Wildfires, hound hunting and snake encounters: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

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:

Above average number of wildfires predicted by summer’s end (Great Lakes Echo): Despite Michigan’s decline in wildfires down to 86 so far in 2014 from a record high of 315 in 2012. according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the latter half of the year may prove to have higher than average numbers of wildfires.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Video in coyote killing raises questions about ethics and the future of wolf hunting in Michigan (MLive): After the discovery of a brutal video of hound dogs attacking a wounded coyote in Gogebic County, policies on how hound dogs can be used during hunting come into question. Although using these hunting dogs are not allowed when pursuing wolves, they are still allowed for other animals, leaving them vulnerable to hunting hound attacks. Legislators are reviewing the film as evidence in a case to determine the legality of hound use in the particular situation.

John Kerry launches global effort to save world’s oceans ‘under siege’ (The Guardian): On Wednesday, John Kerry launched his new global effort to protect oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution and climate change. Kerry plans to discuss the topic at the State Department two-day summit June 16 and 17. The State Department said Kerry’s conference will help global awareness of issues surrounding the earth’s oceans.

Road salt changes urban ecosystems in big ways (Conservation Magazine): During the winter, tons of salt is dumped along roads throughout the Midwest. Despite the usefulness of salt on icy roads to make it easier and safer for drivers, it ends up running off into soils on the side of the road and changing their chemical composition. The salt can also find its way to bodies of water, plants and animals, changing the way the ecosystem evolves.

DNR offers tips for residents encountering snakes (Michigan Department of Natural Resources): The DNR has released information to help residents who may encounter snakes this summer. Michigan has 17 species of snakes, 16 of which are completely harmless to humans. To avoid snake bites, the DNR suggests getting no closer than within 24 inches of a snake’s head. Residents are also asked to report any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project.

 

 

MNA and The Nature Conservancy to host hikes at Echo Lake

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A view of Echo Lake. Photo by Andrew Bacon via MNA archives.

A view of Echo Lake. Photo by Andrew Bacon via MNA archives.

MNA in coordination with The Nature Conservancy will be hosting themed hikes throughout the summer at the Echo Lake Nature Preserve.

The hikes will be a series of events throughout the summer called Saturdays at Echo Lake. The events are free and open to the public.

Echo Lake Nature Preserve is a 480-acre sanctuary located in Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula.  The preserve is home to several diverse habitats. It is known for its 20-acre lake which is surrounded by mountains, bedrocks, wetlands, three small high-rock ponds, creeks and mix of deciduous and coniferous forest.

While there, visitors can expect to see incredible views while hiking on rocks and bluffs from the highest points of the bedrock areas. Some sights include: Hogsback Mountain, Little Presque Isle and Lake Superior. There will also be several migratory birds to look out for who only appear for the warm seasons in Michigan. The preserve has been relatively untouched for most its existence, boasting a high water quality and dense wooded areas which provide protection for large mammals in the winter season.

MNA has worked with The Nature Conservancy for several years helping with stewardship services to help maintain the land and preserve its natural heritage. MNA has a conservation easement over the property which helps provide it with more levels of conservation protection. The Nature Conservancy has also partnered with several other organizations and departments on the conservation of the preservation.

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Guests will meet at Moosewood Nature Center to carpool to the hikes. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Andrea at (906) 225-0399 ext. 4019 or echolake@tnc.org.

Project in UP halted, EPA limits emissions and blacklights save bats: 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:

Court upholds UP ethanol plant review but project likely dropped (Great Lakes Echo): A federal appeals court has upheld the decision to review a $100 million construction subsidy in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The U.S. Department of Energy declared the project to be void of significant harm to the environment. Despite this, recent mandates calling for the elimination of cellulosic ethanol and an investor backing out may have closed the project.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

Local grocers specialize to thrive (The State News): The East Lansing Food Co-op, among other stores, have tried ways to make them stand out to customers. The co-op is different compared to other grocery stores and provides organic and locally grown food, something a little different than at the supermarket. Owner David Finet said the co-op works directly with its producers when buying products.

EPA releases much-anticipated limits on power plant emissions (Huffington Post): The Environmental Protection Agency announced one of its new mandates: a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. “For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Twitter chat about new EPA carbon pollution regulations (New York Times): The New York Times hosted a Twitter question and answer session with environmental reporter Coral Davenport. Davenport had an exchange with those asking questions about the new EPA regulations and their effects on coal-producing states, among other topics.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Scientists diagnose white-nose syndrome in bats using ultraviolet lights (Conservation Magazine): The white-nose syndrome is devastating to many hibernating bats. The disease comes from a fungus and infects bats as they hibernate and often kill them. A major guide for scientists to start tackling this disease is to find its location, although it is difficult to locate as testing bats for the disease calls for killing them.

Species spotlight: the Peregrine Falcon

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

In a story by the Great Lakes Echo, a Peregrine Falcon was found outside the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s electrical generation plant creating a nest.

A young Peregrine Falcon peers over a ledge. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A young Peregrine Falcon peers over a ledge. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Although the thought of a bird nesting and laying eggs doesn’t come as a surprise to many Michiganders this time of year, the Peregrine Falcon is a rare bird to the state, making the news more fascinating than usual and piquing the interest of environmentalists.

The Peregrine Falcon, about the size of a crow, boasts a wingspan of 44 inches at the maximum. The Peregrine is not usually found in wooded areas because of its need to hunt from the air in open spaces. The falcon mainly feeds on small birds — sometimes small ducks, giving it a misleading nickname of “duck hawk.” When the Peregrine hunts, it swoops down from high above to snatch its prey which is called stooping. During their stoops, the falcon can reach up to 180 miles per hour.

Peregrines mate for life and establish nesting areas called “eyries” which the falcons revisit annually.  The usual nesting sites for the falcons were in the cliffs of the Upper Peninsula prior to the decline. The recovery team released birds in the Upper Peninsula as well as urban areas including Detroit and Grand Rapids. The falcons would have the opportunity to feed on smaller birds in these areas and not be threatened by the Great Horned Owl.

The Great Horned Owl, a predator to the Peregrine Falcon. Photo courtesy of larkwire.com

The Great Horned Owl, a predator to the Peregrine Falcon. Photo courtesy of larkwire.com

There Peregrine Falcon was considered a national endangered species until 1999, but is still classified as an endangered species in Michigan today. A major decline in falcons started in the 1950s, when harmful pesticides and chemicals were used, killing many birds by affecting eggshells during the incubation period. The chemicals made the falcons lay eggs with extremely fragile shells, which broke and cracked easily causing several fewer chicks to hatch.

A Peregrine Falcon with its prey in its talons. Photo courtesy of lpfw.org

A Peregrine Falcon with its prey in its talons. Photo courtesy of lpfw.org

The Eastern Peregrine Recovery Team was formed in 1975, in order to help restore the lost bird in the Eastern U.S., five years after the harsh chemicals used were banned due to negative effects on the environment. At the time the team was formed, the falcons had shrunk to 10 percent of their original size. The recovery was found extremely successful as 400 falcons were released in the upper Midwest. Prior to the decline, there had been 109 pairs recorded nesting Peregrine Falcons in the state of Michigan.

For more information on the Peregrine Falcon visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.