Protecting Brockway Mountain

Earlier this year, MNA confirmed an option to purchase an additional 77 acres of land adjacent to the James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary along the Keweenaw Peninsula’s famed Brockway Mountain Drive.

In order to purchase this land and protect it forever, MNA will need to raise more than $150,000 by December 24, 2014. If MNA can make this happen, the total protected area around Brockway Mountain’s summit will total 557 acres, including a recent acquisition by Eagle Harbor Township.

Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive. Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive. Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Brockway Mountain provides semi-alpine habitat for various grasses, sedges and wildflowers, including purple cliff-brake fern and the green adder’s mouth orchid. It also provides one of the best opportunities in Michigan to observe raptors during their spring migration.

Brockway Mountain Drive has been described as one of the most scenic coastal drives in the United States. With an elevation of 1,320 feet, the drive offers stunning views of Lake Superior and the surrounding Keweenaw Peninsula, including views of Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor and the peninsula’s vast forests and sparkling inland lakes.

The drive was designed in 1932 and construction began in 1933 with funding from the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). It opened on October 14, 1933 and quickly became a popular destination for motorists. In December 1938, the Ironwood Daily Globe declared that “at least one million persons” had traveled on the road the first five years it was open, sparking a tourist boom in the area.

Brockway Mountain Drive is the highest scenic road between the Alleghenies and the Rockies and plays a vital role in the tourist economy of Keweenaw County. Protecting the beauty of the Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive benefits both wildlife and the local community.

If you would like to help protect the critical habitat and beautiful outlooks on Brockway Mountain by donating funds toward MNA’s purchase of the additional 77 acres now under option, please contact MNA’s Executive Director Garret Johnson at (866) 223-2231, or gjohnson@michigannature.org.

Wolf hunt, lionfish and protecting butterflies: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With Michigan wolf hunt less than a month away, debate rages onward (Great Lakes Echo): Wolf hunting in Michigan will be legal for the first time on November 15. The hunt will end on December 31, or once 43 wolves have been killed. Supporters argue the hunt will curb the threat wolves pose to livestock and pets. The conservation group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is collecting signatures to put the Natural Resources Commission’s authority to put the hunt to a vote. If the group collects enough signatures, there will be a statewide vote in November 2014 regarding the hunt.

Lionfish wreaking havoc on Atlantic Ocean (Yahoo): The population of lionfish along the U.S. east coast is growing out of control. The lionfish is a venomous predator that has no natural predators of its own in the Atlantic Ocean. The Christian Science Monitor estimates that at least 40 native species have suffered because of the invasive lionfish. Scientists believe that introducing only six lionfish into the area caused the boom. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association suggests the only way to control the population is to capture and eat the lionfish.

Wildlife officials seek protection for Dakota, Poweshiek butterflies (Holland Sentinel): Federal wildlife officials believe two types of butterflies should be classified as threatened or endangered. The proposal to protect the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling will be published in the Federal Register. The Fish and Wildlife service wants to designate different sized tracts in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to protect the Dakota skipper, while designating tracts in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota to protect the Poweshiek skipperling.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions drop 3.8 percent (Mother Nature Network): The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Monday, October 21 that there was a 3.8 percent drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from 2011 to 2012. Although the population increased in 2012, the country released 208 million metric tons less than it did the year before. A milder winter, new car efficiency standards and a continuing switch from power plants run by coal to power plants run by natural gas contributed to the decrease.

Up or down? Which way are Great Lakes water levels headed? (MLive): Officials have considered closing Leland Harbor in Lake Michigan because of record-low water levels that could damage boats and freighters. Although significant rainfall from April to August caused a rise in water levels in the Great Lakes, climate change and manmade alterations have greatly affected the makeup of the lakes. Most studies conclude lake levels will go down in the future, due to climate change. Scientists also predict climate change will cause a continued increase in water temperatures, less ice cover and more evaporation from the lakes.

MNA’s 2013 Volunteer & Donor Recognition Dinner

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Richard Brewer and Kay Takahashi are recognized by Garret Johnson.

Richard Brewer and Kay T. Takahashi are recognized by Garret Johnson. Photo by Steven Humes

MNA’s annual Volunteer & Donor Recognition Dinner was held on Friday, October 18 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. MNA members, trustees, donors and volunteers gathered together to enjoy an evening of camaraderie and a chance to appreciate the outstanding volunteers who have given their time and effort to help MNA with its mission.

Old friends were reunited, new friends were introduced and many stories were shared as guests mingled before dinner was served and the presentations began. The successes of the Michigan Nature Association were touched upon and key donors were recognized. Richard Brewer and his wife, Kay T. Takahashi, were acknowledged for their generous land donation, MNA’s new Brewer Woods Nature Sanctuary.

Eshbach and his wife, Diane, with longtime friends Roswell and Ruth Miller. Photo by Sally Zimmerman

Eshbach and his wife, Diane, with longtime friends Roswell and Ruth Miller. Photo by Sally Zimmerman

Several prestigious awards were given out to extraordinary volunteers. Charlie Eshbach, this year’s recipient of the Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award, shared stories of his multiple experiences in Keweenaw County, specifically with Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Guests listened thoughtfully as Eshbach talked about his involvement with MNA over the past 40 years.

MNA wants to thank everyone who attended the dinner for being a part of this special night! For additional photos from the Recognition Dinner, visit MNA’s Facebook page.

Species Spotlight: Black Tern

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The black tern is a rare bird species that has recently been found to still have active colonies in Michigan Nature Association sanctuaries. Two black tern colonies were discovered, which is a positive sign since there has been a decline in the bird’s colonies over the past decade.

A black tern in flight. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A black tern in flight. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The black tern’s striking features make it distinguishable from all other tern species in Michigan. Its black head and underbody, and gray wings, back and tail are very visible to surveyors. The bird is the smallest of the terns in Michigan, with an average length of only 9.75 inches and an average wingspan of 24 inches. The black tern is known for being highly acrobatic while in flight, often plunging down to the water’s surface to pick up aquatic insects.

The black tern generally migrates to its nesting habitat from the end of April through mid-May. Nesting then occurs from mid-May to the end of August. The best time of year to survey the black tern is from the end of May to the end of July. Surveyors should anticipate getting up early to see the black tern, as it is most viewed right after sunrise.

Black terns live in marsh communities, preferring coastal plain marsh, Great Lakes marsh and emergent marsh. Within these habitats, the bird will build its nest on floating vegetation at the water’s edge. Because of this, the nest and eggs are vulnerable to damage from wind or high water levels. Boat wakes can also drown the nests or submerge eggs. Black tern nests also face the threat of predators when the adult bird is away. Raccoons, crows and snapping turtles are among the predators that will steal young black terns from their nest. It is rare for more than one chick to survive.

These obstacles explain why the black tern is on the “special concern” list and has a state rank of “S3,” meaning it is vulnerable. Habitat desctruction and predators threaten the existence of the black tern, and MNA continues to provide a safe home for the black tern in its sanctuaries. To learn more about MNA’s initiatives, visit www.michigannature.org.

Invasive species, a fishing boom and algae blooms: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Invasive emerald ash borer hurts Michigan timber sales (Great Lakes Echo): The emerald ash borer first caused an infestation in Michigan in 2002. The beetle eats the layer below bark, causing a lack of nutrients and ultimately leads to the death of the tree. The Department of Natural Resources said timber sales are being hurt by the spread of the emerald ash borer. Not all timber is meant to be sold right away, but because of this insect, the process has to be sped up. The infestation is causing a decrease in salvage bid sales and there will be a noticeable decrease in timber sales next year, according to the DNR.

Climate change is making Lake Superior a fishing haven, for the moment (PRI): Lake Superior is warming faster than any other lake on the planet. Because of this, there has been a shift in the species that the lake supports. Lake trout are becoming rarer and are being joined by the walleye in Lake Superior. James Kitchell, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said there will be an economic boost in the short run from this change. However, it will cause problems in the long run. As fish population increases, the amount of food per fish decreases, causing overall growth rates to decline. The warmer temperature of the lake also reintroduces the sea lamprey, a major predator of lake trout.

Algae blooms on Lake Erie getting ‘difficult to control’ (CBC): Massive algae blooms on Lake Erie are becoming harder to control, according to a scientist at the International Joint Commission. The algae blooms are being caused by fertilizer runoff from nearby farms. Raj Bejankiwar of the Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority correctly predicted that Lake Erie would see near-record algae levels because more intense storms cause more intense runoff. The algae is also causing a higher level of toxins in drinking water. This is causing both economic and environmental problems, as 20 percent of the world’s freshwater comes from the Great Lakes.

18-foot-long deep-sea creature found off California (LiveScience): Dive instructor Jasmine Santana found an oarfish carcass while swimming in about 20 feet of water. The animal is rare and serpent-like, and is usually found in much deeper waters. With the help of many others, Santana dragged the carcass onto land, where people took pictures and eventually put the oarfish on ice so it could be shown to students the next day.

Forget polar bears: Global warming will hit the tropics first (Mother Nature Network): Researchers at the University of Hawaii are saying the tropics will suffer “unprecedented” climate change effects in the next ten years. This is predicted to come long before the Arctic and polar bears see effects. Camilo Mora, lead study author and a geographer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa said, “The coldest year in the future will be hotter than the hottest year in the past [150 years].” The amber-eyed jaguar is near the top of the list to become extinct due to climate change.

Why do leaves change in the fall?

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

There is nothing quite like the colors one can see in Michigan in the fall. Reds, oranges, yellows and browns cover the trees and make for a beautiful sight, whether you’re on a hike or just driving by. Many people are delighted by fall and the wonderful colors, but don’t fully understand why the leaves change in the first place.

Many of the colors seen in fall are always present in leaves, just hidden by an abundance of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green and is regulated by light. When there is plenty of light, like in the summer months, the green overshadows the other colors of the leaf.

When the days start to get shorter and there is less light, less chlorophyll is produced. The chlorophyll starts to decompose, and without new chlorophyll being produced, the green color of the leaf starts to fade.

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

At the same time that this is happening, high levels of sugar concentrations in the leaves lead to increased production of anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments. Anthocyanins cause leaves to appear red, and carotenoids cause leaves to appear yellow. A leaf that has a combination of the two will appear orange. If a plant has neither of these pigments, it may appear brown because of other plant chemicals, such as tannins.

All of this might seem a bit heavy, but it will come in handy on any of MNA’s upcoming fall events! There are hikes, volunteer days and exploration days all throughout the months of October and November that anyone can attend to see the beautiful fall colors in action.

Some of these upcoming events include a field trip to Newaygo Prairie on October 19, an exploration of Braastad Nature Sanctuary on October 23 and an exploration of Fox River Nature Sanctuary on October 30. To learn more, visit the MNA website or call (866) 223-2231.

Estivant Pines’ 40th anniversary sparks new challenge for old-growth forest

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Forty years ago, people across the state of Michigan rallied together to raise money to save Estivant Pines. In honor of the 40th anniversary of this event, anonymous donors have provided MNA with a new matching challenge grant. The donors will match all contributions over $500 to MNA, up to a maximum of $40,000 by the end of 2013. New membership dues will also be matched. You can make a secure donation at www.michigannature.org or by calling (866) 223-2231.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in the Keweenaw Peninsula has efficiently protected several threatened species and the beautiful white pines that cover the land over the past four decades.

MNA and local citizens ended their three-year long battle on August 17, 1973 by successfully acquiring a copy of the deed to the Estivant Pines. The “Save the Estivant Pines Committee” began in 1970 when local citizen Lauri Leskinen wrote a column that appeared in the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette that expressed the need to save the pines.

Universal Oil Products, who had cut down about 350 acres of the old forest and had plans for future development, previously owned the Estivant Pines. Charlie Eshbach and Jim Rooks were co-chairs of the committee that worked together with local citizens to generate enough funds to cover the $56,000 price tag that marked the foundation of Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is often referred to as a “living museum” because of its large old-growth white pine forest, with some trees that are 500 years old and stand up to 125 feet tall. For the past four decades, Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary has protected numerous species of plants and animals, including Michigan’s official state tree, the white pine.

There are two trails that visitors can walk down, the Cathedral Loop Trail and the Bertha Daubendiek Memorial Grove Trail, to see the beautiful scenery of Estivant Pines. Visitors can also see several copper mine pits, dating back thousands of years.

For more information, visit the Michigan Nature Association website or check out the Fall 2013 issue of Michigan Nature magazine.