By EMILY LAWLER
Capital News Service
LANSING– What part of Michigan is sparsely populated and forested all over?
It’s the Upper Peninsula, and some lawmakers are fighting to make sure nobody forgets that it’s part of Michigan.
“If you ask any U.P. residents if they’ve ever seen a depiction of the state with the Upper Peninsula cut off or cut in half, they’ll say ‘yeah, they did,’” said Rep. Mike Lathi, D- Hancock.
Lathi is sponsoring a bill inspired by a Michigan Economic Development Corp. commercial in which actor Jeff Daniels promoted the state in front of a background map displaying only the Lower Peninsula.
Co-sponsors come from above and below the Mackinac Bridge. In addition to four U.P. lawmakers, they include Reps. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, Dudley Spade, D-Tipton, and George Cushingberry, D-Detroit.
The bill would require all state agencies to use the whole state’s map in the future.
“If we want to promote our state, we should promote the whole state,” said Lathi.
John Anderton, a Northern Michigan University professor and head of the geography department, echoed that thought.
“As an academic, I find it very bothersome that somebody would want to portray the state as only the Lower Peninsula,” said Anderton.
Anderton acknowledged that the shape of the U.P. doesn’t lend itself to mapmaking. To include the entire U.P., mapmakers must reduce the scale of the Lower Peninsula and the map becomes less detailed.
“One thing I’ve seen on state highway maps is they’ll cut the U.P. in half,” said Anderton. “You end up with some scale troubles, and that has led some cartographers to cut it off and stick it somewhere else, often on the back of the map.”
Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association in Iron Mountain, said the halving of the U.P. on road maps is unavoidable.
“You can’t help the fact that the U.P. goes east to west and the Lower Peninsula goes north to south,” said Nemacheck.
Anderton said he doesn’t think all U.P. residents are upset about the U.P. being separated so often. “Yoopers on the western side of the state don’t necessarily identify with Michigan. They might be Packers fans,” said Anderton, citing the proximity to Wisconsin and its professional football team, the Green Bay Packers.
“We’re attached to the Lower Peninsula by a bridge. We’re attached to Wisconsin by 200 miles of land,” said Nemacheck.
Lathi says Yoopers are still Michiganders at heart. “There’s no doubt we identify as Michigan citizens, but we definitely consider ourselves unique.”
Anderton said, “I always felt we were kind of Michigan’s Alaska. That’s a good way to look at it — kind of the difference between Alaska and the lower Forty Eight.”
Both Lathi and Anderton pointed out that the Upper Peninsula doesn’t have a huge population, but it has almost a third of the state’s land mass, unique mineral deposits and the best forest in the state.
Anderton reverted to the state motto in describing why it should be included on maps: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the Upper Peninsula is more pleasant,” said Anderton.
The bill passed the House unanimously and is awaiting full Senate action.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.