The dome of Michigan's statehouse framed by tree branches and a bright blue sky in downtown Lansing.
Policy Priorities The decisions of Michigan’s leaders have an incredible impact on our shared progress toward a thriving future for Michigan. As a science-based, pragmatic and nonpartisan organization, TNC seeks to help policymakers make informed choices that sustain and protect the natural systems that are the foundation for Michigan’s economy, security and way of life. © Michael D-L Jordan/dlp
Stories in Michigan

Policy Priorities in Michigan

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with state leaders to find meaningful solutions to issues impacting Michigan’s lands and waters.

Explore our latest policy objectives in the Great Lakes State.

Headshot of Helen Taylor, state director in Michigan.
Helen Taylor Helen Taylor is TNC's state director in Michigan. © Matthew Mitchell

From our state director

Our Priorities

At TNC, we pride ourselves on our science-based, pragmatic approach to conservation—and science shows us that thriving communities and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand.

From the timber, farmlands and fisheries that help power Michigan’s economy; to the forests that keep our air and water clean; to the wetlands that protect our coasts from floods and erosion—nature offers critical solutions to help our Great Lakes State find resilience in a time of change.

That’s why TNC works with Michigan’s leaders to advance nature-based solutions that benefit Michigan communities, lands, waters and wildlife. We also demonstrate the impact and scalability of investment in nature-based solutions through active conservation projects—for example, supporting “green” stormwater management practices in Detroit and helping to transform agricultural supply chains in the Saginaw Bay watershed.

From our advocacy to our projects in the field, TNC’s work is defined by a collaborative approach that has been shaped by decades of learning. Our local expertise and global resources enable us to play a special role working side-by-side with partners, communities and decision-makers across Michigan—and we hope to continue that collaborative tradition with you.

In short, nature offers us a powerful set of tools—tools we can all get behind to support Michigan communities for many years to come. When we work together with nature, everyone wins.

 

Helen Taylor
State Director, Michigan 

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Preserve Michigan’s Lands & Biodiversity

In a changing world, the concerns of nature are inseparable from the concerns of people. Growing threats to biodiversity, water quality and food supplies, a changing climate and other challenges make it increasingly clear that healthy natural systems are vital to our future, and the future of Michigan. 

Building Climate Resilience

Nature is our ally in abating the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. However, changing climatic conditions and habitat loss threaten to undermine the many benefits that healthy, resilient lands and waters provide, including carbon sequestration and sustainable economies.

Through conservation, restoration and improved land management, TNC strives to help Michigan build environmental resilience and protect biodiversity so that nature can help our communities thrive in a changing climate.

TNC’s “Resilient and Connected Lands” tool provides a roadmap of U.S. lands with the unique topographies, geologies and other characteristics that can help plants and animals adapt to climate impacts.

A Common Loon shakes the water free after diving deep in a Northern Michigan lake.
Common Loon Loons migrating to Michigan tend to find their ideal habitat in the thick forests of the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula where quiet waters provide them with the resources they need. © Scott Suriano/TNC Photo Contest 2019

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Nature can provide 30% of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we need to slow the rise in global temperatures, by sequestering carbon in trees, soils and other natural systems. Getting all the way to an economy-wide “net-zero” goal by 2050, however, will require many sectors working on complementary strategies.

In Michigan, TNC is encouraging industrial leaders to manage and reduce their emissions: by using more clean power, increasing energy efficiency, adopting new carbon management technologies and more. This will enable Michigan’s industrial sector to both lower carbon emissions and sustain economic growth.

Practical Climate Sustainability

TNC and the Michigan Manufacturers Association are following up on the success of our first series of practical climate sustainability seminars for Michigan businesses, with a second series planned in 2023. 

Restore Native Forests

Michigan’s forests cover 20 million acres—roughly half of the state. The diversity, climate resilience and pest resilience of these forests depend on their restoration and sustainable management, which also benefits Michigan’s economy.

On our working forest reserves, TNC demonstrates the sustainable management practices necessary to keep Michigan forests healthy. We also work to strengthen incentives and opportunities for others to implement these practices, and to help forests sequester and store more carbon.

In 2022, TNC launched the Family Forest Carbon Program for Michigan forest owners, in partnership with the American Forest Federation, to make carbon market incentives for sustainable forestry practices more accessible for landowners with as few as 30 acres.

A person walks through an autumn forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The trees are covered in an array of red, green and yellow leaves.
Sustainable Forestry The Family Forest Carbon Program makes carbon market incentives for sustainable forestry practices more accessible for forest owners with as few as 30 acres. © Dietrich Ludwig
A person holds the stem of a small tree.
Resilient Forests At TNC’s working forest reserves we demonstrate how Michigan’s forests can be managed for increased health and resilience. © Drew Kelly

Invest in Clean, Renewable Power

A clean energy transition depends on a rapid renewable energy buildout that safeguards nature and supports an equitable transition for communities.

To help achieve that, TNC is providing innovative strategies and tools grounded in leading science, partnerships, public policy and market-based approaches. We aim to support a renewable energy market that goes above and beyond “business as usual” for community, conservation and climate—here in Michigan and across the country.

TNC’s conservation-informed tools, including Site Renewables Right and Power of Place, help renewable energy developers select sites for utility-scale wind and solar installations that avoid detrimental impacts to nature and communities.

Protect Michigan’s Great Lakes & Fresh Water

Here in Michigan, we live at the heart of one of the world’s greatest freshwater regions. The thoughtful stewardship of waters ensures they can continue to support an abundance of wildlife and provide vital services to people, from nature-based economies, to clean water, to the food systems we depend on. 

Search for Lake Whitefish

Fisheries experts are taking to Michigan rivers in search of this important species.

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Safeguard Great Lakes Fisheries

Michigan boasts the longest shoreline of any Great Lakes state—the longest freshwater shoreline in the world. Our connection to the Great Lakes is strong, and our good stewardship is vital to this globally significant resource. 

TNC works tirelessly to understand the threats facing Great Lakes ecosystems, and to pursue restoration solutions that protect native fish species and their roles in thriving coastal communities. We align our efforts with partners across the Great Lakes—preventing invasive species from taking hold, protecting coastal systems against degradation and more.

While iconic native species such as lake whitefish still swim in Great Lakes waters, their numbers are dwindling. TNC is working with state and Tribal partners to better understand the causes and develop solutions. 

Two experts search for lake whitefish with nets on a Michigan river.
Partnership TNC joins partners in the field in search of lake whitefish including the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, DNR, and Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. © Matt Herbert/TNC

Promote Regenerative Agricultural Practices

Farmers are stewards of the productive soils that provide food for the world. By protecting the health of these soils, Michigan farmers not only contribute to long-term farm productivity, but also protect rivers, streams and lakes from harmful nutrient runoff and erosion, and improve soil carbon retention.

For more than a decade, TNC has been partnering with Saginaw Bay watershed farmers to expand the use of soil health practices such as cover crops, no-till and precision nutrient application methods. This includes offering incentives programs, learning opportunities and more.

TNC supports several farmer-led watershed groups in the Saginaw Bay area. These self-governed groups highlight the growing leadership of regional farmers in addressing local water quality and soil health issues.

A group of farmers gather under a large tent in a field for a meeting on a sunny day in Michigan's Saginaw Valley.
Farmer-led Watershed Groups The primary focus of FLWGs is on collaboration and addressing specific needs of the local watershed, such as water quality, rural aesthetics and other local resource concerns. © TNC
A ground-level view of crops growing from the soil in Saginaw, Michigan.
Approach to Soil Health In Michigan’s agricultural watersheds we are working to support farmers—and make it easier—to shift to practices that restore and sustain long-term soil health. © Fauna Creative

Invest in Water Infrastructure

All Michiganders should have accessible, affordable and clean drinking water. Our ability to provide clean drinking water depends on investments in necessary upgrades to infrastructure, and in the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

TNC works with partners across Michigan to support this vision and ensure communities can maintain and deliver safe, affordable water services. For example, by supporting county health departments’ efforts to address failing private septic systems, we aim to help reduce the risk of contamination to nearby water sources.

As a member of the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan, TNC is one of 60+ organizations representing the business community, local elected leaders and statewide associations that are advocating for investments in water infrastructure, economic development priorities and more.

Contact Us

Meet our policy and government relations team in Michigan.

2023 Policy Priorities

View or download a copy of our 2023 Policy Priorities.

View Our Priorities