Michigan Historic Places, North Trail Hikes, and Wildlife Inventions: this week in environmental news


Rice Bay on Lac Vieux Desert. Photo: National Register of Historic Places

National Register adds Michigan’s Rice Bay, historic Ishpeming building (Great Lakes Echo): The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Two sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have been added to the National Register of Historic Places – one culturally important to members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and the other related to a strike important to labor and women’s history. The first site is Rice Bay in Gogebic County, which is a wild rice-growing area covering a square quarter-mile on northeastern Lac Vieux Desert. Wild rice is an aquatic grass that is culturally important to the tribe. The second site is the 128-year-old Brasstad-Gossard Building in downtown Ishpeming, which started as a factory and later renovated into an interior mall and offices.


Snowshoeing the North Country National Scenic Trail near Petoskey, Michigan. Photo: Dove Day

North Trail hikers set 100-mile centennial goal (Great Lakes Echo): Veteran hiker, Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan, has prepared to commemorate the National Park Service centennial in a 100-mile hike challenge sponsored by the North Country Trail Association, headquartered in Lowell, Michigan. The longest of 11 nationally designated scenic trails, North Country wanders between North Dakota and New York, following the Great Lakes through 12 national forests. The challenge is 100 miles for the 100 years of national parks. It’s a way to celebrate an important anniversary and to prepare a new generation for the next 100 years of national parks.

Secret MSU location is site of world’s longest running scientific experiment (Great Lakes Echo): The world’s longest running scientific experiment has been in operation for the past 137 years, and it’s been happening on a secret spot on the MSU campus. 137 years ago, MSU botany professor William J. Beal filled 20 bottles with seeds from common plants covered by sandy soil. Then he buried them all in a secret spot on campus. That was the beginning of what would become the world’s longest running scientific experiment and W.J. Botanical Garden. They only dig up one of the bottles every 20 years.

5 student inventions that help wildlife (Mother Nature Network): Wildlife conservation is an equal-opportunity field. With a little ingenuity and technical know-how, a person of any age and educational level can make a valuable contribution. Thanks to these five impressive student creations, many endangered species will be getting a much needed leg up on survival. The creations include an electronic scent dispenser, mushroom water filter, drones to keep an eye in the sky on poachers, squid-jet, and a hoglodge: a hedgehog haven.


Sierra club on sustainable agriculture, global warming impacts on economy and polluted beaches: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, 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:

Sierra club launches sustainable agriculture testimonials, Western Michigan University student project (MLive): Western Michigan University senior Erin Denay has been working on a project in collaboration with the Sierra Club asking Michiganders at farmer’s markets their thoughts on buying food from local farmers. Denay created a series of one-minute video testimonials to address the topic of local farming.

Innovative farm energy projects clash with Wisconsin policy (Great Lakes Echo): Central Wisconsin’s farming area has been known to produce a lot of waste with its methods of farming. Now New Chester Dairy and Brakebush Brothers are collaborating with New Energy North America to eliminate their waste and turn it into usable energy.


Graphic by the NRDC, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Graphic by the NRDC, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

1 in 10 U.S. beaches so polluted they’re not safe for swimming, report says (Huffington Post): The Natural Resources Defense Council produced findings that one in 10 beaches in the U.S. are unsafe for swimmers due to pollution according to their 24th annual report.The organization collected water samples from 3,500 beaches and tested them according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s newer more health-conscious standards.

Global warming takes toll on U.S. economy, not just environment (Nature World News): The economic future of the U.S. economy seems bleak if climate change continues at its current rate, and could cost hundreds of billions of dollars by 2100. The U.S. has already been hit with several tropical storms, rising sea levels, droughts and flooding, already incurring costs which will continue to rise.


Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Western  snowpack could plummet this century (Conservation Magazine): Snowfall on lower elevation mountain peaks in the American west will change to rainfall in the next few decades, according to projections. The rainfall could drastically change how water supply reaches farmers who are used to snowpack accumulation for their water supply.

Students Make a Difference at MNA’s Estivant Pines

By Nancy Leonard
MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer

On a crisp late fall morning in the Keweenaw, Ted and Alice Soldan, stewards of the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, made their way north with a pick-up load of lumber, newly-sawn at their own mill.  By 10:30 am, most of the young student volunteers had arrived to meet Ted and Alice at the Pines and were chomping at the bit for the project to begin.  Nineteen young people, mostly MTU students from the service fraternity Delta Upsilon, and one from the Rotary group, Rotaract, came to spend their Saturday in service for “Make a Difference Day”.

group of students

MTU students

The Estivant Pine Nature Sanctuary serves as the flagship sanctuary for the Keweenaw.  Even though it is tucked almost at the end of this remote northern peninsula, it is the largest by far, and the most visited.  Ancient giant white pines are scattered throughout and are easily seen from a well-maintained trail system.

Before the work begins, Alice posed the group in front of the MNA sign for a portrait.  Ted, in the meantime, organized the long support board timbers and the bundles of boardwalk steps into work site groups.  The goal for the day:  haul in the lumber for various boardwalk projects.

man smiling

A student smiles while carrying lumber to the site.

Ted and Alice have hauled in lumber for years.  By the looks on their faces, it was obvious that they were totally pleased that younger bodies would bear the load this time.

Ted shared with the group an overview of the project at hand and explains why and how the boardwalks are built.  Then he directed the hauling to work sites, the most distant site being more than a mile from the trailhead.  In no time, the lumber was hoisted by the volunteers and hauled up the trail.

students carrying wood through forest

Students carry the wood to the sites within the sanctuary.

I followed along behind the group that has chosen the longest route, the one to work site four. Along the way, Ted pointed out a special tree, told a story and shared a quote from the likes of Edward Abbey.

Having finally arrived at the work site, the students were instructed as to how to stack the lumber and then how to camouflage it.  And rather than just turning back, Ted led the group on the rest of the trail loop.  At the Bertha D. Memorial Grove, the group was encouraged to sit a bit and relish being in the presence of giant pines. Ted shared more stories and more quotes; he obviously loves this place and the students picked up on it.

students sit among trees

Students take a break and admire the giants that surround them.

By early afternoon, all the lumber has been hauled in, old lumber hauled out and deadfalls cut up and moved off trail.

As Ted says, “We walked out of the Pines …. leaving things much better than they were.” That, I would say, is called making a difference.