Sleeping Bear Dunes, gray wolves, and invasive species: this week in environmental news

sleeping bear dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Living Lab: Science a constant at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Record-Eagle): More than 30 scientific studies take place within the park at any given time. Some studies include topics such as tree generation, tree disease, and the impact of deer on vegetation. The public is able to learn about the studies taking place by attending Research Rendezvous talks, which are presented by scientists themselves. The talks are free and take place at Sleeping Bear’s Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

Nature-inspired art exhibit opens Saturday at U-M (Detroit Free Press): The art exhibit “Forest & Tree – a Multitude of Gifts”, featuring nature-inspired works, is opening this weekend at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The exhibit, displaying works from nearly 70 artists, runs through January 3.

Scientists call for continuing Great Lakes wolf protections (Upper Michigans Source): Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region should not yet be removed from the federal endangered species list, a group of scientists and scholars say, disagreeing with colleagues who said the population has rebounded sufficiently. The scientists contend the wolves still meet the legal definition of endangered species and need to continue to follow state management plans.


Scientists say gray wolves should remain on the endangered species list.

New invasive species discovered in Michigan rivers (The Arenac County Independent): The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that two new aquatic invasive species have been detected in Michigan. Rock snot and the New Zealand mud snail have only been found in one river each.

Algal blooms in the Great Lakes, wolf hunting in the U.P., energy legislation: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garica, MNA Intern

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:

A fish flops dead on the shore, due to an increase of algae. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

A fish flops dead on the shore, due to an increase of algae. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Public trust demands Great Lakes phosphorus cuts (Great Lakes Echo): A team of United States and Canadian citizens known as the International Joint Commission, or IJC, have come together to create a public trust to protect the Great Lakes from “excessive nutrient runoff.”. This has created toxic algal blooms in the lakes, adversely affecting the ecosystems and causing beach closures.

Second ballot proposal to stop gray wolf hunt in U.P. approved (Detroit Free Press): A proposal to end hunting of grey wolves in the Upper Peninsula will appear on the ballot on Nov. 5 and could possibly repeal a law passed in 2012. The proposal was pushed by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and is among three other proposals about the wolf hunt that will also be on the ballot.

Scientists propose new classification system for invasive species (Conservation Magazine): Researchers across the globe came together to create a new classification scheme to better understand risks and threats to biodiversity on the planet. Rather than using a system that points out species who are endangered, they’re classifying invasive species by the adverse effects they impose on the communities they invade.

Obama pushes climate rules despite Dems’ midterm election concerns (Huffington Post): The Obama administration is set to reveal new emissions caps for factories throughout the nation to democrats’ dismay in energy-producing states during the midterm elections. Obama must start now with making an energy efficient nation, a major component to his campaign, otherwise new legislation won’t be enacted before his term ends.

Extensive Great Lakes ice and El Nino equals cooler Michigan summer  (Macomb Daily): Michigan’s frigid winter could continue to impact the state well into the summer. Extensive Great Lakes ice cover could mean higher lake levels, while the cold winter and an El Nino weather pattern mean cooler temperatures will likely continue. This could also delay severe spring storms.



Toxic fish, contaminants in West Virginia and insecticides in otters: 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 country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

A North American river otter. Photo by Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

A North American river otter. Photo by Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Review panel questions US plan to take gray wolf off endangered list (the guardian): There was a setback on the proposal to lift protection for gray wolves in the U.S. Federal wildlife officials want to remove the animals from the endangered species list across the lower 48 states. A peer review panel said that the government was relying on unsettled science and their claim that the Northeast and Midwest were home to a separate species of wolf, making gray wolf recovery in those areas unnecessary.

Record levels of banned insecticide found in Illinois otters (Great Lakes Echo): A study published in the journal “Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety” found high levels of chemical compounds in 23 otters in Illinois, the most troubling one being dieldrin. Dieldrin, which has been a banned insecticide since 1978, is linked to neurological, behavioral  and immune suppression problems in wildlife.

Michigan’s widespread toxic fish problem redefines ‘catch and release’ (mlive): Mercury and toxic PCBs (chemicals used for coolants in transformers) emitted in the atmosphere rain down on Michigan’s lakes which contaminate wildlife and pose a threat to people if they consume too much fish. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has drafted plans for reducing the levels of these contaminants. This will require cutting global PCB emissions by 94 percent and getting there could take 50 years.

Obama in East Lansing: His signature will change face of food stamp and farm program (mlive): President Barack Obama signed the Farm Bill in East Lansing on Friday and it will have major impacts on Michigan farmers, researchers, rural communities and those who rely on food stamps. It will ensure that tart cherry growers have crop insurance and expands it to many other specialty crop growers that had to previously take low interest loans. The bill cuts about $1.7 billion a year from current spending levels.

More contaminant troubles for West Virginia (Environmental News Network): One month after the chemical spill in West Virginia that tainted the drinking water, another disaster occurred. 100,000 gallons of coal slurry, a waste fluid produced by washing coal with water and other chemicals, poured into the stream. Officials are trying hard to contain the spill so it does not affect the Kanawha River.


Plastic pollution, wolf hunt regulations and Great Lakes cuts: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, 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:

Masses of plastic particles found in Great Lakes (The Weather Channel): In the already polluted Great Lakes, scientists are discovering great quantities of tiny, plastic pellets, some of which are only visible through a microscope. It is suspected that the pellets are abrasive “microbeads,” commonly used in facial washes and toothpaste. Because of their miniscule size, many of the plastic specks flow through water treatment plants and into the lakes. The plastic beads soak up toxins from the water and harm the fish that mistakenly eat them, causing significant ecological damage. Research groups are urging personal care companies to stop developing microbead products, hoping to keep the plastic out of the Great Lakes altogether.


A gray wolf.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan’s first wolf hunt will no longer include trapping (Detroit Free Press): Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission has rejected the use of steel-jaw leg traps during the state’s first-ever wolf hunt, applying to both public and private land. According to specialists from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, the regulation was added to the approved hunt to help ease into the public harvest as a management tool and to start the hunt conservatively. Still, other groups believe the regulation is a tool to compromise with the hunt’s many opponents.

Could these mice save threatened Midwestern prairies? (Huffington Post): Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is raising mice in an effort to bring back restored prairies. Researchers are releasing the mice in hopes that the animals will mate and distribute the grassland seeds that they eat, aiding in the spread of plant life. Currently, biologists believe that only 1 percent of historical prairie grasslands remain in Illinois. The Chicago team is implanting trackers on the mice to see if spread of the species can work as a natural restoration agent for plant life in diminishing prairies.

Michigan senators and congressman consider Great Lakes cuts (Petoskey News): The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations considered a bill Wednesday with the potential to cut 80 percent form Great Lakes funding. The funds have been gradually dropping form the initial amount of $475 million in 2009, and would fall from $285 million to $60 million if last week’s draft of the bill were passed. The committee chose to raise this proposed amount to $210 million for the 2014 year. Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow still oppose the cuts, believing that the initiative funds critical restoration efforts such as combating the invasive Asian carp species.


Crested auklets rely on scent during breeding season.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By a nose: Birds’ surprising sense of smell (National Wildlife Foundation): While previously believed to be anosmic, or unable to smell, new discoveries show that some birds extensively rely on scent. Biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Diversity Program are studying small seabirds called crested auklets, located off western Alaska in the Bering Sea. In groups or pairs, the birds bury their faces into each other’s citrus-scented feathers, occurring every summer during breeding season. Additionally, other findings suggest that songbirds are able to recognize their kin based on smell, and that European starlings rely on scent when selecting certain plants for their nests.

Climate change report: As Michigan warms, new crops, plant life and disease may take hold (mlive): A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts radical consequences of climate change for the state of Michigan, anticipating the state’s climate to become similar to that of northern Arkansas by the end of the century. Along with increased temperature, the report states that incidents of flooding and extreme storms will rise, lake levels will drop and wetlands will shrink. Though the predictions of this report parallel many other analyses, its findings make clear the potential ecological and economic results of climate change in Michigan.