John Klein wins Sierra Club award 10.07

Written by David Green.

A Hudson area resident was chosen to receive an achievement award from the Sierra Club.

John Klein was given the Sierra Club’s 2009 Special Achievement Award that honors an individual Sierra Club member for a single act of particular importance dedicated to conservation.

Klein is honored for his photographic documentation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) activity in Michigan since March 2001. Klein took thousands of aerial photographs that were instrumental in making a case to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) about  problems caused by CAFOs.

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter leader Edward Steinman stated that “not only has John volunteered his time taking and organizing the photographs, he has also become knowledgeable about CAFOs.  John’s photos are used by the Michigan Chapter water sentinel, Lynn Henning, who analyzes them for the environmental protection agencies.”

“Additionally, John’s photos have provided training for others analyzing aerial photographs,” Steinman said.

Klein said the award should not focus only on his efforts.

“While the award is being given to me,” Klein said, “it is an overall effort by members of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan [ECCSCM] who have joined together these past 10 years who have earned this award.”

Klein added that without the help of Lighhawk, an environmental non-profit volunteer pilot organization, the work would not be possible.

“I do believe that a few people working hard can make a difference,” Klein said. “The pollution from animal waste applications and careless management has been well documented by ECCSCM and the Michigan DEQ. It’s now time for our legislators to step up to the plate and protect rural residents, something that continually fails to happen.”

Klein said much work needs to be done. His efforts help monitor surface water, but potential ground water issues are often overlooked. He said the Michigan DEQ has discovered ground water pollution near one large farm in the state.

Klein has photographed about 120 sites, or approximately half of the CAFOs in Michigan, in addition to sites in northwest Ohio. About 20 CAFOs have been covered multiple times, which Steinman said has demonstrated to the DEQ a disregard of regulations and compliance orders at certain sites.

“The photos have been the primary driving force for judgments and fines against CAFO operators and have often been the only evidence of violations and non-compliance after consent judgments have been issued,” Steinman said.

The award was presented at the Sept. 16 meeting of Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, and was announced at the Sierra Club’s annual meeting last month in San Francisco.

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