Farm museums like this one are sometimes the only remnant of the agricultural life that has been overrun by development. However, some communities are buying farmers' development rights in an effort to save the rural landscape. (Photo by Lester Graham)
One way to keep farms from becoming subdivisions is to pay the farmers to never build on their land. This has been happening on the east and west coasts for decades. But it’s just now beginning to catch on in the Great Lakes region. In the second of a two part series on farmers and the decisions they make about their land, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette takes us to a place where local government is paying to keep land in agriculture:
One way to keep farms from becoming subdivisions is to pay the farmers to never
build on their land. This has been happening on the east and west coasts for
decades. But it’s just now beginning to catch on in the Great Lakes region. In
the second of a two part series on farmers and the decisions they make about
their land, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette takes us to a place
where local government is paying to keep land in agriculture:
Whitney Lyon’s farm has been in his family for more than a century. He has 100
acres of cherry and apple trees. The orchards are on a peninsula that stretches
fourteen miles across a bay in Northern Lake Michigan. His farm is about a half
mile from the clear blue water that attracts thousands of tourists here every
Lyon says real estate agents love his property.
“We run clean back to the bay on the north side… that’s view property. It’s
worth 30, 40,000 bucks an acre.”
But it’s not worth that much anymore. The rights to build houses on the Lyon farm have
been sold. The way this works is this: the Lyon’s keep the land, but they get paid
for the real estate value they give up to keep the land as a farm instead of house
(sound of apple picking)
There’s a thick fog across the peninsula today. Whitney Lyon is picking apples. His
wife Mary is inside watching kids. Mary says the day they sold the development
rights was the best day in their thirty years of farm life. She says she knew they’d
be able to stay on the land. And because of the money they made, she downsized her
“The big change, especially the last two or three years, I no longer just buy stuff
from just garage sales. I have actually been spending money on purchasing things for
the house. Which previously, everything came from garage sales.”
Many of the Lyon’s neighbors have sold their development rights as well. For ten
years, the township government has raised money to buy those rights with an additional
property tax. Almost no other community in the Midwest has a program like this. But,
if approved by voters, five more townships in this area might also start programs after
the November elections. Each township is separately asking voters to approve a property tax.
The American Farmland Trust has helped the townships design the program. The group is
excited because this would provide an example of local governments joining together to
protect farmland. Farmland Trust’s President Ralph Grossie flew in for a campaign event.
In a speech, Grossie told a crowd of about 100 people there’s a disconnect between farmers
and their communities. He says the community benefits from the farms while the farmers
struggle to make ends meet.
“We believe there is a middle ground here, there is a way to strike a deal between those
who manage our landscape – private farmers and ranchers, landowners – and those who
appreciate and benefit from that well-managed landscape. If you think about it, that’s
the heart of the property rights debate. Almost all those conflicts over property rights
are really about who pays for achieving a public goal on private land.”
Grossie says paying farmers with public money is the best option if a community wants to
keep farms. Otherwise, he says government forces farmers to pay when they give up profitable
uses of their land because of zoning laws. But a few in this crowd weren’t buying.
Some are opposed to more taxes on their homes or businesses so the township government can
write big checks to farmers. Others question if younger generations even want to farm.
(sound of noise from crowd)
And some are just plain suspicious of government. Roger Booth is talking to another
opponent of the propposal after the speech. Booth is explaining that when the right
to develop a piece of land is purchased, it’s gone forever. But he points out there
is one exception.
“Eminent domain. And who’s going to decide eminent domain has the right to take it? The
people in power of government at the time. Not today. Thirty years from now.”
Government also has an image problem because prominent local farmers often sit on the
town boards. It’s hard not to notice they could be the ones cashing in on the public treasury.
Critics also point out these programs tax farms to save farmland. And they say buying the
deveolopment rights does nothing to improve the business of farming. Supporters admit this
doesn’t guarantee future success for farms. But they say at least it gives the farmers a
chance to keep farming instead of selling to developers.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Peter Payette.
President George W. Bush’s recent State of the Union address was noted for not saying much about the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
President George W. Bush’s recent State of the Union address was noted for not saying much
about the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
After President Bush’s speech, environmental groups and others noticed the President barely
made a reference to the environment. Wayne Fields is a professor at Washington University who
studies State of the Union speeches. He says that’s not typical.
“Well, especially in the last 30 years, issues of air quality, water quality have been very high in
the State of the Union agendas for both parties.
Fields says since the State of the Union speech highlights a president’s accomplishments and
plans, no mention of the environment says a lot about President Bush’s priorities.
“The fact that it wasn’t there suggests that it’s not an issue that he thinks is terribly important to
his constituency nor terribly important to his reelection since this is an election year speech.”
The Democrats’ response to the President’s State of the Union address also failed to mention the
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
November 4th is Election Day. Voters throughout the region will choose their mayors and city council members, maybe support a ballot measure or two. Basically, one vote can be the end result of a long argument about what matters most. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King thinks the democratic process would be a whole lot easier if we were all a little less… human:
Nov. 4th is Election Day. Voters throughout the region will choose their mayors and city council
members, maybe support a ballot measure or two. Basically, one vote can be the end result of a
long argument about what matters most. Great Lakes Radio Consortium Commentator, Julia
King, thinks the democratic process would be whole lot easier if we were all a little less human.
Things would be so much simpler if people were like – hamsters, or jackrabbits, or snails.
The point here being that if our species were a little more uniform – the way most other species
are – we’d have an easier time with politics.
Seriously, think about hamsters: they like exercise wheels, sleeping during the day, and sunflower
seeds. They don’t like cats. They don’t like pokey little kid fingers in their eyes and they don’t
like bright light. There’s not a lot of controversy in the hamster kingdom because they all pretty
much have the same likes and dislikes. It would be easy developing a policy that hamsters could
really rally around. Can’t you just see their little signs: “More Plastic Tubing!” and “We Heart
But people, oh my goodness, just look at us: some guy likes mountains and some woman wants
the ocean. One kid is quiet and shy and loves butterflies. Another is loud and fast and wants to
We have no set habitat, or diet, or demeanor. Some of us run from a fight and others of us go
looking everywhere for one. There are humans who want to talk everything through, who believe
it’s a civic duty to explore a public policy. And there are others who’d really rather focus on
something, more pleasant, less potentially explosive, like which European woman will fall for the
latest Joe Millionaire .
There are certain needs we do all share – water, food, shelter, love. But even those things we
can’t quite agree upon. Is water for thirsty people, or for swimming pools? Is the food
vegetarian or barbeque beef? Is your shelter threatening a wetland eco system or is the darn
wetland robbing you of your dream home? Does love mean engaging in dialogue or leaving
people the heck alone?
It’s a cruel trick nature plays on our species. We’re tangled up together on this planet, some six
billion of us, with an infinite array of dreams and visions and yet there is just this one great big
ball on which we all live.
Politics brings out the best and worst in humans. We organize into factions that can build or
destroy, that can nurture the spirit or evoke the meanness that resides in all of us.
Unlike much of the animal world, we achieve our goals not through sheer instinct, but through
intellect and focused determination. We have to outthink and outwork our foes to prevail. Yet
win or lose, we’re still tethered to one another, forever sentenced to the toil of negotiation in the
face of endless human want.
The recent elections mean that there’s a power shift in the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that a group made up of Great Lakes states governors will change dramatically:
The recent elections mean that there’s a power shift in the region. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that a group made up of Great Lakes states
governors will change dramatically:
Of the eight Great Lakes states, five of them have elected new governors. And most of
the new governors are from a different party than their predecessor.
“Actually, this is the largest turnover in one election cycle that the Council’s had in its
twenty-year history. ”
That’s Maggie Grant with the Council of Great Lakes Governors. The council deals with
issues surrounding the Great Lakes and trade in the region.
“We don’t see major policy shift, although, we look forward to the new energy and ideas
of our governors that they bring to the table.”
Coming to the table are a lot more Democrats. Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and
Pennsylvania all elected Democrats to replace their Republican governors. Grant says
party affiliation isn’t that important to the group – fighting for the Great Lakes region is.
For the Great Lakes Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
As far back as the Boston Tea Party, taxes have stirred passions. In campaign season, the word “tax” is tossed around like a grenade, often prompting politicians to duck and hide. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Julia King, thinks politicians should stop running from the “Tax-and-Spend” label and instead defend taxes – and the many vital services they fund:
As far back as the Boston Tea Party, taxes have stirred passions. In campaign season the
word “tax” is tossed around like a grenade, often prompting politicians to duck and hide.
But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Julia King, thinks politicians should
stop running from the “Tax-and-Spend” label and instead defend taxes – and the many
vital services they fund.
Despite a shaky economy, a looming war, despite rising numbers of uninsured
Americans, somehow there are still politicians who peddle tax cuts as cure alls.
It’s about time we clear something up: When a candidate says, “I’ll lower your taxes,”
he’s put forth only half of an idea. The other half of that idea involves cutting programs
that could be important to many of us.
I recently stood on a Northern Indiana lakeshore and admired a crisp, autumn scene. But
instead of inspiring me the quiet water and the changing landscape filled me with a dull,
nagging worry. I imagined a future without such places – or at least without public
access to them.
Like countless other venues around the country, the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources recently suffered the loss of 8.2 million dollars in permanent budget cuts, cuts
that forced the elimination of arts and cultural programs in state parks, the closing of
some parks, and the “downsizing” of many that stayed open. Still others were turned
over to private operators who increased fees to cover actual costs, making visits now
unaffordable for some people.
Few politicians seem willing to admit that slashing taxes means shrinking public service
and even public safety. Yet this is the time to connect the dots, to thread together rhetoric
and reality. It’s a long list of things that make a society — our society — livable. A
thriving park system is just one piece of the delicate mosaic we call civilization.
Is there ever mismanagement of public funds? Sure, and it deserves attention. But,
seriously, when’s the last time you saw a park naturalist in an Armani suit or behind the
wheel of a Rolls Royce? For the most part, government employees are not whooping it
up on your tax dollars. And never mind Enron – in Indiana the salaries of just 10 of our
highest paid executives could support the entire Indiana Department of Natural
Resources’ general fund. That’s a story that plays out in nearly every state across the
Right now — in the midst of campaign season — is the time to sort through national and
local priorities. Whether anyone acknowledges it or not, cutting taxes means cutting
away at the fabric of society.
Surely if our nation can find the money and the will to fully fund war and death, we can’t
claim poverty when we’re challenged to enhance life.
Julia King lives and writes in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to us through the Great Lakes
Seven of the eight Great Lakes states have governor’s races next month. One analyst says the results of those elections could affect how well the states work together on the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Seven of the eight Great Lakes states have Governor’s races this month. One analyst says
the results of those elections could affect how well the states work together on the
environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports.
There will be at least four new governors in the Great lakes region, due to incumbents
stepping down. Political scientists say a fifth incumbent may be voted out of office.
Barry Rabe is a professor of environmental policy and public policy at the University of
Michigan. He says the eight governors have traditionally agreed on some issues like
diversion of water. But Rabe says the upcoming elections could affect more contentious
“I think where other challenges emerge are on issues like air pollution – where you
literally may have prevailing wind patterns so that say, the pollutants that begin in Illinois
may wind up in Michigan and other states – and how states could work cooperatively to
resolve those issues.”
Rabe also says more of the Great Lakes governors may soon have to work together on
water quality and global warming. Democrats hope to gain several governor’s seats in the
region. But Rabe says for cooperation purposes, personality may be more important than
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.
Steel has once again become a big issue in U.S. trade policy. Many steel companies around the Midwest are worried about ‘steel dumping’ and are urging President Bush to support new tariffs and quotas on imported steel. But some steel users say the Bush Administration should back off. How the President handles the issue could affect both jobs and the environment in the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Steel has once again become a big issue in United States trade policy. Many steel companies around the Midwest are worried about steel dumping and are urging President Bush to support new tariffs and quotas on imported steel. But some steel users say the Bush administration should back off. How the president handles the issue could affect both jobs and the environment in the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports.
The amount of commonly used types of foreign steel coming into the United States has risen about a third over the last five years, and a federal trade panel ruled recently that much of that imported steel is being sold here at a price lower than what it cost to make it and ship it here. That’s a practice called dumping. The trade panel found that such dumping poses a serious threat to domestic steel makers. So the panel says President Bush should slap tariffs on many product lines of foreign-made steel to raise the prices of the imports. But that’s not such a hot idea to some other industries, which use plenty of foreign steel.
(furnace/factory ambient sound)
Here at the Engel Tool and Forge Company in Milwaukee…this second-generation family business now uses about 600 tons a year of steel imported from countries like Brazil and Sweden. In the warm and grimy forging area, workers use a robot to move five foot long steel bars that have been heated to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. Owner chuck Engel watches the orange and white-hot bars enter a machine
“That’s a preforming press …a hydraulic press that preforms the metal. It’s removed from there and moved into a finished form that we gain our finished desired shape.” (WHAM noise)
The bars are scrunched into wheel axles that’ll be shipped to heavy equipment makers in the mining or construction industries. Engel says his company is doing all right during the recession. So he’s says he strongly opposed to the president possibly tinkering with that success by slapping higher tariffs on imported steel.
“I am sure there is a certain amount of unfairness on both sides of the fence but I believe that competition should be what sorts this problem out rather than the government.”
Engel contends domestic steel makers got quote- fat and sassy — over the last twenty years…and he says mergers, downsizing and other changes now taking place among domestic manufacturers will help them compete in the world steel market. Engel says if steel tariffs do go up…he’d have to pass along the price hikes. But other players are urging President Bush to approve higher steel tariffs. The United Steelworkers of America hopes the president even goes beyond what the trade panel recommends. Some environmentalists are also quietly supporting the domestic steel industry. That’s even though green groups have a track record of battling steel manufacturers. Cameron Davis of the Chicago-based lake Michigan federation acknowledges big steel has a dirty history in the area.
“Well traditionally, the steel industry especially in northwest Indiana has been responsible for a fair amount of pollution in the Great Lakes…and that’s air-based pollution, water based pollution, land based pollution across the board.”
But lately environmentalists have been trying to forge alliances with unions like the steelworkers. And Davis notes that environmental lawsuits and other changes have gotten domestic steel makers to start cleaning up their act in recent years. He says if nothing is done to slow the rise in steel imports that could make the United States environment worse. Davis cites the aquatic nuisance species that tag along in the ballast water of foreign ships…including presumably, the ships that bring in foreign steel.
“Without some help in protecting the GL steel industry, we’ll see more and more foreign steel coming into the country. And with that foreign steel probably more aquatic nuisance species that will do more damage not only to the Great Lakes but to rest of country.”
United States flagged Great Lakes shipping companies that haul iron ore from Minnesota and northern Michigan are also siding with the domestic steel makers. George Ryan is president of the Lake Carriers Association. He says if the domestic steel industry keeps getting hurt by foreign imports…there might be some local improvements like less air pollution emitted over Gary or Cleveland, but Ryan says, what about the rest of the globe.
“For anyone who has seen photographs from outer space, we have one world that moves the air around to all parts of the world we can’t really say we condone dirty air in Brazil and in China and okay to do it there cause we’re protecting our air in the United States.”
Ryan is a member of the Great Lakes Commission…which is urging the president and congress to boost steel exports and reduce unfair competition from abroad. Commissioners do the bidding of eight Great Lakes governors…most of whom are republicans like George W. Bush. If the president does not do more to protect United States steel makers and jobs that could be an issue in the gubernatorial and congressional elections next November. Mr. Bush has to announce his plans on steel tariffs and quotas by mid-February. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.
Some republicans are fighting to restore the issues of
conservation and environmental protection to the party’s platform. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some party
members say republican leadership has too often abandoned
Some republicans are fighting to restore the issues of conservation and
environmental protection to the party’s platform. Some party members say republican
leadership has too often abandoned environmentalism. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Republicans often note with pride that it was a republican president –
Theodore Roosevelt – who championed conservation and preservation. Teddy
Roosevelt pushed for laws to protect Yellowstone Park and to conserve timber
During this year’s race for president, the top two republican candidates
often invoke the name of Theodore Roosevelt. Here’s John McCain at a news
conference in New Hampshire.
“Teddy Roosevelt was the guy responsible for the national park
system in America… ”
And George W. Bush in a speech found on his website.
“The legacy of Theodore Roosevelt is an America that has made
significant progress in protecting our environment… ”
But, some in the Republican Party say the party’s leadership has neglected
that legacy, among them is Theodore Roosevelt – the fourth. Roosevelt says
it’s impossible to know exactly what his great grandfather would have
thought about his name being bandied about by today’s politician.
“On the one hand, I think he’d be very proud because he clearly
has become a symbol for enlightened, progressive environmental leadershipand he’d be
very proud of that. On the other hand, he believed very clearly
in the idea of being forthright and one of the things that you will see
today in the Congressional leadership and sometimes in Washington, people
who are anything but environmentalists trying to clothe themselves in a
cloak of green and he’d be the first one stripping that false cloak off
Roosevelt is a republican and active in supporting environmentalism. He is
the chairman of the league of conservation voters. Each year the group
issues scorecards that track politician’s votes on the environment.
Roosevelt says he knows republican politicians who fight for the
environment. But he says too often republican leadership – particularly
Congressional leadership – fails to support sound environmental laws.
“And as a Republican, what just drives me stark raving mad is
when we pursue dumb politics that gets you unelected and bad public policy
at the same time. There’s just no justification for that.”
Roosevelt is not alone. Other republicans make the same complaint. In fact,
in 1995, a new group was formed, calling itself Republicans for Environmental
Protection. It’s grown to three thousand members in forty-seven states. Martha Marks
is the group’s president.
“We believe that the Republican Party has just made up its mind that
this is just not an issue that Republicans care about or should care about
and they’re willing to cede that to the Democrats. We think that’s an
absolutely idiotic position to take given the fact that something like
eighty-percent of the American people routinely say they consider themselves
Marks says she’s not sure how the conservative wing of the Republican Party
came to take what she considers to be anti-environmental positions. She says
environmental protection and careful use of natural resources is more
conservative than what she calls squandering for short-term profit.
“We believe that conservation is conservative. It is fundamentally
conservative to be a conservationist. It is not conservative to squander our
But one political observer says getting the conservative members of the
Republican leadership to completely redefine their environmental positions
might be asking too much. Alan Lichtman is a professor of history at
American University and the author of books about presidential politics.
“To the extent the Republicans might want to debate the environment, it would have more to do, I
think, with the broader picture of
how we go about enforcing environmentalism. That is, do we rely on the
regulatory approach or do we move more toward a compact with business,
cooperation, and voluntary compliance. And they might want to take on the
broader issue of the economic impact.”
But the group Republicans for Environmental Protection wants to push the
debate further. In 1996, the group was too new and too small to affect any
changes in the national convention party platform. Marks says this time
around the group has met with several staffers and leaders from the
Republican National Committee. Marks says the group has more political clout
“They definitely know we’re out here. They actually wish we would
sit down and shut up. But we are not doing so and we are going to be very
In recent years, the group has been recruiting like-minded republicans,
including people in other conservation organizations, such as Theodore
Roosevelt the fourth.
Roosevelt says he has some political advice for the candidates who are
campaigning across the country. He says the candidates invoking his
great-grandfather’s name should follow a similar path.
“Move toward the center and recognize that this is an issue that
is important to eighty-percent of the American people and do so in a way that
reflects a strong commitment and support clean air, support clean water,
work on having a good public lands policy.”
Roosevelt says his fellow republicans should remember when Richard Nixon won
in a landslide in 1972, he had supported the legislation for clean air and
water. The environmental protection was established during his
administration. Roosevelt says it’s not that Nixon was an environmentalist…
but he was a wise politician.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
A movement inside the Republican Party is working to make the
G-O-P more green. One group is hoping to influence the party’s platform
at this year’s convention. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
A movement inside the Republican Party is working to make the GOP more
green. One group is hoping to influence the party’s platform at this year’s
convention. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports…
The group, republicans for environmental protection says the party has ceded
the issue of environmental protection to the democrats and it wants to
change that. Martha marks is the group’s president
“We think that’s an absolutely idiotic position to take given the
fact that something like 80-percent of the American people routinely say
they consider themselves environmentalists.”
Marks says that’s bad politics… On top of bad policy…
“There is a use-it-all-up, squander it for the short-term profit and
let the future take care of itself as it can. We think that’s a
fundamentally non-conservative position; it’s an idiotic position. And we’re
trying to return our party to a more basic, bedrock conservative position
which we think is pro-conservation”
Marks says the group is working with the GOP national committee. It hopes
to unveil a more environmentally friendly platform at this year’s republican