Karner blue butterflies, wolves, and climate change: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and the globe. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

The Karner’s range extends from eastern Minnesota and eastward to the Atlantic seaboard. Image: USFWS Midwest

Imperiled butterfly leads way for conservation of climate sensitive species (Great Lakes Echo): The Karner blue butterfly population in Michigan is down, and experts say the state’s dry winters, hot summers, and inconsistent precipitation are to blame. Conservation strategies like oak savanna restoration have helped the Karner blues, as well as a number of state threatened and endangered plants. With additional pressure from climate change, scientists are seeking new approaches to protect the butterflies and other rare species.

There are now just three wolves left on Isle Royale (IFL Science): Wolves and moose have been observed for decades on Isle Royale National Park. Wolves access the remote island by walking over ice bridges from land near the Minnesota-Ontario border. Typically, between 18 and 27 wolves are seen each year and there may have been as many as 50 at one time. Last winter, there were nine wolves. The wolf population began declining in 2009, plummeting by 88 percent. The dwindling frequency of ice bridges means fewer new or visiting wolves can access Isle Royale.

Scientists and religious leaders discuss climate change at Vatican (The New York Times): Scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders gathered at the Vatican on Tuesday to discuss climate change and its impact on poverty. In September, the pope is expected to address Congress and a United Nations summit meeting on sustainable development to reiterate his environmental message. Following Tuesday’s symposium, the participants released a statement underscoring their environmental concerns.

Whooping crane, No. 27-14, that was spotted in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Rhoda Johnson.

Rare whooping crane spotted in Southwest Michigan land preserve (MLive): Local birdwatcher Rhoda Johnson reported seeing an endangered whooping crane at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s Topinabee Preserve near Niles earlier this month. There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the world and the bird Johnson saw in Southwest Michigan was raised at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and has a tracking device. She was released in Wisconsin last September and has migrated from Kentucky to Wisconsin, Indiana, and now Southwest Michigan.

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Collaboration on the Great Lakes front, climate change, solar power and wolves: 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:

Cherryland Solar Panel

Cherryland’s solar array. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Community solar coming of age in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s 224-panel solar array in Grand Traverse County in Northern Michigan just celebrated its first anniversary.  The Solar Up North Alliance Community Solar Project helped introduce this project which launched on Earth Day 2013 and could be a catalyst for future solar energy projects in the state.

Great Lakes mayors flex muscle on oil, climate change (Great Lakes Echo): Mayors of Great Lakes areas have come together from the U.S. and Canada to discuss oil transportation. Citing the Kalamazoo river oil spill incident and the Lac-Megantic, Quebec train accident and explosion resulting in 47 deaths, the major part of their discussion was these events and taking future actions. 

Don’t Poison me! A big win for baby owls (like this one) and other wildlife (Huffington Post): Alicia Hermance chronicles the rescue of a fallen spotted owl and its recovery in her blog post. She also highlights the dangers of rat poisons. Rat poisons are easily available at hardware stores and if placed outside, owls are at risk of getting sick from consuming the poison.

The right call on climate change (Huffington Post): U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) of California’s 24th District discusses her views on how the new EPA regulations can improve American health, climate change and create clean energy jobs. “By 2030, the EPA plan will cut carbon emissions by 30 percent nationwide, dropping totals below 2005 levels,” Capps wrote in her blog post.

wolf map

A map showing the ratio of wolf to coyote throughout Yellowstone and Riding Mountain National Parks. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Reintroducing wolves is only effective at large scales (Conservation Magazine): The eradication of wolves in the U.S. has greatly effected the ecological carnivorous system –– usually wolves feed on coyotes, who feed on red foxes. Since wolves have severely decreased in numbers, coyotes have increased, preying on more red foxes. Scientists have been experimenting with ratios of wolves to coyotes throughout North America to study its effects on the ecosystem.

Great Lakes Commons charter targets shared waters concept (Great Lakes Echo): The Great Lakes Commons is a group with a vision to unite all those regions governing the lakes to come together and form a mutual protection and care plan. They officially introduced their social charter on Thursday. “The charter will gather the beliefs and commitments of the different peoples of the bio-region, and by doing this, we will be asserting the legitimacy of these ideas and our role in shaping the governance for our lakes,” Alicia Bradley said. Bradley is co-directer of the Milwaukee Water Commons and a leader of the Great Lakes Commons effort.

 

Wildfires, hound hunting and snake encounters: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

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:

Above average number of wildfires predicted by summer’s end (Great Lakes Echo): Despite Michigan’s decline in wildfires down to 86 so far in 2014 from a record high of 315 in 2012. according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the latter half of the year may prove to have higher than average numbers of wildfires.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Video in coyote killing raises questions about ethics and the future of wolf hunting in Michigan (MLive): After the discovery of a brutal video of hound dogs attacking a wounded coyote in Gogebic County, policies on how hound dogs can be used during hunting come into question. Although using these hunting dogs are not allowed when pursuing wolves, they are still allowed for other animals, leaving them vulnerable to hunting hound attacks. Legislators are reviewing the film as evidence in a case to determine the legality of hound use in the particular situation.

John Kerry launches global effort to save world’s oceans ‘under siege’ (The Guardian): On Wednesday, John Kerry launched his new global effort to protect oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution and climate change. Kerry plans to discuss the topic at the State Department two-day summit June 16 and 17. The State Department said Kerry’s conference will help global awareness of issues surrounding the earth’s oceans.

Road salt changes urban ecosystems in big ways (Conservation Magazine): During the winter, tons of salt is dumped along roads throughout the Midwest. Despite the usefulness of salt on icy roads to make it easier and safer for drivers, it ends up running off into soils on the side of the road and changing their chemical composition. The salt can also find its way to bodies of water, plants and animals, changing the way the ecosystem evolves.

DNR offers tips for residents encountering snakes (Michigan Department of Natural Resources): The DNR has released information to help residents who may encounter snakes this summer. Michigan has 17 species of snakes, 16 of which are completely harmless to humans. To avoid snake bites, the DNR suggests getting no closer than within 24 inches of a snake’s head. Residents are also asked to report any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project.

 

 

Wolves, solar process, Great Lakes and native fish comeback: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are five articles you might’ve missed this week:

Western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

A western gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Wolf hunting weighed in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to allow Michigan to create a wolf-hunting season after Michigan wolves were taken off the state’s endangered species list in December. Conservation groups and Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission are now debating how a wolf hunt will affect the health of the wolves, ecosystem and people. One of the main reasons for establishing a wolf-hunting season would be to control wolves that threaten people and livestock. The Michigan DNR is surveying the wolf population and will recommend to the Natural Resources Commission if a hunting season is needed to control them. Survey results will be released in late April.

New solar process gets more out of natural gas (New York Times): The Energy Department is preparing to test a new way for solar power to make energy by using the sun’s heat to increase the energy content of natural gas. The new system uses the sun’s heat to break open the natural gas and water molecules and reassembles them into carbon monoxide and pure hydrogen, two chemicals that burn better. The mixture, called synthesis gas, requires energy that is usually captured by burning natural gas, but this new process takes that energy from the sun. This process, which researchers hope to test by this summer, could cut the amount of natural gas used (and greenhouse gasses emitted) by 20 percent.

Obama budget seeks $300M for Great Lakes cleanup (Pioneer Press/Associated Press): President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year includes $300 million for the Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that supports research and cleanup projects for the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, Obama asked Congress to continue this program, which has spent more than $1 billion addressing some of the lakes’ longest-running environmental problems. The program has provided more than 1,500 grants to university scientists, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in eight states and has supported efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes.

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists (Science Daily): According to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), variations in the availability of nutrients in the world’s oceans may important to future environmental change. Marine algae need certain resources to grow and reproduce—including nutrients—and the growth of these tiny plants can become restricted if there are not enough nutrients available. Marine algae and other microorganisms support most marine ecosystems and play a big role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the ocean system, so understanding nutrient cycling is important for predicting environmental change.

A surprising comeback for Lake Huron’s native fish (Michigan Radio): Some of Lake Huron’s native fish are recovering after the food web collapsed a few years ago. These fish—including bloater, slimy sculpin and Lake trout—are experiencing changes so dramatic that some scientists wonder if Lake Huron’s ecosystem is experiencing some kind of permanent change, which biologists call a regime shift. There are no signs of a dramatic recovery in Lake Michigan—the same body of water as Lake Huron—so it’s unclear why fish are doing well on one side but not the other.

Large Predators in Michigan

by Hannah Ettema
MNA Intern

Bears, cougars and wolves, oh my! In the past few months and weeks some of Michigan’s large predators have been making it into the news. As scary as predators seem, they are crucial to Michigan’s ecosystems and are most likely more afraid of you than you are of them.

Large predators are regulators of the number of prey in an ecosystem. If the population of large carnivores declines or disappears, plant species composition can be altered because the herbivores that eat them are more abundant. This is called top-down regulation, where the top of the food-chain or ecosystem controls and influences the species below them.

Predators in an ecosystem are indicators of a healthy ecosystem they help create. If a predator exists in a community, they promote the health in the communities around them. In Michigan black bears, gray wolves and cougars should be indicators of the healthy state of the ecosystem.

Here’s some basic information and the real scoop on large predators in Michigan.

Black Bears

Of the approximately 17,000 black bears that live in Michigan, 90 percent live in the Upper Peninsula. The black bear is protected by law and managed by the DNR.

Black_bear_distribution_MI

Black Bear distribution in Michigan.

Black bears are shy by nature and rarely attack humans. Earlier this month however, 21-year old Chad Fortune, a hunter in Emmett county, was attacked while in his tree stand. Check out the story here. Black bear cubs began climbing up his stand, and after he defended himself from them the mother bear bit his leg.

To avoid unfortunate circumstances such as Chad’s, there are some easy precautions anyone can take. When camping, hunting or outdoors in Michigan, minimize food odors and waste and do not keep food of any kind in tents. Suspend food and waste 12 feet above ground 10 feet from trunk and 5 feet from nearest branch.

Cougars

Like black bears, cougars are native to Michigan but their population drastically declined at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, periodic sightings have been reported throughout Michigan. Cougars are highly secretive and solitary; the odds of seeing one are incredibly small. Usually six to nine feet long, cougars mainly prey on deer.

cougar in tree

Cougar.

Recently, a fuzzy photo of a cougar was taken in Bay County. Take a look at the photo here. Cougars have only been confirmed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but the public has reported seeing tracks in the Lower Peninsula as well. The DNR is still undecided as to whether the photo was of a cougar.

Gray Wolves

In recent years, gray wolves have begun to recolonize the Lower Peninsula. This past August a wolf pup was confirmed in Cheboygan county. Check out the story here. Check out the January MNA newsletter for more information about gray wolves in Michigan and again now in the Lower Peninsula.