Plover rebound, mosquitoes, lake grants and a 216-mile kayak trip: 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:

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A piping plover parent with chicks. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Plovers rebound with Conservation efforts (Grand Traverse Insider): Current measures to protect endangered piping plovers, small sparrow-like birds found on Great Lakes shores, are proving effective. The bird was listed as endangered in 1986, when only 12 pairs remained. The plover population has been slowly rising since then, with 58 pairs recorded last year. Attempting to raise these numbers, conservationists are breeding the birds in protected areas of the Platte River Mouth, incubating abandoned chicks and eggs and educating the public to stay away from areas reserved for rehabilitation. Though it will take some time to reach the recovery goal of 150 pairs, conservationists remain optimistic.

Urban blackbirds are more cautious than country birds (Conservation Magazine): Recent studies show that city-dwelling blackbirds show greater restraint than those from rural areas. A team of researchers collected 28 young blackbirds from the urban atmosphere of Munich, Germany as well as 25 blackbirds from a nearby forest. The team found that city birds took an average of half an hour longer than rural birds to perch near an unfamiliar object, which they say is likely a result of genetic personality differences.

Experts: Mosquitoes in Muskegon County showing normal activity for late spring, no West Nile Virus cases confirmed (mlive): Though the recent mosquito invasion around Michigan may seem especially intense, experts say that these numbers are nothing out of the ordinary for the spring season. April’s heavy rainfall combined with warm temperatures provided the ideal habitat for spring mosquitoes, which are expected to experience a population peak for the next 2-3 weeks. Experts say that, though West Nile Virus does not appear to be particularly present in Michigan this spring, it is important to watch for the virus this coming summer.

U-M Water Center Awards $570K in Great Lakes Restoration Grants (Great Lakes Now): The University of Michigan Water Center, a Great Lakes education and research organization, awarded twelve, two-year research grants yesterday. The grants were awarded to projects that followed one or more of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s four focus areas: extracting toxic contaminants, combating invasive species, protecting wildlife and clearing nearshore areas of polluted runoff. Projects range from tracking harmful algae blooms to monitoring fish responses to restoration initiatives.

Student completes 216-mile kayak trip for fundraiser (Detroit Free Press): A student from Western Michigan University completed a 216-mile kayaking journey on Tuesday. Cody Ledsworth began the trip on Wednesday, May 15, paddling against the wind down the Muskegon River. Throughout the trip, he gathered donations for Parkinson’s disease research, inspired by his grandmother who has the disease. The 20-year-old eventually raised more than $2,300 for the nonprofit Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, far surpassing his original $500 goal.

Kirtland’s Warblers, piping plovers, and dunes: this week in environmental news

Kirtland's warbler

The Kirtland’s warbler.
Photo: Cindy Mead.

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:

Michigan’s ever famous, endangered Kirtland’s Warbler (mlive): The Kirtland’s Warbler, one of Michigan’s rarest migratory songbirds, is facing removal from the Endangered Species List, according to the DNR. The species has historically been threatened by the over-growth of Jack Pine trees and competition with the Brown-headed Cowbird. Combating this, the Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Plan has helped the population grow from 167 to 2,063 singing males in the past 26 years. Intensive management practices will continue to sustain this species.

Volunteers needed to monitor endangered piping plovers (Great Lakes Echo): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking volunteers to monitor piping plovers during the bird’s nesting season, May 1st to July 15th. The piping plover, which nests on wide-open beaches, is considered critically endangered, and the population has seen a significant drop in recent decades. Volunteers can help restore the species by reporting sightings of the bird, assisting with habitat recovery, and raising public awareness along Great Lakes shores.

New Metropolitan Planning Council report offers solutions to stem Lake Michigan water loss (Chicago Tribune): The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) may change its regulations for local permittee use of Lake Michigan water, hoping to save both water and money. Currently, northeastern Illinois loses 26 billion gallons of this water each year. The Metropolitan Planning Council released a report that supports the IDNR’s water regulation proposal and also suggests that the department improve its water accounting systems, metering plans, and permittee support. Additionally, they suggest that the department require modernized plumbing plans and restrict outdoor water use among permittees.

Protecting Sleeping Bear Dunes (Grand Traverse Insider): A funding cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has resulted in controversy regarding the protection of Michigan’s parks, particularly the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The fund puts a portion of the proceeds from offshore drilling toward the Park Service’s ability to buy privately owned land near parks, affecting animal migration, land and water quality, and environment sustainability. Park allies are working to achieve full congressional funding of the LWCF, which is currently supported by Michigan Senators Stabenow and Levin.

Plan could lead to lifting of land acquisition cap (Holland Sentinel): The Michigan DNR is planning to submit a proposal to lift the cap on state-owned land, which currently limits state-holdings to approximately 4.6 billion acres. If approved by Governor Rick Snyder, the proposal would end the cap statewide, allowing for more state-owned forests, recreation areas, and wildlife reserves. The DNR argues that this lifting is necessary, as the Detroit area in particular sees a general need for public land.