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John M. Robertson

• Mar 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

John M. Robertson, retired chief of Fisheries and Forest Management divisions of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, died March 4, at his home in Grand Haven.

Robertson had more than 40 years of experience in working with complex and contentious natural resources issues, and was skilled in bringing diverse, often competing, interests together to collaborate and strengthen their advocacy for the values they held in common. Robertson learned political savvy while serving as executive assistant to the director and executive secretary to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, the politically appointed oversight board for the MDNR. He represented the Department on the Resources Recovery Commission during the controversy involving the disposal of hundreds of head of cattle contaminated by exposure to PBB (polybrominated biphenyls), and later served as assistant deputy director for the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He initiated development of a joint venture between divisions of the DNR which lead to the ecosystem management approach now embraced by the department. While serving as chief of the Fisheries Division, he was instrumental in negotiating the settlement of a bitter and drawn-out federal lawsuit between the native tribes and commercial and sport anglers. And while chief of fisheries, his efforts to design programs across disciplines, adding much-needed public relations, political science and basic legal training to the curricula used for training resource managers of the future, earned him a Distinguished Service Award from Michigan State University. He has been an advocate and leader for joint jurisdictional management of the Great Lakes fishery under the aegis of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and spearheaded the creation of citizen fishery advisory groups for each of the five Great Lakes. In partnership with Michigan State University, he was instrumental in the design, development and creation of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA), which conducts specialized training in individual and organizational leadership. He also served as both a coach and mentor for the GLLA’s Emerging Leaders and Leadership Advancement programs. He was honored by MSU for his efforts on those two programs last November. He was commended by the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission for his efforts in fostering cooperation among the states and Canadian provinces sharing the management of the Lakes, and has received awards for his work in creating the Great Lakes Fishery Trust Fund; the Fishery Advisory Committees of Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

He is survived by his wife, Susan (Henry); sons: Mark (Kelly) of Grand Haven, John P. (Cindy) of Waterford and Matthew (Carolyn) of Grand Blanc; and stepson Alec (Autumn) Lloyd of East Lansing. He is also survived by grandchildren: Natasha, Katerina, Inessa and Keisa Robertson of Grand Haven; Iaan and Lindsay Robertson of Grand Blanc; Katie, Helen and Erin Lloyd of East Lansing; Derek Robertson of Washington, D.C.; Trent Robertson of Crested Butte, Colo.; Alexandria Robertson, of Katy, Texas; and Zack Robertson at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif.: brother, Lawrence (Marie) of Mashpee, Mass.; sister, Mary Buran of North Wilkesboro, N.C.; sister-in-law, Christine (Mike) Accavitti of Redondo Beach, Calif.; and brother-in-law, Noel (Bobbie) Henry of Highland, Mich.

The Funeral Service for John will be held Thursday, April 5, 2018, at 11 a.m. at United Methodist Church of the Dunes with the Rev. Lou Grettenberger officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Great Lakes Leadership Endowment Fund, Michigan State University, University Advancement, 535 Chestnut Road, Room 300, East Lansing, MI 48824. Donations may be made online on the Academy page at msu.edu.

Please visit www.klaassenfuneralhome.com to sign John’s online guest book.

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