Monarchs, American Wetlands Month, and Migratory Bird Festival: this week in environmental news

Monarch butterflies winging their way north to Michigan (MDNR): With spring now sprung in Michigan, soon we’ll be welcoming back to the state one of the most distinctive signs that summer is on its way – the brightly colored monarch butterfly. Monarchs are on their way north from Mexico, where they spend the winter months. While National Start Seeing Monarchs Day is observed annually on the first Saturday in May, it may be a few more weeks before they make their way across Michigan. One of the most well-known and beloved butterfly species in North America, with their easily recognized orange and black wing pattern, monarchs have become a much less common sight in recent decades. The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years due mainly to habitat loss, both in their summer range – including Michigan – and in Mexico, where they overwinter. The alarming declines in monarchs and other pollinators have sparked conservation programs across the nation. There are many ways that Michigan residents can contribute to ongoing monarch conservation efforts as well. Creating habitat for monarchs and other pollinators, whether it’s in your backyard or a large field, is a great place to start. Other resources include the Create Habitat for Monarchs web page from Monarch Joint Venture and “How to build a butterfly and pollinator garden in seven steps” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another way you can contribute to monarch butterfly conservation efforts is to monitor monarch populations by reporting any sightings at Journey North or getting involved in other monarch citizen science opportunities.

Celebrate American Wetlands Month by exploring Michigan’s wetlands (TV6): May is American Wetlands Month – a month to appreciate and enjoy the wonders of wetlands. The Department of Natural Resources encourages Michigan residents to get out and enjoy some of the outstanding wetlands the state has to offer. Try visiting one of Michigan’s Wetland Wonders for a day of hiking, birding, kayaking or fishing.

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The Keweenaw’s Migratory Bird Festival (Copper Harbor Birding): Join the Copper Harbor Birding group in celebrating the spring bird migration by offering a season full of bird and other nature related activities. The birds are the main focus, so get out there! Guided bird and nature walks are offered throughout the season.

Making your native plant choices for Michigan inland lake shorelines (MSU Extension): Michigan’s inland lakes draw many people for a variety of reasons. Being close to nature and being a part of a relaxing natural environment are not the least among them. However, the reality of owning a lake home often is at odds with what nature provides. When choosing native plants for your shoreline you should have a landscape design plan and know the Lake fetch or prevailing wind direction on your lake in relationship to your property. Then go about choosing what plants will serve your needs and aesthetic. The important thing to remember is to choose the right plant for the right place.

Small snail, big problems: Researchers track invasive New Zealand mudsnail in Michigan rivers (MDNR): A tiny invader is threatening prized trout streams in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula.  A mere 1/8-inch long, the New Zealand mudsnail is barely distinguishable from a grain of sand, but over time its invasive habits can affect the quality and quantity of trout and other fish in the Au Sable, Pere Marquette and Boardman rivers where it has been found. The Department of Environmental Quality recently released a new video providing an overview of New Zealand mudsnail identification. The video is the premiere in the “MDEQ Minute” series, offering 60-second views on a broad range of topics including new and potential invasive species in Michigan. If you think you have found a New Zealand mudsnail in a waterway outside of the Pere Marquette, Boardman or Au Sable rivers, report your finding using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network website, www.misin.msu.edu, or download the MISIN app to your smartphone.

Pacu Fish, Endangered Butterflies, and the Common Loon: this week in environmental news

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Pacu Fish. Image: Thinking Humanity.

‘Human-toothed’ Pacu in Michigan waters, endangered species running out of time (Great Lakes Echo): The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently reported finding fish with “human-like teeth” in southeastern Michigan lakes. Anglers spotted red-bellied pacu in Lake St. Clair and near Port Huron. These unusual fish sport teeth eerily reminiscent of humans’ so they can eat seeds and nuts. While they’re not native to Michigan, DNR said they’re not invasive.

 

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

Celebrating 100th anniversary of parks system with a great Great Lakes view (Great Lakes Echo): The U.S. National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016, commemorating 100 years of stewardship of America’s natural and historic treasures. Many of those monuments, scenic rivers, parks, and historic sites are visible from space – where the views are just as compelling.

 

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Mitchell’s Satyr. Photo: Bill Bouton

Endangered butterflies released by Kalamazoo Nature Center (WMUK 102.1): The Kalamazoo Nature Center released 18 rare butterfly caterpillars. The Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly is a nationally endangered species. There are only 11 groups of the butterfly left in the entire United States. The Mitchell’s Satyr has been called a “canary in a coal mine” for America’s wetlands. Almost all of the butterflies live in the southernmost counties of Michigan because they live in a rare habitat – fens.

 

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Common loon. Image: US FWS.

Loony for a diving bird (Great Lakes Echo): Great Lakes common loons are a barometer for water and habitat quality since they’re sensitive to pollution and very particular about where to nest. Listen to the podcast to learn more about the common loon.

Modoc suckers, Monarch butterflies, and climate change: this week in environmental news

Service Removes Modoc Sucker from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that, thanks to decades of collaborative conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is removing the Modoc sucker from the Act’s protections. This marks the second-time that a fish has been ‘delisted’ due to recovery. The Modoc sucker is a small fish native to the Upper Pit River Watershed in Southern Oregon and Northeastern California. The fish was listed as endangered in 1985 due to habitat loss and degradation from overgrazing, situation and channelization due to agriculture practices. The recovery of the Modoc sucker is a great victory for conservation, for the Endangered Species Act, and for our natural heritage.

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Modoc sucker taken off Endangered Species List. Photo: USFWS

Trust fund awards $28 million for Michigan public lands projects (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund will award nearly $28 million for public lands projects, including funds for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Parks and Recreation divisions. The DNR Wildlife Division will get $2.47 million for a Petobego State Game Area in Grand Traverse County land acquisition project. The primary goal is to provide essential habitats for migratory and resident wildlife and create opportunities for hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Report: Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Lost 24 Acres (ABC News): Studies found that illegal loggers clear-cut at least 24 acres in the monarch butterflies’ wintering ground in central Mexico this year. The butterflies depend on the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City to shelter them against cold and rain. Environmentalists called on authorities to stop illegal logging in the butterfly reserve.

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A kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies hang from a tree branch, in the Piedra Herrada sanctuary. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell

Oneida Lake among hundreds worldwide warming due to climate change: study (Syracuse.com): A new study of more than 200 lakes around the world show that many – including Oneida Lake – are warming so rapidly that toxic algae outbreaks could become more frequent. Increasing warmth in lakes is projected to increase algal blooms by 20%, and toxic blooms by 5%, according to NASA. The warmer water could also alter the balance of ecosystems and threaten the livelihood of people who depend on fish from the lakes.

Detroit River project, helping hunters, and yellow perch: this week in environmental news

New dock and fishing pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway. Photo: Hamilton Anderson Associates

New dock and fishing pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway. Photo: Hamilton Anderson Associates

Huge fishing pier, outdoor center set for Detroit River (Detroit Free Press): The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge will see many changes, including a $2.85-million structure stretching 775 feet across the Detroit River, with a fishing pier to accommodate 100 people and a floating dock for the Michigan Sea Grant educational program boat. Seating, shade structures, and interpretive signs will also be included. The Downriver facility improvements will not only boost the number of visitors, but also help change the perception of the Detroit area. The
refuge has allowed nature to move back
into the area, and people can see that up close.

2015 Lake Erie algae bloom largest on record (Detroit Free Press): Scientists say an algae bloom that spread across Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record and produced a thick scum about the size of New York City. The bloom stayed toward the center of the lake between Canada and Ohio and away from the shoreline. That lessened the impact on boaters and plants that handle drinking water.

Michigan hunters help feed the hungry (Outdoorhub): Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (MSAH) is a volunteer-based program that aims to get excess game meat onto the plates of the less fortunate. Food banks love the program, often contacting the DNR to ask about participating. One of the requirements is that venison has to go through a license processor. Another element to the program is that it promotes hunting and hunters need to know that nothing goes to waste.

Study author Troy Farmer with yellow perch inside environmental-control chambers. Image: The Ohio State University

Study author Troy Farmer with yellow perch inside environmental-control chambers. Image: The Ohio State University

Climate change threatens perch, other warm-water fish (Great Lakes Echo): A recent study looked at how shorter and warmer winters impact yellow perch, but it also could have implications for other early spring spawning fish. The study shows that if fish can’t adapt to the changing climate, they die. A drop in the fish population could have far reaching consequences in the Great Lakes. According to the Michigan chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Great Lakes fisheries are worth $7 billion annually to our regional economy. The loss of the yellow perch
population could harm the health of the entire food web.

DNR to celebrate 40 years of Endangered Species Act with week of events

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

The state of Michigan has hit a major milestone and the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, has decided to honor it in an extraordinary way: by hosting a week in honor of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, from Aug. 4-10.

The ESA was signed into law on July 11, 1974 and came into effect on Sept. 1 of that year. The DNR invites Michiganders to join them at the nearest state park for an insightful lecture on what the ESA is and what it means for an animal to be classified as endangered or threatened.

Click here to find the schedule of events.

According to the DNR, one success that the ESA is the recovery of the rare Kirtland’s warbler. This bird has garnered attention from far and wide. In a release from the DNR, Specialist Dan Kenneday said “Michigan’s ESA has been pivotal in the recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler.”

A Kirtland's warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A Kirtland’s warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

The ESA plays a large role in maintaining balance in Michigan’s wondrous natural habitats and ecosystems. Without laws protecting animals, habitat decline, pollution and other issues will continue to cause harm to animals and their homes throughout the state, which may compromise the health of Michigan’s invaluable natural scenery.

When a species is classified as endangered, it means that it is in danger of becoming extinct. There are also many other species listed as threatened and may be on the verge of being listed as endangered. The ESA is one step in finding methods to solve the problem of extinction and has already found success in the restoration of the Kirtland’s warbler.

MNA supports the efforts of the ESA and the DNR and congratulates them on the 40th anniversary of the act. Don’t miss a chance to celebrate the ESA! For more information about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, click here.

 

Mining in Mackinac, forest pests and reducing emissions: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, 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:

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Graymont Inc.’s plan to start mining in Mackinac. Photo by UpNorthLive

Limestone producer looks to build massive underground mine in the U.P. (Up North Live): The Canadian company, Graymont Inc., is one of the largest limestone producers in North America. The company wants to start mining in the Upper Peninsula by buying 10,000 acres of Mackinac County land that currently is owned by the Department of Natural Resources. The land will be divided up between an underground mine, surface mining and a processing plant. County residents have mixed reactions to the plan, claiming it will bring jobs, but also harm the environment. The DNR is accepting feedback for the next six weeks on the situation.

Climate change opens doors to forest pests new to Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): The changing climate will increase the frequency of droughts, increase the severity of snow/rain storms and make frosts occur later. These things will make trees more vulnerable to insects and disease. Insects such as the mimosa webworm and the hemlock woolly adelgid are a concern for the Great Lakes region. The mountain pine beetle, however, is the most dangerous because it could mean a higher risk of forest fires if the insect causes an increase in pine tree mortality.

Snuffing out smoke: West Michigan school bus drivers shut off engines to reduce emissions (MLive): Schools in West Michigan are taking steps toward reducing the amount of fumes that come out of their school buses by turning off the buses rather than letting them idle. Newer buses also have higher standards when it comes to harmful emissions. A recent USA Today story reported that soot levels in air samples at Cincinnati public elementary schools dropped after the schools implemented the change.

What America’s forests looked like before Europeans arrived (Mother Nature Network): Researchers know the landscape of America’s Northeastern forests are dramatically different today than they were 400 years ago, before European settlers arrived. Because of a rare fossil discovery in Pennsylvania, scientists were able to piece together the full story of America’s early forests. They are hoping that if they can identify fossil tree-leaf sites, it can help with forest restoration projects throughout the Northeastern United States.

Michigan’s feral swine numbers are dropping…or are they? (Great Lakes Echo): Wild pigs in Michigan are known to carry diseases, infect farm pigs and destroy land. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the number of feral swine in Michigan has dropped significantly. But, other groups are saying differently. The DNR’s report shows that less than ten feral swine were reported this year, whereas over 40 were reported last year. Mary Kelpinski, executive director of Michigan Pork Producers Association, said the problem is actually growing worse and they are having a hard time getting people to report sightings.

New aquatic invasive species found in Michigan

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers have recently discovered a new invasive species in Michigan, the European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae). It is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow, slow-moving water on the edges of lakes, rivers, streams, swamps, marshes and ditches.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division is leading the effort to control the invasive species. Only recently, it was found in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Before statewide monitoring, it was only thought to exist in a few spots in the Lower Peninsula.

European frog-bit was accidentally introduced into Canadian waters between 1932 and 1939 and has traveled to lower parts of Canada and eastern states such as New York and Vermont. The plant is a free-floating, perennial plant that resembles lily pads and grows in extremely dense vegetative mats. The mat covers the water’s surface and shades out submerged plants that rely on the sun to thrive. It threatens native plants’ invertebrate and plant biodiversity as well as disrupting natural water flow and possibly harming fish and wildlife. It has the potential to threaten the $7 billion fishing industry of the Great Lakes in Michigan.

Under the new State of Michigan’s Rapid Response Plan for Aquatic Invasive Species, a response plan was formulated, which includes physical removal of 1,500 pounds of the invasive species and herbicide treatments. The plan also includes assessments of places that have been found to have the European frog-bit.

The European frog-bit has leaves about the size of a quarter and produces a small white flower, usually around June. It can be found in shallow waters within cattail and bulrush stands. If you suspect you have seen the European frog-bit, you can report sightings at www.misin.msu.edu or to Matt Ankney, coordinator of the Early Detection Rapid Response project at ankneym2@michigan.gov or (517) 641-4903.