Lynn Henning earns international environmental award 4.21.10

Written by David Green.

The name “Lynn Henning” is not spoken  kindly among many farmers of southeast Michigan. On the other hand, those concerned about the growth of large farming operations hail Henning as a hero.

She’s been verbally threatened, she’s been sued and she’s had her car boxed in by manure tankers in rural roads. Dead animals have been left on her porch and in her mailbox, and she said the combine on her farm near Clayton was once damaged.

Not everyone appreciates the work she’s done in tracking down manure discharges from farming operations, but her work garnered the praise of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

Henning was one of six citizens from around the world to receive the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize. Other winners this year are from Costa Rica, Cuba, Cambodia, Poland and Swaziland.

The annual award—with its $150,000 prize—is presented to “grassroots environmental heroes” whose efforts to protect natural resources are considered “increasingly critical to the well-being of the planet.”

For more than 10 years Henning has helped document manure discharges that aided state regulators to identify and fine operations for violations of state environmental laws.

She has collected hundreds of water samples and studied satellite photographs and drainage maps to trace pollution. She figures she’s put a million miles on three vehicles as she travels rural roads to document manure applications.

Steven Chester, former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, told a Detroit Free Press reporter that most farming operations are in compliance with state law, but a few give large farms a bad name.

He praised Henning’s work to keep the issue in the DEQ’s vision and noted her assistance was valuable when the DEQ faced staff reductions.

Henning was honored Monday at a ceremony in San Francisco. A second ceremony is planned in Washington, D.C.

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