Sierra club on sustainable agriculture, global warming impacts on economy and polluted beaches: 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:

Sierra club launches sustainable agriculture testimonials, Western Michigan University student project (MLive): Western Michigan University senior Erin Denay has been working on a project in collaboration with the Sierra Club asking Michiganders at farmer’s markets their thoughts on buying food from local farmers. Denay created a series of one-minute video testimonials to address the topic of local farming.

Innovative farm energy projects clash with Wisconsin policy (Great Lakes Echo): Central Wisconsin’s farming area has been known to produce a lot of waste with its methods of farming. Now New Chester Dairy and Brakebush Brothers are collaborating with New Energy North America to eliminate their waste and turn it into usable energy.


Graphic by the NRDC, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Graphic by the NRDC, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

1 in 10 U.S. beaches so polluted they’re not safe for swimming, report says (Huffington Post): The Natural Resources Defense Council produced findings that one in 10 beaches in the U.S. are unsafe for swimmers due to pollution according to their 24th annual report.The organization collected water samples from 3,500 beaches and tested them according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s newer more health-conscious standards.

Global warming takes toll on U.S. economy, not just environment (Nature World News): The economic future of the U.S. economy seems bleak if climate change continues at its current rate, and could cost hundreds of billions of dollars by 2100. The U.S. has already been hit with several tropical storms, rising sea levels, droughts and flooding, already incurring costs which will continue to rise.


Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Western  snowpack could plummet this century (Conservation Magazine): Snowfall on lower elevation mountain peaks in the American west will change to rainfall in the next few decades, according to projections. The rainfall could drastically change how water supply reaches farmers who are used to snowpack accumulation for their water supply.

Species spotlight: piping plover

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

As Michigan tourists pack up their bags and head for beaches in the north, they should keep an eye out this summer for the endangered piping plover.

The piping plover population has significantly declined in the Great Lakes areas because of recreational beach development and tourism.

piping plover

The piping plover stands atop shells in sand in shallow, flowing water.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The piping plover is a sand bird which nests in North America in the Great Plains, along the coasts of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

The piping plover is sandy in color on top with a white underbelly. The plover also has a black band around its neck and a black crown on its head. Its legs are orange but fade to yellow in the winter.

Piping plovers prefer to make their habitat in sandy areas such as dunes, gravel beaches and sand bars.

Sites where the piping plover is most commonly found are Texas, Louisiana and Florida because of the high concentration recorded in those areas. Out of a total of 1,372 breeding pairs, only 32 have appeared in Michigan.

This bird has been classified as endangered since 1986 — it is endangered in the Great Lakes area and threatened in other North American regions.

The plover feeds on wet sand, in any nearby areas it can find: algal flats, shorelines of streams, ephemeral ponds and lagoons to name a few.

They utilize small sand dunes for protection from hot and stormy weather.

Breeding begins in March and extends through mid-May, with the piping plover laying three or four eggs in a shallow, camouflaged nest of pebbles and shells. Both parents are involved in prenatal care of the eggs, each sitting atop them to keep them warm. After the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks until they are able to take flight.

The chicks will fly after 30 days and starting in July through October, they will take off on their journey.

An unscathed habitat is a necessity to ensure hatch-lings will be able to survive and make it to migrating season. Unfortunately, land development and tourism has deterred the piping plover population from using Michigan beaches as its habitat.


Collaboration on the Great Lakes front, climate change, solar power and wolves: 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:

Cherryland Solar Panel

Cherryland’s solar array. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Community solar coming of age in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s 224-panel solar array in Grand Traverse County in Northern Michigan just celebrated its first anniversary.  The Solar Up North Alliance Community Solar Project helped introduce this project which launched on Earth Day 2013 and could be a catalyst for future solar energy projects in the state.

Great Lakes mayors flex muscle on oil, climate change (Great Lakes Echo): Mayors of Great Lakes areas have come together from the U.S. and Canada to discuss oil transportation. Citing the Kalamazoo river oil spill incident and the Lac-Megantic, Quebec train accident and explosion resulting in 47 deaths, the major part of their discussion was these events and taking future actions. 

Don’t Poison me! A big win for baby owls (like this one) and other wildlife (Huffington Post): Alicia Hermance chronicles the rescue of a fallen spotted owl and its recovery in her blog post. She also highlights the dangers of rat poisons. Rat poisons are easily available at hardware stores and if placed outside, owls are at risk of getting sick from consuming the poison.

The right call on climate change (Huffington Post): U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) of California’s 24th District discusses her views on how the new EPA regulations can improve American health, climate change and create clean energy jobs. “By 2030, the EPA plan will cut carbon emissions by 30 percent nationwide, dropping totals below 2005 levels,” Capps wrote in her blog post.

wolf map

A map showing the ratio of wolf to coyote throughout Yellowstone and Riding Mountain National Parks. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Reintroducing wolves is only effective at large scales (Conservation Magazine): The eradication of wolves in the U.S. has greatly effected the ecological carnivorous system –– usually wolves feed on coyotes, who feed on red foxes. Since wolves have severely decreased in numbers, coyotes have increased, preying on more red foxes. Scientists have been experimenting with ratios of wolves to coyotes throughout North America to study its effects on the ecosystem.

Great Lakes Commons charter targets shared waters concept (Great Lakes Echo): The Great Lakes Commons is a group with a vision to unite all those regions governing the lakes to come together and form a mutual protection and care plan. They officially introduced their social charter on Thursday. “The charter will gather the beliefs and commitments of the different peoples of the bio-region, and by doing this, we will be asserting the legitimacy of these ideas and our role in shaping the governance for our lakes,” Alicia Bradley said. Bradley is co-directer of the Milwaukee Water Commons and a leader of the Great Lakes Commons effort.


Brockway Mountain Challenge Yields Success

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

An autumn view from Brockway Mountain. Photo by J. Haara.

An autumn view from Brockway Mountain. Photo by J. Haara.

In only seven months, MNA has been able to surpass its fundraising goal in order to protect more of Brockway Mountain, adjacent to the James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County.

In 2013, Eagle Harbor Township protected 320 acres of Brockway Mountain near the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Brockway Mountain is one of MNA’s top conservation priorities, and MNA learned of an opportunity to protect an additional 77 acres adjacent to this addition shortly after the acquisition.

MNA was able to raise $150,000, to protect the additional acres on Brockway Mountain. MNA had until December 2014 to meet this goal, but has been able to surpass it thanks to dedicated members and donors, including a special matching challenge grant by Donald and Karen Stearns. The organization has extended an invitation for the public to attend a meeting on June 21 from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. and a hike atop Brockway Mountain at the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary afterward.

The meeting will be held at the Eagle Harbor Community Center in Eagle Harbor, Mich. Lunch will be provided at the meeting and guests can RSVP by contacting Danielle Cooke at (866) 223-2231 or

Stewards and volunteers work together to maintain the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Stewards and volunteers work together to maintain the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Klipfel Nature Sanctuary currently sits atop the bluff of Brockway Mountain and boasts a scenic coastal drive allowing for easy access to the area and an outstanding view of scenery and Lake Superior. Keweenaw’s harsh winds make the semi-alpine habitat an inhospitable climate for many plants but creates a unique ecological environment where sedges, grasses and wildflowers grow.

In the springtime, Brockway Mountain is a great place to bird-watch as the raptors make their way to their Canadian breeding sites. These birds can be observed in flight close along the cliffs, a distance much shorter than normally observed.

MNA continues to extend protection to Brockway Mountain, whose drive has been described as one of the most scenic coastal drives in the United States. MNA has been successful thanks to many generous donations and will be able to continue preservation of Brockway Mountain’s legacy of beautiful vistas and unique ecological composition.