Governor Granholm has issued an executive order to combine the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources into one new agency, to be called the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. The plan is to take effect January 17, 2010.
The merger is motivated primarily to save money as the state agencies face a huge budget crises. Environmental regulation and natural resource management obviously go together, and were under the same state agency in Michigan until former Governor Engler created the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in the 1990s. As a candidate for Governor, Granholm pledged to recombine the agencies, and has now finally made good on that promise.
The merger should produce better integration of natural resource management with environmental protection and regulation. It could also help bring a new sense of purpose to the agency charged with protecting our water, air, natural resources, and public health. But the merger alone won’t solve the more fundamental budget problems and lack of support and resources that undermines the state’s environmental protection laws. With a new agency in place, it’s time to develop a long term funding solution for environmental protection in Michigan.