Bird counts, trails, and air pollution studies: this week in environmental news

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

The proposed route of the Iron Belle Trail. Image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Birders break records for Great Backyard Bird Count (Michigan Radio): Citizen scientists participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count logged 5,090 species this winter, about half the bird species in the world. The bitter cold this winter impacted the bird count, with fewer submissions this year, but still a record number of species were logged by those who did venture out.

Mich. Legislature approves $2M for Ironwood-Detroit trail, plus local projects (WDIO): The Michigan Legislature approved $24.7 million in spending on 69 recreational projects around Michigan, including funding for the Iron Belle Trail from Ironwood to Belle Isle in Detroit. This will connect several existing trails from Detroit to the western Upper Peninsula with two  distinct routes, one for bicycling and one for hiking.

Children’s lung health improves as air pollution is reduced, study says (The New York Times): A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that reducing air pollution leads to improved respiratory function in children ages 11 to 15. The study was conducted over 17 years by researchers at the University of Southern California, measuring air pollution levels as they declined in five regional communities and breathing capacity in 2,120 schoolchildren from those communities.

Several local sightings prove bald eagles making comeback (The Oakland Press): Residents in Oakland County have reported seeing bald eagles in their communities recently. Experts say the eagles may not be as rare as some people think; there are approximately 800 bald eagles in Michigan. At Stoney Creek Metropark, bald eagles have been nesting since early 2013, and residents have reported seeing eagles in Highland Township and Waterford Township.

Lifesaving trees, storm recovery and fishers: this week in environmental news

Every week, 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:

Urban trees save lives by reducing pollution (Conservation Magazine): Researchers have found that trees not only bring a visual element to urban areas but, additionally, remove a significant amount of air pollution. According to a study in Environmental Pollution, trees in New York City reduce the risk of respiratory conditions, such as lung inflammation, saving the lives of about eight residents per year. The trees were found to remove roughly 4.7 to 64.5 tonnes of small microns from the air in one year, equivalent to a service worth $1.1 million to $60.1 million.

DNR says Genessee County family can keep its pet deer (Detroit Free Press): The Michigan DNR has decided to allow a Genessee County family to keep their unusual pet deer, Lily. The family took in the deer five years ago when its mother was hit by a car. Authorities first chose to send the illegal pet to a zoo but, instead, found that it would not transition well into a new environment after living with humans for so long. The family agreed to several strict rules in order to keep the pet in what the DNR calls “an extraordinary situation.”

Lake Superior fisheries OK a year after storm (JSOnline): One year after a major storm hit the Duluth, Minnesota area, fish populations in Lake Superior and surrounding facilities are exceeding recovery expectations. The storm rained ten inches onto Duluth, sending tons of sediment into the lake and streams. Though some fish species were permanently rearranged from the storm, researchers see no long-term impacts on the fish and do not expect to see any in the future.


The fisher, Michigan’s recovering species.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Weasel-like mammal called ‘fisher’ returns to northern Michigan (Detroit Free Press): After fully recovering in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the fisher has returned to the tip of the Lower Peninsula, indicating positive habitat restoration. Though the weasel-like mammal once roamed all of Michigan, the fisher disappeared from the state in the 1930s. After roughly 50 years of restoration efforts, DNR officials are finally beginning to receive sighting reports in northern areas of the Lower Peninsula, a sign that things are going well for the species.