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.

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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.