When longtime northwest Michigan environmental leader Greg Reisig passed away in September, it was as if one of the state’s great white pines had fallen.
Greg — a journalist, environmental champion, esteemed friend, and beloved husband and father – made a lasting difference for the good of our environment and the community.
Greg grew up in the Chicago area and was a teacher for 20 years in Illinois. In 1990 he and his family moved to Elk Rapids and Greg began co-publishing the Lake Country Gazette, a regional newspaper in Antrim County. Through his journalism he came to know the community of activists working to defend the region and changed careers. He was an early member of FLOW’s board as well as the board of Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC). But his longest organizational commitment was to the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC), which he ultimately co-chaired with Ann Rogers. Ann said they worked together for nearly 25 years.
“We were a good team, never arguing, always talking things over and sharing things like letter writing, petitioning, selecting issues to address and which meetings to attend,” Ann said. “Living in Elk Rapids, he would get the calls for environmental infractions up there, and I took on more around [Traverse City]. But we always shared info, and took it to our board for further discussion before making decisions. Greg’s journalist background, his historic knowledge, his connections to many other groups and individuals, and his dedication was so evident.”
One of Greg’s most effective qualities as an advocate was persistence. He fought one local wetlands destruction proposal for years, working to persuade citizens of the community, local government officials, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and ultimately Governor Jennifer Granholm of his position. The wetland was not developed.
Greg also was a fierce defender of the Great Lakes, tirelessly working with the Oil & Water Don’t Mix (O&WMD) campaign to shut down Line 5 from the beginning. As a founding member of O&WDM, FLOW’s executive director, Liz Kirkwood, remembers Greg’s key role at these regular meetings: “Greg always kept our campaign focused with his sharp mind. He quickly would pivot between the persuasive message and the actual messenger. When you’re battling a Goliath like Enbridge on Line 5, knowing Greg was on our team gave me peace of mind. And best of all, Greg always brought good humor and his unforgettable smile.”
Ann Rogers visited Greg during his last days. “The one thing we assured him of was that NMEAC would go on and stay strong. That was his wish and we hope to do just that.”
A Celebration of Life will be held in 2021 once it is safe to gather, listen to music, and share the energy and love Greg expressed. Greg asked that anyone wishing to help continue his work of protecting the environment make a donation to the GTRLC, NMEAC, which just launched The Greg Reisig Prize for Environmental Journalism in his honor, or FLOW. He also requested that each of us do our part to protect the region, and to practice kindness.
Greg Reisig: Beloved Friend of the Earth
By Liz Kirkwood
Indomitable force you are, always speaking for the Earth, speaking truth to power.
You speak for the trees, the waters, the animals, the children, and their collective future to live in harmony on this small blue planet.
Your voice is so strong, so clear.
You sense outrage and yet you remain measured and calm.
You listen intently and write down every word, never missing a beat.
You bring us in.
You teach us that we must understand their motivations, their tactics, and their long-term strategies.
You show that we must use our smarts but also connect people to their hearts.
This is how we win for Mother Earth.
We thank you dear friend of the Earth. Your legacy is brilliant as we humbly seek to follow your example day by day.