LANSING — Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday 16 nominations to a special committee on the population, none of which came from the Upper Peninsula, to the chagrin of some UP lawmakers.
“This is not the first time the governor has failed to have UP representation,” R-Waucedah Township Senator Ed McBroom said in a statement. “A few months ago, for the first time in history I could find, she failed to keep an Agriculture Committee appointment for a UP citizen.”
The UP has experienced substantial population decline for decades, mainly due to the loss or reduction of several natural resources, Michigan Senate Republicans said in a press release.
“The state of Michigan continues to make it harder and harder to live here, but they choose to ignore us on this stuff,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, in a statement. “They hinder mining opportunities, buy up our land, limit what we can do on our land, make it more difficult to get affordable energy and then don’t give us a voice on the issues behind our population loss – that’s just unfair.”
McBroom said, “No part of the state has a longer history and better understanding of the crushing blow of population loss. We know well and have already produced data and reviewed research. Numerous impartial experts offered to serve on this panel, and none were appointed. It’s hard to see this and not take it as a personal insult to the UP.”
Rep. Dave Prestin, R-Cedar River, said in a statement: “UP’s legislative team must work together and speak with a united voice that we will not stop for our citizens. There is simply no reasonable excuse for such a mistake. A committee of this size on a subject so incredibly relevant to this third of the state’s landmass loses its legitimacy because no one gets elected.”
According to Michigan Senate Republicans, the UP was given to the state as a compromise over the battle for the Toledo Strip during the 1835-1836 push for statehood.
Pan as one “worthless piece of wilderness that no one would ever want,” the UP became a powerhouse of natural resource wealth and hard-working, Native American and immigrant labor that dragged the state through many hard and impoverished times over the first 150 years, Michigan Senate Republicans said, adding that even now the population is declined over the past 50 years it has the country’s only operating nickel mine (Eagle Mine).
That mine, the group said, is vital to many industries, including batteries, and the forests and iron mines continue to play a role “too big role” in the forestry products industry and steel and car manufacturing respectively.
“Government Whitmer always talks about wanting to be bipartisan and representative of all Michigan residents,” said Representative Neil Friske, R-Charlevoix, in a statement. “Why is she excluding an entire region and people who have been so important to this state for so long?”
McBroom said, “While we are deeply disappointed with the oversight, we represent resilient, passionate people who motivate us to stand ready to work with the governor and this council to deliver solutions that address the fundamental challenges that underlie the loss and aging of our population in the UP. ”
State Representative Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, issued the following statement regarding the lack of UP representation on the council.
“The UP has so much to offer Michigan, and I am deeply disappointed that the co-chairs of the council have not chosen to include our voices in these critical discussions,” Hill said. “Our northern communities have worked to overcome significant hardships in the post-pandemic era, and population stagnation has taken its toll. I strongly urge the co-chairs of the council to expand their vision and implement a more inclusive strategy to address this issue statewide.”