DNR to celebrate 40 years of Endangered Species Act with week of events

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

The state of Michigan has hit a major milestone and the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, has decided to honor it in an extraordinary way: by hosting a week in honor of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, from Aug. 4-10.

The ESA was signed into law on July 11, 1974 and came into effect on Sept. 1 of that year. The DNR invites Michiganders to join them at the nearest state park for an insightful lecture on what the ESA is and what it means for an animal to be classified as endangered or threatened.

Click here to find the schedule of events.

According to the DNR, one success that the ESA is the recovery of the rare Kirtland’s warbler. This bird has garnered attention from far and wide. In a release from the DNR, Specialist Dan Kenneday said “Michigan’s ESA has been pivotal in the recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler.”

A Kirtland's warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A Kirtland’s warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

The ESA plays a large role in maintaining balance in Michigan’s wondrous natural habitats and ecosystems. Without laws protecting animals, habitat decline, pollution and other issues will continue to cause harm to animals and their homes throughout the state, which may compromise the health of Michigan’s invaluable natural scenery.

When a species is classified as endangered, it means that it is in danger of becoming extinct. There are also many other species listed as threatened and may be on the verge of being listed as endangered. The ESA is one step in finding methods to solve the problem of extinction and has already found success in the restoration of the Kirtland’s warbler.

MNA supports the efforts of the ESA and the DNR and congratulates them on the 40th anniversary of the act. Don’t miss a chance to celebrate the ESA! For more information about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, click here.

 

Protecting the sturgeon, transforming agriculture and a grey wolf shot dead: 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:

Kids with a sturgeon fish. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Children holding a sturgeon. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Volunteers guard Michigan’s spawning sturgeon (Great Lakes Echo): The lake sturgeon, a threatened fish species in Michigan, will have several guardians ensuring its safety at the Black River in Northern Michigan. Volunteers will stand watch on the banks through June to ensure no fish are illegally snatched and are able to leave the Black Lake and reproduce in the Black River.

Grey wolf appears in Iowa for the first time in 89 years — and is shot dead (The Guardian): It was just recently confirmed that an animal shot dead in February in Iowa was a grey wolf, an animal which hadn’t been seen in the area since 1925. Because the hunter who shot the animal believed it to be a coyote and cooperated with the authorities, he has not been cited even though grey wolves are protected in that area.

California’s thirst shapes debate over fracking (The New York Times): Opponents of fracking have a new argument on their side. A drought that was declared early this year in California may have an impact on decisions made about fracking. Last year, fracking one oil well took 87 percent of water which would normally consumed by a family of four in one year.

Smart soil: transforming american agriculture one class at a time: (The Huffington Post Blog):

John Reganold, soil scientist and professor at Washington State University speaks of his study and success with creating sustainable agriculture in the United States. Reganold advocates for organic soil systems as a more sustainable way of growing and producing better crops.

 

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

Reef fish don’t care where conservation lines are drawn (Conservation Magazine): Over the years there have been increasing amounts of established marine protected areas, or MPAs, particularly near the Caribbean. Despite establishing these areas, fish often tend to migrate in and out, swimming outside of the bounds of protection. A research group of the Marine Institute of the United Kingdom tracked several different reef species and determined that conservation efforts must take this migration into account.

Hope for the honey bees? Experts pitch plans to curb deaths (NBC News): Honey bees throughout the world have been suffering from colony collapse disorder and scientists think they may have found a way to lower the death rate. It was found that certain types of pesticides played a role in largely killing the bees — some of the world’s largest contributors to the food and crop industry because of their pollinating role in nature.

ENDANGERED!

At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered and threatened plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Dwarf Lake Iris

By Brandon Grenier

The second species to take the spotlight in our “ENDANGERED!” column is the Dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), a threatened and delicate flower found only along the shores of the Great Lakes. As an example of Michigan’s natural beauty, it is no surprise the iris has become a symbol of MNA’s efforts to protect and conserve special natural areas across the state. The iris is also Michigan’s official state wildflower. Learn more about this Midwest treasure to help save it before it is too late.

Physical Appearance:

The Dwarf lake iris is a small, low-growing plant with deep blue-violet flowers that are about two inches tall. The sepals are splashed with white signals surrounded by a deep blue color, making for a vibrant and showy flower. Its leaves are flattened, thin and grow up to six inches long. The leaves are also clustered, stiff and sword-like, and extend from creeping rhizomes.

Preferred Habitat:

The scientific name “lacustris” translates to “of lakes” and refers to where this rare species grows. Dwarf lake iris grows best along humid, semi-open shorelines in sand or thin, slightly acidic soil over limestone-rich rock. It can also be found on flat expanses behind open dunes. The plant prefers lightly shaded areas, but can also survive in full sunlight. Dwarf lake iris grows most successfully under white cedar, and patches of it can string along vast stretches of shoreline.

You can still find this rare flower at the Julius C. and Marie Moran Peter Memorial Sanctuary.

Life Cycle:

This perennial blooms in early May through July. It produces a few seeds, which are dispersed by ants. Fruiting occurs in late June through July. The best time to identify a patch of Dwarf lake iris is late May through early July.

List Status:

A naturalist first discovered Dwarf lake iris in 1810 in Mackinac Island in northern Lake Michigan. Today, the species’ natural habitat is diminishing.
Classified as a threatened species in 1988, Dwarf lake iris is losing its habitat to erosion, lakeshore development and agricultural chemicals. Northern Michigan, Wisconsin and a small portion of Canada are the only remaining natural hosts to this species, and it is disappearing there, too.

Having very specific growing conditions, Dwarf lake iris is a plant with a fragile habitat. New housing projects and outdoor recreation areas can disrupt a beachside populated by this rare flower. As beautiful as it may be, picking the iris can prevent it from reproducing. When its flowers are pulled out, the plant is often uprooted and is no longer able to produce seeds.

Protection Efforts:

The natural world supports us, thus, protecting this rare species could benefit us in the future. Scientists have discovered that closely related plants have similar chemical components. For example, the Yellow flag, an iris native to Europe, has been used as a source of black dye and ink.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing a recovery plan that identifies actions needed to help Dwarf lake iris survive. A variety of government and private conservation organizations are working to preserve the Dwarf lake iris and its natural habitat. Because many plants grow in private residential areas, voluntary protection agreements have also been made with some landowners.

How You Can Help:
If you choose to grow Dwarf lake iris, be sure to purchase it from a nursery and avoid digging up native plants from natural habitats. Removing the flower from the wild is both illegal and detrimental to its survival. Also, avoid using insecticides and chemicals on home gardens and lawns to keep water clean. If you come across a Dwarf lake iris in the wild, report it to your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so the area can be better protected.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered and threatened species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.