Asian carp, sea cows disappearing, and invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

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

Tab to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes could hit $18 billion, federal report says (Detroit Free Press): Some of the most effective alternatives to keeping asian carp out of the Great Lakes could possibly take decades and cost up to $18 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers released a report stating various options to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Some of the debated options included physically separating the waterways by creating flood management basins and runoff tunnels, electronic barriers, herbicides and screened gates.

Where have all Florida’s sea cows gone? (The Guardian): More manatees died last year in Florida than ever recorded and Earth Island Journal reports that scientists are unsure as to what is killing them. The record die-off of Florida in 2013 was 829 manatees out of an estimated population of 5,000. Officials are working on improving water quality and expanding storage and flow capacities to improve the population.

Rivers in wintry cities remain salty year-round (Great Lakes Echo): Much of the salt that is applied to roads in the United States during the winter months winds up in rivers. The salt remains toxic throughout two-thirds of the year and could be harmful to fish and other creatures that rely on the rivers, as well as humans if the salt reaches groundwater. Amphibians are the most sensitive to the runoff and develop developmental deformities when exposed to salt. Streams in Maryland, New Hampshire and New York exceeded the chloride toxicity guideline of 230 parts per million.

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Florida’s manatees are members of the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region could be devastated by mining, EPA report finds (The Guardian): The EPA reports that Pebble Mine, a large gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, could be devastating to the world’s largest salmon fisheries. Bristol bay produces about half of the world’s sockeye salmon and the mine footprint would affect up to 94 miles of streams. The mine has strong opponents that include some jewelery chains who will refuse gold from the mine. The oppositions have negatively affected the project and there are strong allegations that the report will inevitably shut down the project.

Studies show invasive species not as abundant as some assume (Great Lakes Echo): A new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that invasive species are not as big of an issue as previously believed. Most populations do not grow very large and ones that do get out of control are very uncommon. On average, the invaders live at three times the abundance of their native counterparts. Evaluating the abundance and identifying the areas where their populations are more likely to grow too large will better able scientists to approach the invasive species issue.

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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:

Caption. Photo by blah

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.