Biodiversity bills, white nose syndrome, and a heat record: this week in environmental news

Each week MNA gathers news from around Michigan and the country related to conservation and the environment. Here is a bit of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with white fungus on muzzle, New York 2008

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes bill critics said would have jeopardized state’s biodiversity (MLive): Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed Senate Bill 78, which would have prevented the Michigan DNR from making land use decisions based on biodiversity considerations. In his veto letter, Snyder expressed concerns that the bill could create inconsistencies and confusion and possibly harm Michigan’s forests.

First bats to die from white-nose syndrome this winter reported in Keweenaw County (Michigan DNR): This week the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received the first reports of bats dying from white-nose syndrome. The bats were found outside the opening of an abandoned copper mine near Mohawk in Keweenaw County. Citizens can report bat die-offs on the DNR website but they are asked to stay out of mines and caves where bats hibernate.

New study details costs, environmental impact of raising Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (University of Michigan): The University of Michigan released a study analyzing the impact of raising Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in several different scenarios. The study found the most cost-effective renewable resource in Michigan is onshore wind and that changing the standard would raise a typical household’s utility bill by only $2.60 per month.

2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics (The New York Times): Scientists report that 2014 was the hottest year on earth since record-keeping began in 1880. Extreme heat was reported in Alaska and the western United States. Heat records were set in each continent and the ocean’s surface was unusually warm everywhere except around Antarctica. With this, 2014 passed 2010 as the warmest year on record.

Sources: NASA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration By The New York Times

Sources: NASA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
By The New York Times

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Project in UP halted, EPA limits emissions and blacklights save bats: 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:

Court upholds UP ethanol plant review but project likely dropped (Great Lakes Echo): A federal appeals court has upheld the decision to review a $100 million construction subsidy in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The U.S. Department of Energy declared the project to be void of significant harm to the environment. Despite this, recent mandates calling for the elimination of cellulosic ethanol and an investor backing out may have closed the project.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

Local grocers specialize to thrive (The State News): The East Lansing Food Co-op, among other stores, have tried ways to make them stand out to customers. The co-op is different compared to other grocery stores and provides organic and locally grown food, something a little different than at the supermarket. Owner David Finet said the co-op works directly with its producers when buying products.

EPA releases much-anticipated limits on power plant emissions (Huffington Post): The Environmental Protection Agency announced one of its new mandates: a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. “For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Twitter chat about new EPA carbon pollution regulations (New York Times): The New York Times hosted a Twitter question and answer session with environmental reporter Coral Davenport. Davenport had an exchange with those asking questions about the new EPA regulations and their effects on coal-producing states, among other topics.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Scientists diagnose white-nose syndrome in bats using ultraviolet lights (Conservation Magazine): The white-nose syndrome is devastating to many hibernating bats. The disease comes from a fungus and infects bats as they hibernate and often kill them. A major guide for scientists to start tackling this disease is to find its location, although it is difficult to locate as testing bats for the disease calls for killing them.

Oil Spill Effects, Michigan Trail Networks and a Deadly Bat Fungus: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to conservation and the environment that has happened throughout the state and country. Here are a few highlights of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Deadly bat fungus found in Michigan may lead to mass die-off, crop damage and mosquito bites (mlive): A deadly bat fungus has been identified for the first time in Michigan. It could dramatically reduce the state’s bat population and have an effect on the agricultural industry. The fungus, called white-nose syndrome, causes skin lesions that can interrupt hibernation patterns. Scientists have predicted up to 90 percent of the bats susceptible to the disease may die off in the next three to five years. A large bat die-off could lead to more mosquito bites for Michigan residents and the loss of a natural pesticide service for farmers.

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network (Great Lakes Echo): In order to make trails in Michigan easier to find for tourists, the Department of Natural Resources wants to provide information for all trails in Michigan at the click of a button. A package of five bills was introduced that would label all trails as Pure Michigan trails. Cities hope that this will help increase tourism in their towns.

Michigan Mercury Collection Program keeps potentially hazardous mercury from reaching Michigan landfills and waterways (mlive): The Environmental Quality Company and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Mercury Collection project have teamed together to provide free mercury collection services to residents and businesses in Michigan. If the mercury enters landfills, it can reach the water and the air and cause mercury pollution.

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still affects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has detrimental effects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife in Gulf of Mexico still suffering four years after BP oil spill: report (the guardian): Four years after the oil spill, the report from the National Wildlife Federation found that some 14 species still showed symptoms of oil exposure. The oil is sitting at the bottom of the gulf and washes up on the beaches. There is also some oil still residing in marshes. There has been a high report of animal deaths, with more than 900 bottlenose dolphins being found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. NWF scientists said it could take years before the full effects of the oil spill were understood.

Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest (The New York Times): Woodland salamanders are a large asset to forests; on an average day, a single salamander eats 20 ants, two fly or beetle larvae, one adult beetle and half of an insect. Collectively, salamanders affect the course of life in the forests in which they live. They play a significant role in the global carbon cycle by eating the invertebrates that spend their lives ripping leaves to bits and eating them, which consists of about 47.5 percent carbon.

Dune bill, bat disease grant and the climate change plan: 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:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. Senate OKs bill to protect Sleeping Bear Dunes (Detroit Free Press): According to U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s northern Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will see greater protection in upcoming years. On June 21, the Senate approved a measure designating 32,000 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline as wilderness. This designation follows 13 years of work updating the lakeshore’s overall management plan. The senator says the land will provide critical access to the shore’s recreational and cultural opportunities.

Shedd Aquarium showcases Great Lakes, increases awareness for conservation research (mlive): Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has opened a new exhibit, “At Home on the Great Lakes.” The display showcases over 60 Great Lakes species and includes a sturgeon touch pool, where visitors can have an up close connection with the prehistoric fish. Interactive elements are also scattered throughout the exhibit, such as a screen with live news updates on Great Lakes protection progress. The goal of the display is to rally conservation groups and to inspire the public to protect the Great Lakes.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Awards Grants to 28 States for Work on Deadly Bat Disease (WhiteNoseSyndrome.org): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced grant awards Thursday totaling $950,694 for white-nose syndrome projects. 28 states received grants to monitor bat populations, as the disease has spread rapidly among bat species in past years. Michigan received one of the highest grant amounts, gaining a total of $47,500. The funds are to be used to slow the westward spread of white-nose syndrome, which has already killed approximately 5.7 million bats.

President Obama targets coal power plants, pushes renewable energy in new climate change plan (mlive): In a speech at Georgetown University Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed steps to boost renewable energy production and to limit heat-trapping from coal power plants. The president hopes to generate enough electricity from renewable projects to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by the year 2020, doubling the electric capacity federal plants are currently producing. Additionally, the speech set a goal for federal housing projects to install 100 megawatts of energy-producing capacity by the end of the decade.

Human Activities Threaten Sumatran Tiger Population (Science Daily): Researchers have recently found that tigers in central Sumatra live at densities much lower than previously believed, which is likely the result of human disturbance. Though habitat loss and deforestation have long been known to threaten tigers, the data reveals that areas of human farming, hunting and gathering of forest products have very small tiger populations, regardless of their abundant populations of prey. The study reveals that more extensive monitoring of tigers and their habitats will be critical to the survival of the species.

Energy debates play out on the Great Lakes nearshore (Great Lakes Echo): In the midst of nearshore energy production controversy across the Great Lakes region, the western Lake Erie basin, between Detroit and Cleveland, is facing some of the greatest debate. The heavily populated area has been found to display some of the worst pollution, affecting fish and wildlife habitats, water quality and climate change effects. Some changes have been implemented to combat this, such as wind turbines along the shore, but they face positive and negative responses from environmental officials.

Species Spotlight: The Indiana Bat

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Michigan protects federally listed birds, snakes and plants—and one bat. The Indiana bat, the only endangered bat in the state, has been federally protected since the late 1960s.

An Indiana bat. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Indiana bats are small, with mouse-like ears and dark brown to black fur, and only weigh one-quarter of an ounce. Though these bats are small and light, they appear larger in flight and have a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches.

Indiana bats can be found in the eastern United States, with populations living in Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia. They spend their winters hibernating in cool, humid caves or abandoned mines, and roost under loose tree bark on dead or dying trees in the summer.

In 2005, the estimated population was about 457,000 Indiana bats—half as many as there were when the species was listed as endangered in 1967. Reasons for population loss include human disturbance, cave commercializing and improper gating, summer habitat loss or degradation, and pesticide and environmental contaminants. One additional factor threatens all species of bats and has killed millions bats since 2006: a disease called white-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome was first observed in a cave in New York in 2006 and has spread to caves in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The disease affects hibernating bats and is named for the white fungus that appears on the bat’s muzzle and other body parts. Bats with this disease exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during hibernating months, including flying outside during the daytime and clustering near entrances of the areas in which they hibernate. White-nose syndrome has killed between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats in the eastern part of North America; in some hibernating areas, as many as 90 to 100 percent of hibernating bats have died.

A bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

State and national plans have been established to manage white-nose syndrome, and Michigan published its response plan in December 2010. The response plan focuses on delaying human-assisted introductions of the disease as much as possible, minimizing human dissemination of the fungus associated with the disease once it becomes present in Michigan, and conserving the remaining bat population after the disease has arrived. Thankfully, things are still looking good in the mitten state: the Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducted a statewide survey in 2012 and found no sign of white-nose syndrome.

For more information on white-nose syndrome, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s white-nose syndrome website.