Wolves, solar process, Great Lakes and native fish comeback: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are five articles you might’ve missed this week:

Western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

A western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Wolf hunting weighed in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to allow Michigan to create a wolf-hunting season after Michigan wolves were taken off the state’s endangered species list in December. Conservation groups and Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission are now debating how a wolf hunt will affect the health of the wolves, ecosystem and people. One of the main reasons for establishing a wolf-hunting season would be to control wolves that threaten people and livestock. The Michigan DNR is surveying the wolf population and will recommend to the Natural Resources Commission if a hunting season is needed to control them. Survey results will be released in late April.

New solar process gets more out of natural gas (New York Times): The Energy Department is preparing to test a new way for solar power to make energy by using the sun’s heat to increase the energy content of natural gas. The new system uses the sun’s heat to break open the natural gas and water molecules and reassembles them into carbon monoxide and pure hydrogen, two chemicals that burn better. The mixture, called synthesis gas, requires energy that is usually captured by burning natural gas, but this new process takes that energy from the sun. This process, which researchers hope to test by this summer, could cut the amount of natural gas used (and greenhouse gasses emitted) by 20 percent.

Obama budget seeks $300M for Great Lakes cleanup (Pioneer Press/Associated Press): President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year includes $300 million for the Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that supports research and cleanup projects for the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, Obama asked Congress to continue this program, which has spent more than $1 billion addressing some of the lakes’ longest-running environmental problems. The program has provided more than 1,500 grants to university scientists, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in eight states and has supported efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes.

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists (Science Daily): According to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), variations in the availability of nutrients in the world’s oceans may important to future environmental change. Marine algae need certain resources to grow and reproduce—including nutrients—and the growth of these tiny plants can become restricted if there are not enough nutrients available. Marine algae and other microorganisms support most marine ecosystems and play a big role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the ocean system, so understanding nutrient cycling is important for predicting environmental change.

A surprising comeback for Lake Huron’s native fish (Michigan Radio): Some of Lake Huron’s native fish are recovering after the food web collapsed a few years ago. These fish—including bloater, slimy sculpin and Lake trout—are experiencing changes so dramatic that some scientists wonder if Lake Huron’s ecosystem is experiencing some kind of permanent change, which biologists call a regime shift. There are no signs of a dramatic recovery in Lake Michigan—the same body of water as Lake Huron—so it’s unclear why fish are doing well on one side but not the other.

Great Lakes cleanup plans, loon deaths, and The Biggest Week in American Birding: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are six articles you might’ve missed during the past two weeks:

Gray Wolf

Wolf management is one of the natural resource policy issues Michigan faces this year. Photo by the Seney Natural History Association. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Outdoors: Key issues to keep an eye on (Detroit Free Press): Michigan faces some stormy natural resource policy issues this year. The state must answer questions on who should pay for Michigan’s natural resources and how these funds can be supplemented; whether legislators, private citizens or biologists should dictate wildlife decisions; wolf management in general; and if quality deer management principles will be applied to the state’s herd.

Bill removing biodiversity, restoration as DNR goals clears Michigan Senate (Detroit Free Press): A bill that would remove biodiversity and restoration from Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ forest management goals passed the state Senate on March 5 on a 26-11 party-line vote. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives and will likely first be considered in the House Natural Resources Committee. Environmental groups believe the bill would hurt Michigan’s wildlife and natural resources and diminish the value of the state’s public lands in the future.

Feds making long-range Great Lakes cleanup plans (MLive): The Obama administration is planning to continue a long-range Great Lakes cleanup program and will begin work this summer on a new five-year blueprint for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. According to the Associated Press, “the program is designed to make progress on some of the Great Lakes’ biggest ecological problems, such as invasive species and toxic hot spots.” The government will make decisions about paying for the cleanup program on a year-by-year basis.

Scientists blame invasive species in loon deaths (Traverse City Record-Eagle): Roughly 900 loons died while migrating south across Lake Michigan last summer, and scientists think invasive zebra and quagga mussels are to blame. Zebra and quagga mussels filter the water so it’s very clear, allowing algae to grow and eventually creating an oxygen-free environment and ideal home for bacteria that produce toxic botulism. This toxin is ingested by worms and freshwater shrimp, which are eaten by the fish that are then eaten by loons. Scientists are searching for ways to break this link before more loons are killed.

Lake Erie shoreline shapes up as test for birds and energy (Great Lakes Echo): Businesses along the western Lake Erie shoreline are getting ready for The Biggest Week in American Birding, 10-day birding festival scheduled for May 3-12. Tom Henry, the author of the column, says birding plays a part in the future of energy production and the environment. He adds that The Biggest Week in American Birding is “a showcase for how educational and business programs can be more effective working in combination with each other, from ferry shuttles to guest lectures.”

Northern Leopard Frog

The Northern Leopard Frog is one of 13 frog and toad species in Michigan. Photo by Douglas Wilhelm Harder. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: Frogs & Toads Leaping Toward Spring (MyNorth): As winter turns into spring, Michigan residents can hear springtime birds chirping, watch the snow melting, and listen for frogs and toads trilling. Frogs and toads are good indicators of environmental quality and are monitored by the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division each spring. The surveys are conducted by a mix of professional and non-professional volunteers, who learn to identify calls for Michigan’s 13 frog and toad species. Each survey spot is examined three times in the spring and early summer.