U.P. Land Protection, Dark Skies Preserves, and Forests: this week in environmental news


The Upper Peninsula’s Pilgrim River passing through Houghton County. Photo: Joe Kaplan

1,300 acres of wild Michigan land protected from development (mlive): A new state conservation easement is putting nearly 1,300 acres of copper country land and 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula under protection from development. In addition to protecting the recreational values of the land, this project also protects wildlife habitat and ensures sustainable timber management continues on the property. The forested land provides habitat for wildlife like black bears, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, fisher, pine marten, mink, and otter. It also functions as a stopover for migrating raptors and songbirds crossing Lake Superior in the spring and fall.

dark skies preserves

Dark sky parks offer premium stargazing opportunities. Photo: Beth Anne Eckerle

Michigan expands dark skies preserves (Great Lakes Echo): A new law was created to protect northern Michigan state parks from artificial light pollution. The law specifies Rockport State Recreation Area, in Alpena and Presque Isle counties, Negwegon State Park in Alpena and Alcona counties, and Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Presque Isle County, among a few other State Parks. The designation promotes stargazing and night photography in the parks, while giving an edge to Michigan tourism. People travel all over the world, like birders, to see dark sky parks.

Invasive species threaten Michigan forests (Great Lakes Echo): The Department of Natural Resources forest report has some forestry experts worried about Michigan’s future ecological well-being. Pests such as the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid bug and the spruce budworm, combined with the warming climate, threaten several tree and animal species. Many efforts are in place to combat hemlock wooly adelgid, such as the state performing aerial surveys of 20 million forested acres and numerous ground surveys to detect disease and insect infestations.

Private companies operate at Sleeping Bear (Record Eagle): Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s landscapes and waterways call out to the inner explorer – and also to private commercial companies. From yoga classes to scattering ashes, 21 businesses use the park to offer experiences and services that the park cannot. Businesses promote the park – the more people interested in nature, the more support natural areas will get.


Michigan Historic Places, North Trail Hikes, and Wildlife Inventions: this week in environmental news


Rice Bay on Lac Vieux Desert. Photo: National Register of Historic Places

National Register adds Michigan’s Rice Bay, historic Ishpeming building (Great Lakes Echo): The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Two sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have been added to the National Register of Historic Places – one culturally important to members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and the other related to a strike important to labor and women’s history. The first site is Rice Bay in Gogebic County, which is a wild rice-growing area covering a square quarter-mile on northeastern Lac Vieux Desert. Wild rice is an aquatic grass that is culturally important to the tribe. The second site is the 128-year-old Brasstad-Gossard Building in downtown Ishpeming, which started as a factory and later renovated into an interior mall and offices.


Snowshoeing the North Country National Scenic Trail near Petoskey, Michigan. Photo: Dove Day

North Trail hikers set 100-mile centennial goal (Great Lakes Echo): Veteran hiker, Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan, has prepared to commemorate the National Park Service centennial in a 100-mile hike challenge sponsored by the North Country Trail Association, headquartered in Lowell, Michigan. The longest of 11 nationally designated scenic trails, North Country wanders between North Dakota and New York, following the Great Lakes through 12 national forests. The challenge is 100 miles for the 100 years of national parks. It’s a way to celebrate an important anniversary and to prepare a new generation for the next 100 years of national parks.

Secret MSU location is site of world’s longest running scientific experiment (Great Lakes Echo): The world’s longest running scientific experiment has been in operation for the past 137 years, and it’s been happening on a secret spot on the MSU campus. 137 years ago, MSU botany professor William J. Beal filled 20 bottles with seeds from common plants covered by sandy soil. Then he buried them all in a secret spot on campus. That was the beginning of what would become the world’s longest running scientific experiment and W.J. Botanical Garden. They only dig up one of the bottles every 20 years.

5 student inventions that help wildlife (Mother Nature Network): Wildlife conservation is an equal-opportunity field. With a little ingenuity and technical know-how, a person of any age and educational level can make a valuable contribution. Thanks to these five impressive student creations, many endangered species will be getting a much needed leg up on survival. The creations include an electronic scent dispenser, mushroom water filter, drones to keep an eye in the sky on poachers, squid-jet, and a hoglodge: a hedgehog haven.

Ladybugs, Honeybees, and a National Marine Sanctuary: this week in environmental news


Once a common presence in gardens, the 9-spotted ladybug has become a rare sight. Photo: Todd A. Ugine

Where have all the ladybugs gone? (Mother Nature Network): Native ladybugs have been in serious decline since the mid-1970s. John Losey has created the Lost Ladybug Project, a citizen science effort seeking to document where remaining populations are being seen, where they are not being seen, all to help determine the reasons for their decline. The next time you see a ladybug, do a farmer a favor. Whip out your smartphone, take pictures of it, and email the photos with the location to John Losey.

Bee crisis linked to virus spread by humans (Mother Nature Network): Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a strange plague that has been obliterating honeybee colonies for at least a decade. But there are at least two other scourges that share the blame: Varroa mites and deformed wing virus (DWV). According to a new study, humans helped it by recklessly shipping honeybee colonies and queens across oceans. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers. The key insight is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is man-made, not natural. It’s therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems.

Apostle Island

Map of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Image: National Park Service

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could be connected by National Marine Sanctuary (Great Lakes Echo): The 21 Lake Superior islands and 12 miles of mainland that are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could knit together under a new federal protection. A group launched an effort to establish a national marine sanctuary at the lake bottom that surrounds the islands just off the northernmost tip of Wisconsin. The islands draw thousands of tourists each year, and the added significance of the sanctuary designation could attract even more. The sanctuary designation would create important education opportunities and funding for research.

Researchers eye trout spawning sites from space (Great Lakes Echo): Satellite imagery offers a new tool for identifying nearshore lake trout spawning habitat across broad areas of the Great Lakes, according to a recent study in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Understanding lake trout spawning habitat long-term could inform ways to improve or evaluate hatchery practices. The lake trout’s preference of cleaner, algae-free spawning sites is key to relying on the satellite imagery.


National Parks, Species Studies, and Solar Energy: this week in environmental news

national park

A view of the beach below a dune from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: carfull

Great Lakes national parks prepare for centennial (Great Lakes Echo): The Great Lakes region units of the National Park Service are celebrating its centennial this year, after its creation in 1916. The national parks are publicly owned treasures of environmental and natural resources, historic and cultural wealth, recreation and national identity.

More harm than help? Antibacterial hand soaps threaten fish (Great Lakes Echo): The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that many consumer products, including antibacterial soaps, contain triclosan. That’s a chemical added to prevent and reduce bacterial contamination. Although it has not been found hazardous to people, scientific studies found that it alters hormones in animals. This may cause a population of fish to have a much smaller number of reproducing adults and that would lead to a much smaller population of fish in general. A lot of other animals, including humans, eat fish, but with a smaller population of fish, fewer fish will be available to eat.

Binational efforts target bird-bashing buildings (Great Lakes Echo): According to a recent report by the University of Toronto, somewhere between 365 million and 988 million birds die annually from window collisions in the U.S. and Canada. A member of Congress from Illinois has proposed a bill to bird proof the windows of federal buildings. Bird-safe glass has an ultraviolet pattern within the glass that is invisible to the human eye, but gives birds a heads up.

In Japan, work kicks off on the world’s largest floating solar farm (Mother Nature Network): Japan, a nation that’s big on solar but short on space, is constructing the world’s largest floating solar farm. The solar power plant will be located at the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture, outside of Tokyo. The facility will produce enough juice to power about 5,000 homes while offsetting 8,170 cubic tons of CO2 emissions annually – a figure that’s equivalent to the consumption of 19,000 barrels of oil.


Kyocera has done floating solar installations before. But this one, a 13.7 MW facility due to go online in 2018, will be by far the largest. Photo: Kyocera

Fishing for plastic, algae threats and California’s drought policies: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo 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:

Researchers troll for plastic on Great Lakes fishing boat (Great Lakes Echo): Captain David Brooks of the Nancy K boat headed out to Lake St. Clair in pursuit of catching bits of plastic in the water. His curiosity was piqued by the fact that a sweater he owned was made of plastic and bits of plastic washed down the drain when he cleaned it. His intention with the plastic hunt in the water was to find out how harmful these bits of plastic can really be to the environment.

Bracing for Lake Erie algae threats to drinking water (Great Lakes Echo): The 2011 all-time high record of the algae blooms in Lake Erie was followed up by a close second high in 2013. Scientists and government organizations are becoming more concerned about the dangers posed by the toxic algae crowding the lake. Researchers take a closer look at the water, algae and problems surrounding it.

California approves forceful steps amid drought (New York Times): State officials have moved forward with implementing harsh repercussions for over-using water. Citizens could be fined $500 per day for simply washing a car or watering a garden. Still, convincing urban residents of the seriousness of the drought has been a difficult task.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

Animals live in 3-D, now scientists do, too (Conservation Magazine): Finding animals’ home ranges have been part of recent studies. These home ranges would help scientists study animals and their habitats and employing 3-D mechanisms has helped them to get a closer look at animal life.

Still poison: Lead bullets remain a big problem for birds (Conservation Magazine): The Bipartisan Sportsman Act of 2014 may have given different parties a chance to unite in support, but would have had other implications for birds during hunting season. The bill would have called for an exemption for lead ammunition and fishing tackle from “longstanding regulations.” Recent studies have shown a growing issue with lead poisoning leading to the death of birds.


Geoengineering, zebra mussel bacterium and beaver fur dealers: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

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

The North American beaver. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The North American beaver. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fur dealers could trap beavers under proposed law change (Great Lakes Echo): Licensed fur dealers could trap beavers under new legislation. Beavers can be trapped now, but this measure would allow fur dealers to trap, which is something that has been outlawed as far back as the early 1900s. The law was originally made when the population of beavers was low and needed to be increased. Today, the population of beavers in Michigan has grown considerably since the prohibition against fur dealers trapping them was made.

Geoengineering side effects could be potentially disastrous, research shows (the guardian): Human engineering of the Earth’s climate to prevent global warming would prove to be ineffective as well as have severe side effects that could not be safely stopped, according to new research. Ocean up welling or bringing up of deep, cold waters would reduce sea ice melting, but would unbalance the global heat budget and affect oxygen levels in the oceans. Each of the five climate engineering methods has advantages and disadvantages, but they are all limited.

Zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread to hundreds of lakes and rivers throughout the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread to hundreds of lakes and rivers throughout the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Science Takes On a Silent Invader (The New York Times): Two species of mussels, the quagga and zebra mussels, have disrupted ecosystems since they arrived in the Great Lakes and since spread to lakes and rivers in 34 states. Biologist Daniel P. Molloy has discovered a bacterium that kills the mussels but has little to no effect on other organisms. New York State has awarded a license to develop a commercial formulation of the bacterium.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources calls for “laser-like” focus on invasive species eradication (mlive): There have been positive DNA findings for Asian Carp in Lake Erie, suggesting that there may be a residual population in the lake, but there have been no live fish discovered. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder allocated more than $6 million to support and supplement state funding for aquatic species management. Earlier this year, hydro separation between the Great Lakes and the Chicago River basin was the next step to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.

California Endangered Species: Plastic Bags (The New York Times): Los Angeles became the largest city in the country this year to enforce the ban on plastic bags. Many policy makers in California have come to see the plastic bag as a symbol of environmental wastefulness. The measure would ban single use bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and other locations, but paper bags and other reusable bags will be available for a 10-cent fee. Some disagree with the ban saying it will cost the state up to 2,000 jobs and cost them millions of dollars.


A greenhouse gas, a resurgence of lake trout and a new state park: this week in environmental news

Whitcomb Conservancy on Belle Isle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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

Newly discovered greenhouse gas ‘7,000 times more powerful than CO2’ (The Guardian): Researchers in Toronto have discovered the gas perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The chemical breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, and is 7,000 times more powerful at warming the earth over a 100-year time span than carbon dioxide. Currently, there are only low concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere, but climatologists warn that PFTBA could have a very large impact on climate change if it grows.

Go lake trout! Native fish overcome seemingly ‘insurmountable’ challenges in Lake Huron (Michigan Radio): For nearly 40 years, biologists have been trying to reestablish a lake trout population by hatching the fish and placing them in Lake Huron. The stocked fish, however, could not reproduce until alewives disappeared. The trout were eating alewives which caused a vitamin deficiency in eggs and young fish. Now the alewives are being eaten by salmon, and it’s likely their population will not recover. The return of lake trout as a big predator may result in a more stable ecosystem in Lake Huron.

Early warning program battles frog bit, other invasive species (Great Lakes Echo): A DNR early warning program is preventing invasive European frog bit from destroying native aquatic plants. The program quickly assesses areas of infestation and examines the extent of damage. Crews from AmeriCorps and Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps are focusing on southeast Michigan have removed more than 1,500 pounds of frog bit from state waterways. Officials hope to keep the invasive from spreading elsewhere in Michigan.

Crews get busy cleaning up Belle Isle for new state-park status (Detroit Free Press): State and city officials, along with 40 companies, government groups and volunteer associations, have pledged that they’re “All in for Belle Isle”. The Detroit park is in the midst of a transition period after which the DNR will operate the 985-acre state park. Restoration efforts including brush removal, trail clearing, and repairs to picnic structures are already underway. The transition period ends on February 10, and after that entry into Belle Isle will require those in automobiles to have the $11 annual state recreation passport sticker. Pedestrians and bicyclists can enter the park at no charge.

Panel: Strong laws can help West Michigan environmental issues (Holland Sentinel): At Tuesday night’s “Great Michigan” Town Hall meeting in Holland, Mich., a panel discussed environmental issues facing west Michigan. According to Erica Bloom, Michigan League of Conservation Voters director in west Michigan, citizens need to raise environmental issues with legislators. MLCV is concerned with pending legislation that would reduce requirements for biodiversity and require nonprofits to open up land to all forms of recreation, including off-road vehicles.