Great Lakes levels, deep-sea coral and an ‘incomplete’ grade: this week in environmental news

Each week, the Michigan Nature Association gathers news stories from around the state and country related to conservation, nature, and environmental issues. Here is a peek at what happened this week in environmental news:

Smoother sailing as Great Lakes levels continue their rebound (Detroit Free Press): After last winter’s record snowfall and a rainy spring, Great Lakes levels are recovering faster than they have in decades. All of the Great Lakes with the exception of Lakes Huron and Michigan are above their long-term average depths going back to 1918.

Great Lakes water levels have rebounded significantly. Photo via Detroit Free Press.

 

Reaching Deep: BP oil spill had big impact on deep-sea coral (Conservation Magazine): A new study finds that deep-water coral communities were affected by the BP oil spill, even at large distances from the wellhead itself.

State Senate approves measure that would cancel wolf hunt ballot measure (WKZO): The Michigan State Senate has approved a measure that could nullify items on the November ballot that will ask voters to ban wolf hunts in Michigan. Conservation officials say they hope the House will take up the issue later this month.

Environmental group gives MI Legislature an ‘incomplete’ grade (WKAR): The Michigan League of Conservation Voters recently graded the slate legislature on performance in the 2013-2014 session, giving legislators an “incomplete” for the environmental score.

Ohio farmers point to algae law loophole (Great Lakes Echo): Farm groups in Ohio and environmentalists say a new state law that will certify fertilizer doesn’t go far enough to reduce phosphorous run-off into Lake Erie.

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Beavers, Ducks Unlimited, sea lamprey, disappearing ice: 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’s what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Charlie Eshbach.

Unfinished business: skis and a sanctuary (Mining Gazette): Outdoors columnist Dan Schneider paid a visit to MNA’s Black Creek Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County. He wasn’t able to use his cross-country skis during his entire hike along Black Creek’s narrow, winding trails and varied terrain, but he called the sanctuary “a worthwhile hike in any season.”

Yes, beaver making a comeback along Detroit, Rouge rivers (Detroit Free Press): Beavers, once native to Michigan before they were nearly wiped out by fur trading, are making a comeback. A beaver was spotted at the DTE Conners Creek power plant in Detroit in 2009—roughly a century since the last beaver was seen in the state—and evidence suggests beavers are multiplying along several points of the Detroit and Rouge rivers and might be making a sustained comeback to the area.

Michigan Legislature OKs Ducks Unlimited license plate bills (MLive): Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that allows the state to create specialty vehicle license plates to raise money for Ducks Unlimited and wetland conservation efforts. According to Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, “This bill will help continue Ducks Unlimited’s conservation mission by enabling the organization to raise funds to help with education and increase awareness regarding wetland habitat conservation in Michigan.”

Genetic mapping of sea lamprey may control invader and improve human health (Great Lakes Echo): A team of scientists are attempting to find another way to control the sea lamprey, an invasive species that has terrorized the Great Lakes since the 1800s. Sea lampreys are harmless during the early years of their life cycle, but as they mature, they turn into parasites that prey on large species of Great Lakes fish. By studying the sea lamprey genome, scientists are hoping to control the sea lamprey’s life cycle and prevent the lampreys from transforming into their harmful states. This research has potential benefits for humans, as well: it may also include a cure for biliary atresia, a rare disease in which affected human newborns are born without a bile duct.

Disappearing ice spells uncertain future for Lake Superior (Great Lakes Echo): A new study found that ice on Lake Superior has decreased by 79 percent since 1973, and overall ice on the Great Lakes has fallen by 71 percent in the last 40 years. Ice loss can contribute to lower lake levels, more lake-effect snow, higher shoreline erosion rates, and an overall increase in lake water temperature. There is no clear cause for this decline, but a variety of factors—such as global climate change—are considered likely.

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.