Biodiversity bill, fracking and algae blooms: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and country related to conservation and the environment. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

This NOAA simulation shows high water levels at the Harbor Bay Power Plant in Michigan’s thumb region. Source:

Is Michigan’s biodiversity in jeopardy? Environmental group critical of bill soon to be on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk (MLive): A bill that aims to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from making land use decisions based on biodiversity has passed both chambers of the Michigan Legislature. The Michigan Environmental Council is critical of the bill’s broad language, while Sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson says the program could have restricted private land use. The bill will likely go to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

New York bans fracking after health report (Reuters): New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Maretens says he will issue an order early next year to ban fracking. This decision comes after the release of a report which concluded that the oil and gas extraction method poses health risks. Once the ban is in place, New York and Vermont will be the only two states to completely prohibit fracking.

New tool simulates climate change impact on Great Lakes shores (Great Lakes Echo): A new computer application developed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will help planners see the impact varying water levels have on Great Lakes shoreline.

Obama indefinitely bans drilling in Alaskan Bay (The New York Times): On Tuesday, President Obama indefinitely barred oil and gas exploration of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which is home to a variety of marine life that includes the endangered North Pacific right whale. The bay also supports a $2 billion fishing industry that supplies 40% of the wild-caught seafood in the United States. The ban is permanent unless a future president acts to reverse it.

U.S. gives $3.1 million for Lake Erie algae projects (Detroit Free Press): The Environmental Protection Agency is allocating $3.1 million from a Great Lakes cleanup fund for efforts to reduce algae blooms in Lake Erie. Projects will improve water quality testing and algae bloom forecasting, as well as expand assistance for agricultural conservation practices.

Invasive species, Great Lakes, and biodiversity: 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 some of what happened this week in environmental news:

Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron continue to be above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years. Photo: NOAA

Upper Great Lakes water levels are up. Here’s why. (Michigan Radio): Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron are above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, water levels dropped in the late 1990s and remained low. Since 2013, water levels have surged, mainly due to increased precipitation. A seasonal forecast predicts a typical seasonal cycle with no extreme changes in water level.

Invasive species can dramatically alter landscapes, study shows (Science Daily): A study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky reviewed research on how life forms interact with and influence their surroundings. The review concluded that invasive species can cause serious problems that may have an impact for decades, or longer. The review showed that areas where land and water systems overlap are particularly vulnerable to invasives.

Rufa Red Knot Gets Listed (Audubon Magazine): The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that the Rufa Red Knot will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This coastal shorebird has experienced a population drop of more than 75 percent since the 1980s. The Rufa Red breeds in the Arctic tundra in the summer and then migrates more than 9,000 miles to the tip of South America – passing through parts of Michigan on its journey. The bird’s primary threat is climate change – rising water levels and storms are harming the coastal habitat used by the bird for migration.

Scientists oppose bill to keep DNR from considering biodiversity (Michigan Radio): The state legislature is considering a bill that would forbid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from considering biodiversity along with other uses of state lands. Introduced by State Sen. Tom Casperson , the bill would prohibit the DNR from enforcing the rule that designates an area of land specifically for maintaining biological diversity, limiting the ability to fight invasive species

Study shows that 270,000 tons of plastic float in the ocean (AP): A new study estimates that 270,000 tons of plastic, enough to fill 38,500 garbage trucks, is floating in the world’s oceans. The study, led by the 5 Gyres Institute, aims to understand how synthetic materials are entering the oceans and how they affect fish, seabirds, and the ecosystem. The study only measured plastic floating on the ocean’s surface – plastic on the ocean floor was not included.

MNA Looks Back on a Remarkable 2014

2014 has been an incredibly important and successful year for MNA! It’s impossible for one blog post to do justice to the amazing work of our staff and volunteers, but we’ve compiled a few highlights from throughout the year. Click on the images to enlarge and scroll through the gallery:

Check out out MNA’s 2014 Year in Review publication for more details about our progress in 2014. 

Thank you for making this a year to remember! If you’d like to support MNA, you can become a member or make a tax-deductible contribution.

Great Lakes ice, climate change, and a snowy owl: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment. Here is a some of what happened this week in environmental news:

A snowy owl has been spotted near Chrysler Beach in Marysville. (Photo: Tim Buelow / Submitted to The Times Herald)

Great Lakes ice breaking all the rules (Great Lakes Echo): Ice is forming on the Great Lakes this year faster than ever. Lake Superior had areas freezing on Nov. 15, the earliest in over 40 years. Due to last winter’s harsh cold temperatures, ice remained on Lake Superior from November until June. With such a short time without ice, the Great Lakes remained unusually cold and had higher-than-normal water levels.

Secretary General Expresses Optimism About Climate Meeting (The New York Times): The United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said he was optimistic that progress on curbing greenhouse gas emissions would be made during a conference he will attend next week in Lima, Peru. Delegates from more than 190 countries will be working on a new agreement to contain global warming.

Snowy owl spotted in Blue Water Area (The Times Herald): Earlier this week, a resident spotted a snowy owl near Chrysler Beach in Marysville, Michigan. According to the Michigan Audubon Society, snowy owls typically only come that far south when the food supply is low in the arctic. The high survival rate of last year’s snowy owl offspring is likely the cause of the lower food supply. The owl appears to be staying around Chrysler Beach for the winter.

DNR Advises not to move firewood between state parks to prevent spread of oak wilt (Michigan DNR): Oak wilt, a deadly tree infection spread by the transport of firewood, has been increasing in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has conducted treatment at several state parks to halt the spread of the disease, which has already destroyed more than 100 large red oaks. The DNR asks that no one transport firewood between campgrounds in order to keep the disease from spreading further.

Video: Swimming owl in Lake Michigan, footage captured by Chicago photographer (MLive): A Chicago photographer captured video footage of a great horned owl swimming the butterfly in Lake Michigan. Sources say the owl had been forced down into the lake by two peregrine falcons, swam to shore, and rested on the beach until he could fly. The video appears below: