A REPORT OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION
AND
THE MICHIGAN TRIBAL ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP

MAY 21, 1997

PRESENT
Tom Baldini Chairman, U.S. Section, International Joint Commission
Pierre Béland Commissioner, International Joint Commission
Garwood Tripp International Joint Commission staff, Ottawa
Mike Ripley Chippewa-Ottawa Treaty Fisheries Management Authority
Carol Bergquist Hannahville Indian Community
Bill Snowden Saginaw Chippewa Tribe
Patty O'Donnell Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Christine Mitchell Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Jennifer Manville U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, Liaison to Michigan Tribes
Leslie Blessing Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
Bryan Gillett Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Inidans
Doug Craven Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
Dwight Sargent Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan

BACKGROUND

Chairman Baldini opened the discussion by briefly outlining the mandate of the International Joint Commission, its role in assessing progress relative to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the consultation process which leads to a biennial report on Great Lakes water quality. Mr. Baldini also explained that the Commission wants to learn of the things that matter to the people who live along the Great Lakes, so that its work is centred on the issues of most importance to them.

CONVERSATION

The conversation touched on a number of topic areas.

Now you can build a Wal-Mart in a wetland! The Tribal Environmental Group fears that governments are back-pedalling on their commitment to the environment. Michigan, which had been a leader among states in the environmental movement, and Ontario, have cut their commitments to RAPs and seem to be downgrading or simply not enforcing some environmental legislation. The group feared the progress that has been made could now be undone. Senior government people are leaving and not being replaced. The state government is promising to "ease the regulatory burden" which really means becoming more business-friendly by relaxing environmental laws. Great progress was made in the late 1980s and early 90s -- but now the environmental situation on the Great Lakes (especially with the stress of an increasing population in Michigan) is not improving.

We want everyone to be able to eat the fish. Even with fish advisories, people continue to eat the fish. Those who only eat fish in moderate amounts are more likely to be influenced by fish advisories -- and they are already less likely to suffer from the damaging effects of contaminants because they consume less. Fish advisories do not deter consumption among those who depend heavily on fish in their diet. For the Michigan tribes, the environment is a health issue.

The White Pine Mine. An example of the state government permitting a mine that will be a major source of pollution. Solution mining means pumping sulfuric acid into a mine shaft and then extracting minerals from the corrosive solution when it is pumped back out. Transportation of sulfuric acid through the region is another potential environmental hazard (the risk of spills, etc.).

Land use and habitat loss. Population growth is changing the landscape in upper Michigan and many of the land use projects are not considering all environmental consequences. In Bay Harbor, land previously occupied by a cement company has been reclaimed for housing and the shoreline has been altered. The Tribal Environmental Group is working hard to stay on top of developments and have increased their cooperative efforts, both inter-tribal and with local governments. An aquatic habitats inventory and other conservation measures are ongoing.


URL: http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/html/tribal02.html