Chevron Conservation Award letter from Peter Steketee honoring Dr. John H. Tanton

Chevron Conservation Award


November 28, 1989

Chevron Conservation Committee

Dear Sirs:

I would like to support the nomination of John Tanton, M.D., as Chevron's Conservationist of the Year.

Starting in the early 1970s I represented John Tanton and later some other people inspired by him in three important land use lawsuits in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties, Michigan. In the first of these suits, John was able to stop the damming and development of a beautiful trout stream called Monroe Creek. This stream empties into the south arm of Lake Charlevoix. I believe that particular suit was the first lawsuit tried under Michigan's world famous Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Although the trial judge ruled against John, I believe that the developer discovered from the expert testimony in the trial so many difficulties with the dam he proposed that he decided, on his own, not to proceed with the development. In any event, Monroe Creek is still a free flowing stream.

In the second of the three cases, the well-known "Birchwood Farms" case, John and some of his friends were able to impose important restrictions on an extremely large second home development in Harbor Springs overlooking Little Traverse Bay. The trial judge's opinion was later cited by the Michigan Supreme Court as a model for trial judges to follow in complex environmental cases.

In a third case involving a condominium project directly on the shore of Little Traverse Bay, John's and his friends' efforts ultimately led to a much better, smaller development than had been proposed.

It is my personal opinion that John's efforts resulted generally in raising the consciousness of his fellow residents of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties to the dangers posed by unchecked, unlimited development. I believe that, as a direct result of his efforts, governmental agencies, including the local health department, the Department of Natural Resources, and other public officials are much more sensitive now than they were before John's efforts to environmental concerns. John was also instrumental in founding a local nature conservancy which is in the process of acquiring environmentally sensitive land in the area near Little Traverse Bay.

Although little known outside of Michigan, the northwestern par of the lower peninsula of Michigan is one of the most beautiful part of the United States. In large part because of the efforts of John Tanton, the development that is taking place in the area now is much more responsible than would have been the case had he and his friend not mounted their efforts in the early 1970s. John's efforts were sustained and for the long term, and they have had a marked, beneficial impact on the northern lower peninsula and on the State of Michigan as a whole.

In my opinion, John Tanton is one of the most effective conservationists I have ever met. He is truly deserving of the Chevron Conservationist of the Year award.

I hope these comments have been helpful.

Very truly yours,

Peter W. Steketee

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