Sparing mute swans, bear cub decline and ‘fishy’ behavior: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

 

A mute swan glides atop the water. Photo by Karen Stamper, courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

A mute swan glides atop the water. Photo by Karen Stamper, courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Local policy revision spares non-aggressive mute swans (Great Lakes Echo): The invasive mute swan species growth in Michigan has been exponential, increasing by 10 percent each year since 2010. Currently there is legislation in place in west Michigan, authorizing the elimination of these creatures. After a recent survey found that people would prefer only the aggressive swans be killed, the Hutchins Lake Association is trying to negotiate a new plan.

Researchers look to spin grass into beef (Great Lakes Echo): The demand for grass-fed cattle is rising in Michigan. With a $460,000 federal grant, researchers from Michigan State University will explore the economic profitability of these cattle as well as environmental friendliness and encouraging consumers to eat frozen meat.

Changing fishery discard practices has cascading effect on ecosystems (Conservation Magazine): Unwanted fish are thrown over the side of sea vessels and fisheries experience up to 40 percent of discard on their trips. Fishing has cascading effects on wildlife, researchers found, because of the removal of some fish many species feed on. Research shows the resolution to this issue is “complicated.”

 

A polar bear with her two cubs. Photo by Frank Lucassec, courtesy of The Guardian.

A polar bear with her two cubs. Photo by Frank Lukasseck, courtesy of The Guardian.

Fewer polar bear cubs are being born in the Arctic islands, survey finds (The Guardian): Bear cub births in the Arctic islands of Svalbard decreased by 10 percent in 2014 alone, according to a small survey. Global warming continues to melt sea ice on which polar bears use to hunt seals. Of 29 female bears researchers tracked, only three gave birth to cubs that year, much less than the usual one-third of female bears to give birth.

Large muskies lured by the moon: study ties lunar cycle, fish behavior to angler success (Science Daily): In a recent study, a possible link between lunar activity and feeding time have encouraged fish to take the bait. Scientists analyzed the muskellunge in North America and found a correlation between lunar activity and the number of fish caught at fisheries.

 

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Trustee profile: Ruth Vail

Ruth Vail helps organize sanctuary files at the MNA office. Photo from MNA archives.

As a volunteer, Ruth Vail spent countless hours assisting with the review of sanctuary legal files.  Photo from MNA archives.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Ruth Vail has been a dedicated member of the Michigan Nature Association since the mid-1970s, winning the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009, helping the organization to achieve accreditation and now currently serving on the Board as Trustee-at-Large.

“It’s our turn as current board members to carry on with that mission and to assure a legacy of preservation as the founders did for us,” she said.

Vail said she holds her position in high esteem and is happy she now has more time to commit to MNA.

“We are so fortunate to live in Michigan and so it is our responsibility and our duty to preserve as much of the natural heritage as (we) can,” she said.

This responsibility is largely why she became involved in MNA, she said. One of her favorite parts about being involved with MNA was the ability to explore its hidden, protected gems, she said.

“One of my favorite memories was seeing Showy Lady’s-slipper orchids growing under some power lines in an obscure sanctuary in Oakland County,” Vail said. 

Upon this memory, Vail said she felt a sense of pride to belong to a group that strives to protect Michigan’s nature.

Beyond her stewardship, Vail also played a key role in helping MNA achieve accreditation in 2013.

“Mostly, I worked on the sanctuary legal files … making sure we know (each sanctuary’s) legal status, that we have deeds, access, adequate protection, tax-exempt status, title insurance, etc. (It) was daunting,” she said.

Despite how enormous the workload seemed, Vail, along with several other volunteers and MNA staff, were able to get the information MNA needed to achieve accreditation.

During this process, Vail had the chance to explore sanctuary files, prompting her to get out and visit different sanctuaries.

“The chance to visit one of the sanctuaries I’d been working on was just the greatest privilege,” she said. 

One memory was her visit to Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary which she said was particularly rewarding.

Vail said she considers herself a “general citizen with concern and love for Michigan.” She said this quality is how she hopes to represent the board members.

“I try to think of my own years of sending in my membership dues and trusting that the Trustees were doing their best to spend money and energy wisely. I want to be a part of a board that is living up to their expectations,” she said.

 

Peregrine Falcons, a resolution against drilling, and sustainable options: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Mid-Michigan Peregrine Falcons expecting (Great Lakes Echo): Peregrine Falcons are expecting this season in Michigan and although they have been taken off the federal endangered species list, are still considered an endangered species under Michigan law. The falcons have been spotted nesting at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s Eckert electric generating plant.

Proposed drilling doesn’t sit well with Washtenaw County officials (MLive): Officials went on the record Wednesday night stating their opposition to any local oil drilling. In a 6-1 vote, the opposing vote from commissioner Dan Smith R-Northfield Township, they approved a resolution that would advocate against any future drilling in the area, similar to a resolution passed by Ann Arbor City Council. 

Walmart: the corporate empire’s big step for sustainability (The Guardian): Rob Walton, the chairman of Walmart and now chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee, has had his hand in trying new ways to get Walmart to be a more sustainable business. The journey toward sustainability started a decade ago, and Walmart looks for ways to reduce waste such as reducing water consumption and packaging. Walmart officials have been negotiating with their suppliers on new methods of sustainability

Rep. Don Young calls rules on oil drilling in wildlife refuges a ‘hare-brained idea’ (Huffington Post): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services opened the forum for comments earlier this year to learn how to update regulations on oil and gas development on areas which are protected under the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has expressed his opposition to these new ideas for rules at a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

The big melt accelerates (The New York Times): As glaciers continue to melt, scientists have declared that some have shrunk to the point of no return — a risk that could set off a “chain reaction” bringing the remainder of the ice sheet to its demise. This research of the glaciers reaching the “point of no return” has signaled to many scientists that even if climate change came to an immediate halt, it may already be too late.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

Protecting the sturgeon, transforming agriculture and a grey wolf shot dead: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Kids with a sturgeon fish. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Children holding a sturgeon. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Volunteers guard Michigan’s spawning sturgeon (Great Lakes Echo): The lake sturgeon, a threatened fish species in Michigan, will have several guardians ensuring its safety at the Black River in Northern Michigan. Volunteers will stand watch on the banks through June to ensure no fish are illegally snatched and are able to leave the Black Lake and reproduce in the Black River.

Grey wolf appears in Iowa for the first time in 89 years — and is shot dead (The Guardian): It was just recently confirmed that an animal shot dead in February in Iowa was a grey wolf, an animal which hadn’t been seen in the area since 1925. Because the hunter who shot the animal believed it to be a coyote and cooperated with the authorities, he has not been cited even though grey wolves are protected in that area.

California’s thirst shapes debate over fracking (The New York Times): Opponents of fracking have a new argument on their side. A drought that was declared early this year in California may have an impact on decisions made about fracking. Last year, fracking one oil well took 87 percent of water which would normally consumed by a family of four in one year.

Smart soil: transforming american agriculture one class at a time: (The Huffington Post Blog):

John Reganold, soil scientist and professor at Washington State University speaks of his study and success with creating sustainable agriculture in the United States. Reganold advocates for organic soil systems as a more sustainable way of growing and producing better crops.

 

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

Reef fish don’t care where conservation lines are drawn (Conservation Magazine): Over the years there have been increasing amounts of established marine protected areas, or MPAs, particularly near the Caribbean. Despite establishing these areas, fish often tend to migrate in and out, swimming outside of the bounds of protection. A research group of the Marine Institute of the United Kingdom tracked several different reef species and determined that conservation efforts must take this migration into account.

Hope for the honey bees? Experts pitch plans to curb deaths (NBC News): Honey bees throughout the world have been suffering from colony collapse disorder and scientists think they may have found a way to lower the death rate. It was found that certain types of pesticides played a role in largely killing the bees — some of the world’s largest contributors to the food and crop industry because of their pollinating role in nature.

Photographer Stephen Ross to host photo workshop at Twin Waterfalls

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Olson Falls by Mike Zajczenko

Water trickles down the sandstone falls surrounded by lush ferns.  Photo by Mike Zajczenko

Photographer Stephen Ross will guide guests through a photo workshop while snapping shots in the beautiful Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve located in Alger County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The workshop, on Saturday May 31, will focus on techniques in photography including  basic digital camera use, lighting, composition and subject choice.

Stephen will also facilitate a group critique of the morning’s collected pictures followed by a short talk on techniques including effective use of the histogram and white balance.

The group will visit several other locations for additional practice. There will also be an additional sunset photography session offered to those who would like to attend.

The Twin Waterfalls sanctuary was acquired in 1986 and expanded on in following years totaling more than 17 acres of land.

The waterfalls, known as the Memorial Falls in commemoration of MNA’s friends and donors, are accessible to guests via several trails, a half-mile in length. The falls are made up of sandstone dating back 550 million years. This wall formation is known as the Munising Formation and is rose-colored and easily eroded by harsh winter weather.

Beech Drops by Ben Blazier

Beech drops appear, attaching themselves to the roots of beech trees. Photo by Ben Blazier

The rock atop the formation, the Au Train Formation, is made up of more firm sandstone which is less affected by erosion. This formation appears as a “shelf” over which the water trickles down.

The falls are home to several different plants including ferns, beech trees and a parasitic plant, the tan-colored beech drop, which can grow to 18 inches in length and secures itself to the roots of the beech tree.

The workshop will be held at the Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve, the Alger County Community Center, and nearby locations. The cost for the workshop is $35, and lunch is included. For more information and to register please contact Upper Peninsula Regional Stewardship Organizer Adrienne Bozic at abozic@michigannature.org.

Algal blooms in the Great Lakes, wolf hunting in the U.P., energy legislation: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garica, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

A fish flops dead on the shore, due to an increase of algae. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

A fish flops dead on the shore, due to an increase of algae. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Public trust demands Great Lakes phosphorus cuts (Great Lakes Echo): A team of United States and Canadian citizens known as the International Joint Commission, or IJC, have come together to create a public trust to protect the Great Lakes from “excessive nutrient runoff.”. This has created toxic algal blooms in the lakes, adversely affecting the ecosystems and causing beach closures.

Second ballot proposal to stop gray wolf hunt in U.P. approved (Detroit Free Press): A proposal to end hunting of grey wolves in the Upper Peninsula will appear on the ballot on Nov. 5 and could possibly repeal a law passed in 2012. The proposal was pushed by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and is among three other proposals about the wolf hunt that will also be on the ballot.

Scientists propose new classification system for invasive species (Conservation Magazine): Researchers across the globe came together to create a new classification scheme to better understand risks and threats to biodiversity on the planet. Rather than using a system that points out species who are endangered, they’re classifying invasive species by the adverse effects they impose on the communities they invade.

Obama pushes climate rules despite Dems’ midterm election concerns (Huffington Post): The Obama administration is set to reveal new emissions caps for factories throughout the nation to democrats’ dismay in energy-producing states during the midterm elections. Obama must start now with making an energy efficient nation, a major component to his campaign, otherwise new legislation won’t be enacted before his term ends.

Extensive Great Lakes ice and El Nino equals cooler Michigan summer  (Macomb Daily): Michigan’s frigid winter could continue to impact the state well into the summer. Extensive Great Lakes ice cover could mean higher lake levels, while the cold winter and an El Nino weather pattern mean cooler temperatures will likely continue. This could also delay severe spring storms.

 

 

Crazy cold in Michigan, pollution levels, and nuclear energy: this week in environmental news

 

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and country related to nature and the environment. Here is what you may have missed this week in environmental news:

 

This graphic shows the temperature departure from normal for March 2014. (National Climatic Data Center)

Crazy cold in Michigan: See how we beat the rest of the world (MLive): A new report from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center shows that Michigan’s March temperatures were farthest from normal of any region in the world. Michigan reached near-record cold temperatures in March, while much of the rest of the world experienced warmer temperatures than normal.

It’s time to stop ignoring the bad air we breathe (TIME.com): Since 1980, levels of ozone pollution have fallen by 25% in the U.S., leaving far cleaner air than in decades past. However, new data from the American Lung Association shows that almost half of Americans are living in areas where smog and soot particles have led to unhealthy levels of pollution. The report also shows that some aspects of air quality have been deteriorating over the past few years in 22 of the 25 biggest metropolitan areas.

No applause for new fracking rules (Interlochen Public Radio): New rules proposed for fracking have watchdog groups worried. Critics say the proposed changes favor the oil and gas industry over neighbors and the public. A coalition of environmental and conservation groups will give a formal review of the proposed rules next week.

BP CEO: Lake Michigan spill ‘has been set aside’ (NWI Times): BP has been ramping up production at its Whiting, Indiana refinery, which spilled up to 1,638 gallons of crude oil into Lake Michigan in March. Chief Executive Bob Dudley says the oil spill is not expected to result in significant fallout for the company, and that no further cleanup work is needed. Dudley says there are no known impacts to wildlife or human health, and there has been no impact on refinery production.

Nuclear industry gains carbon-focused allies in push to save reactors (The New York Times): Environmentalists and the nuclear industry are pushing to preserve old nuclear reactors, which are threatened by cheap natural gas and wind energy. The groups argue that the loss of nuclear plants from the electricity grid would lead to millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year because the substitute would be fossil fuels.