Chickadee mating zone, spring flooding and a climate change app: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

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

California officials prepare for worst as historic drought deepens wildfire risk (The Guardian): According to figures compiled by California’s department of forestry and fire protection, the state has had 665 wildfires since January 1, which is about three times the average for this time of the year. Disaster funds are being set aside for “mega-fires” across the western states.

Emergency officials brace for floods from snow, warmth (Great Lakes Echo): Chances of Michigan communities reaching flood level this time of year are as high as 90 percent. County officials are making sure they have enough sandbags to block flooding and that they are prepared to shelter people if they need to evacuate their homes. The chance of flooding depends on a balance of time, temperature and rainfall.

Two closely related species of chickadees meet, mate and give birth to hybrids. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Two closely related species of chickadees meet, mate and give birth to hybrids. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Chickadee Mating Zone Surges North (The New York Times): There is a narrow strip of territory from Kansas to New Jersey where two related species of chickadees meet and mate to form hybrid birds. Scientists are reporting that this zone is moving north at a rate that correlates with the warming trend.

White House Launches Website App to Visualize Climate Change (National Geographic): The White House unveiled a new website- based app to help explain the science behind climate change. It will help give communities the information and tools to plan for current and future impacts. The first batch of climate data released will focus on coastal flooding and sea-level rise.

New permits allow fish net pens (Great Lakes Echo): A proposal has been launched to allow nonprofit groups to place net pens in Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and their tributaries to increase the population of fish for recreational anglers. As of now, Michigan and New York are the only two states that allow these pens. Prior to the permits, the law did not allow fish farms and the pens would be considered illegal if fish were kept longer than two days.

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Severe drought in California, new study on Asian Carp prevention and the Keystone pipeline: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

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

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The new farm bill will expand crop insurance and other benefits for the agriculture business. Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst (The New York Times): 17 rural communities in California that provide water to 40,000 people could possibly run out of water soon. Officials are saying this drought is on track to be the worst in 500 years and it has already produced dry fields, starving livestock and dense areas of smog. Farmers are being forced to give up on planting and have had to sell animals because there is not enough water. Recreational activities like fishing and camping have been banned and water use is extremely limited among residents living there.

Study: Physical, electric barriers best defenses against Asian Carp (Detroit Free Press): A recent study has found that the most effective defense against Asian Carp reaching the Great Lakes is placing dam-like structures or less expensive electric barrier systems in Chicago waterways. Other methods that were considered are strobe lights, noise makers and depleting oxygen levels in the water, but these were deemed less effective. The study found that physical separation could prevent 95 to 100 percent of Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Herbicides may not be sole cause of declining plant diversity (Science Daily): The declining plant biodiversity has often been blamed by herbicides, but other factors may be a cause. A study found that rare and common plant species had similar tolerances to three commonly used herbicides, which means they do not have a strong effect in shaping plant communities. During the time that herbicide use was on the rise, crop segregation and increased mechanical use were growing and diminishing habitat loss.

Report: Keystone pipeline would have minimal environmental impact (NBC News): A pipeline that would be used to carry crude oil from Canada to refineries in the United States was found to have minimal impact on the environment if it were to be constructed. There has been increased pressure on the president to approve the project, who will only do so if the project does not have a negative effect on the climate. Republicans, on the other hand, have been demanding for the approval of the project for a while because it will provide jobs, but climate and environmental concern are the main priority in the decision making process.

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers (The New York Times): The Senate passed a farm bill on Tuesday that expanded crop insurance and other benefits for agriculture business. It is estimated to cut $17 billion from the budget of government spending over a decade. Anti hunger advocates and other critics, though, oppose the bill and say it would harm thousands of American households by causing them to lose money due to cuts in food stamps and they think that the industry does not need more support.