Inaugural Class of Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame Inducted | Environment
The Muskegon Environmental Research and Education Society (MERES) welcomed the inaugural class of inductees into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum Wednesday evening. Five individuals as well as an outstanding environmental education program, one environmental project and a nonprofit organization were honored for their commitments to environmental stewardship and significant contributions to Michigan’s quality of life
“There are many who work tirelessly to protect the environment throughout Michigan,” said Ronald Brown, chair of the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame. “Their dedication has improved the quality of life in our state and the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society believes that the time has come to recognize these people, projects and organizations.”
Inductees for Individual contributions to Michigan’s environment included Peter Wege of Grand Rapids, Robert “Bud” Slingerland of North Branch, Tom Bailey of Harbor Springs, Theresa Bernhardt of Muskegon and Gloria Miller of DeWitt.
In 2004 Wege invited 70 environmentalists to a Grand Rapids conference. Within five years, the conference outcomes garnered a $20 billion federal commitment, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In 2010 alone, the federal government provided $475 million to Great Lakes restoration, including grants to address the three most serious threats to the Great Lakes’ - invasive species, nonpoint source pollution and contamination sediments.
While serving as a member of Michigan’s House of Representatives Slingerland wrote the legislation that would become the Water Pollution Control Act of 1965. Slingerland also introduced the Michigan Beverage Container Act, or “Bottle Bill.” Implemented in 1978, the legislation created a 10-cent refundable deposit fee for any airtight metal, glass, paper or plastic containers less than one gallon.
The Little Traverse Conservancy, under the leadership of Bailey has enhanced the quality of life throughout Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties while respecting the balance between preservation and development. The Little Traverse Conservancy’s mission is to protect the natural diversity and beauty of northern Michigan by preserving significant land and scenic areas in addition to fostering appreciation and understanding of the environment.
Bernhardt serves as chair of the Ruddiman Creek Task Force. Her efforts to champion the cleanup of Ruddiman Creek and Pond resulted in a $13.5 million project in 2006 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency to remove contaminated sediment from the creek and other cleanup projects. In 2008, Bernhardt was honored with President George W. Bush’s Volunteer Service Award. In addition to her work with the Task Force, she has created a watershed stewardship program for 150 middle school students and high school mentors and has coordinated Earth Week events in the Muskegon area, involving thousands of children.
In 1990, Gloria Miller founded Friends of the Looking Glass, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote the enjoyment of and responsibility for maintaining the Looking Glass River through public education and promotion of the Looking Glass River Watershed. Miller is also a recipient of the Verlen Kruger award, an annual honor that has supported and promoted conservation and paddle sports in Michigan.
Inducted for its outstanding environmental education program is the Tuscola Intermediate School District located in Caro. The Tuscola Technology Center (TTC) is a career and technical education facility and an educational leader in renewable energy. While enrolled at the TTC students are able to add a wide range of green issues to their educational experience. These topics include solar power, sustainable agriculture, advanced transportation, green construction, bio fuels, and wind energy.
Ruddiman Creek Task Force, in Muskegon was inducted for the project that has made a significant impact on a community’s environment. Chaired by Theresa Bernhardt, the Ruddiman Creek Task Force works tirelessly with other community members as well as federal, state and local officials to clean up and restore Ruddiman Creek and Pond. Thanks in part to the group’s efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality completed a cleanup of Ruddiman Creek in 2006. This included 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment being removed from the creek. Ruddiman Creek flows into Muskegon Lake and from there into Lake Michigan.
The Huron River Watershed Council, Ann Arbor was honored as the nonprofit organization with a long-term commitment to environmental stewardship. Founded in 1965, the Huron River Watershed Council is southeast Michigan’s oldest environmental organization dedicated to river protection. It is a nonprofit coalition of Huron Valley residents, businesses and local governments. The Council bridges political boundaries by building partnerships between and among communities, community leaders, residents and commercial enterprises. Serving those constituencies, the Huron River Watershed Council monitors the Huron River, its tributaries, lakes and groundwater in addition to directing multiple programs addressing pollution prevention and abatement, wetland and floodplain protection, citizen education and natural resource and land-use planning.
About The Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society:
The Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society (MERES) was established in 1996 as a by-product of the Muskegon Conversation Club. In 1997 MERES acquired the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, which now serves the environmental educational needs of 5,000 students per year. The Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society encourages the continuation of environmental research and education for young people, as well as developing opportunities for the public to participate in the environmental revitalization.