lakes,” she said. “We need to be diligent in protecting the air and water here in Michigan. Earth Day is a wonderful time to highlight that we need public policy and citizen action to accomplish our goals.”

Earth Day is Sunday.

“It’s time to tell Governor Engler that we value our Great Lakes for all their beauty,” Byrum told the crowd. “And we don’t want this beauty jeopardized.”

The event was sponsored by the Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club, Ecology Center, Clean Water Action and other environmental groups.

“This is part of a larger campaign to protect the environment,” Sierra Club conservation organizer Dan Farough said. “We have a major environmental crisis in Michigan.”

Protesters holding picket signs saying “hold the Engler administration responsible” cheered when an individual wearing a 10-foot costume of Engler stepped behind the podium.

The mock governor was presented with a first-place blue ribbon for the worst environment of any state in the country.

However, Ken Silfven, spokesman for the DEQ, said these acts by environmental groups are frustrating and unproductive.

“I really do think it is sad that they’re taking a day like Earth Day, which should be a time to come together and celebrate, and turning it into a nasty, obnoxious sideshow,” he said. “They should put their boots on and come down to the river and help us clean up.”

Silfven said there are many decent and committed environmental groups in Lansing, but many have political issues as their primary interest and wrongly accuse the DEQ and the governor.

“We undergo rigorous federal audits,” he said. “The truth is that we’re doing more enforcement, more water quality initiatives, more cleanup and more outreach than ever before. While others speak rhetoric, we’re out there getting results.”

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