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Back in 2007, I was doing a story on CAFOs in Wood County, Ohio.

I was waiting for my interviewee to return home when I spotted a gang of turkeys appear at the edge of the woods.

I had some time to kill, so I channeled my inner Marlin Perkins, got out my "shotgun" microphone, and attempted to record some wild nature sounds. (A "shotgun" microphone does not shoot anything, it's simply a long microphone that collects sound from far away.)

skatebiker / Wikimedia Commons

The state’s paltry recycling numbers have caught the attention of Gov. Rick Snyder, who’s pinpointing recycling as a top priority. The Department of Environmental Quality is trying to come up with a proposal to expand recycling in Michigan.

“If we could accomplish our 50 percent recycling goal, the value of that material if diverted from the landfill is about $500 million dollars a year,” said Kerrin O'Brien, the executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.

O’Brien talked to us in the studio along with Barry Rabe, professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

Click on the audio link above to listen to the full interview.


More communities in Michigan are embracing bike lanes.

Grand Rapids plans to add 40 more miles of bike lanes in the next few years. Detroit has an aggressive approach to implementing them and they're popping up in places like Adrian and South Haven, not to mention the biking hot spots of Traverse City and Marquette.

Josh DeBruyn is the bike and pedestrian coordinator for MDOT. Part of his job is to deal with the applications that towns send him when they apply for grants to help install bike lanes.

DeBruyn says he gets double to triple the amount of applicants that he can actually fulfill for these kinds of grants.

He also says he hears from plenty of people and organizations about what he calls "motor vehicle angst" - or drivers who are frustrated and sometimes aggressive with cyclists.

You can listen to my interview with him here:

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Wet leaves, cider, campfire — for many Michiganders, these are the smells of fall.

But our friends over at WNYC’s Radiolab wanted to get an idea of what autumn smells like all over the world.

So with the help of Google Maps and talented olfactory nerves, the Radiolab crew is compiling a map that highlight the scent of autumn around the U.S. and beyond.

Here are some the responses so far from Michigan. Leaves seem to be the big winner:

  • “Salt, smoke and sweet rotting apples”

  • “Leaf-burning, skunks”

  • “Cider spices and dead leaves”

  • “Cold, crispy leaves and firepits”

  • “Musky leaves”

And the rest of the world:

  • “Roasted chestnuts and sea salt” - Istanbul, Turkey

  • “Roasted chestnuts, cigarette smoke, wet asphalt, diesel fumes, fresh-baked bread” - Lyon, France

  • “Salt and damp seaweed” - Coronado, CA

  • “Its spring here [sic]” - Melbourne, Australia

- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality proposed a list of new rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state — commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a process where developers pump high-pressure streams of water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of natural gas.

So just what are these proposed new rules? And what could they mean to the future of fracking in Michigan?

James Clift is the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. He joins us to discuss the new regulations.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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Michigan-based Archangel Ancient Tree Archive announced this week that it has successfully cloned a giant sequoia tree planted by renown conservationist John Muir.

About 130 years ago, Muir transplanted the tree from Yosemite to his home in Martinez, California.  Now 75 feet tall, the tree suffers from two fatal fungal diseases.

Archangel's co-founder David Milarch said a forester from the John Muir National Historic Site sent cuttings from the sick tree to Archangel.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A water dilemma is brewing in Wisconsin.

The city of Waukesha (near Milwaukee) is asking for permission to tap into Lake Michigan for drinking water — to the tune of 10.1 million gallons per day.

Waukesha is in a real bind. The aquifer that has provided most of its drinking water for the last century has dropped so far, that the water left behind has unhealthy levels of radium and salt.

So the city of 70,000 is under a federal order to find a new source, and Lake Michigan is just 15 miles away.

But Waukesha has the bad luck to be a mile and a half outside the watershed boundary that encircles the five Great Lakes.


FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Enthusiasts across Michigan want to know: Where are the butterflies this year?

The Detroit Free Press says official data are being collected by monitoring groups around the state.

But anecdotally, it's not looking great.

Just ask Joe Derek.

Butterflies are absent from Derek's naturally landscaped property in Farmington Hills, where he grows 2 acres of native plants known to draw the fluttering beauties.

Flooding in Ann Arbor after last night's rain.
user gerbsumich / Twitter

Southeast Michigan was hit with torrential downpours last night and social media was abuzz with photos and videos.

In Ann Arbor, the city turned into a bit of a water park:

Other people water skiied behind cars.

Roads basically turned into rivers for a time:

We begin a week-long look at energy in Michigan. Today, we focused on solar energy and what it could mean for our state.

And, we turned to Lansing where some Democrats in the state House are introducing legislation to allow gay marriage in Michigan.

Also, we spoke with Charles Ballard and Rick Haglund about whether Michigan is going to make an economic comeback.

First on the show, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has issued its annual Kids Count report on the well-being of children across the nation. In Michigan, the outline is a mixed bag, but overall Michigan is last among Great Lakes states for child well-being.

There were improvements in how well kids are doing in school, some improvements in the area of the health of kids and the number who have health insurance, but in every category of economic well-being, children in Michigan are in worse shape.

Patrick McCarthy is the President and Chief Executive author of Kids Count, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Tim McFarlane / Flickr

This morning, Rebecca Williams reported on the MSU research that found we are still falling down on the job when it comes to washing our hands.

I say "still" because these kinds of studies have been done in the past.

user jsome1 / Flickr

New research finds men are dirtier than women, but not by much.

Health officials say that washing your hands is the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick.

When it comes to putting that into practice, studies have found that a lot of us say we do a good job, but researchers found most of us don’t do anywhere near as good a job as we should.

Carl Borchgrevink is an associate professor in the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

“We found that people do not wash their hands as much as they should… or to be blunt… there’s a lot of dirty hands out there,” he says.


My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.


Two northern Michigan representatives want to keep the picturesque shoreline of the Great Lakes free of spinning wind turbines.

New legislation introduced by Republicans Greg MacMaster and Ray Franz would stop any proposed research or production of offshore wind power in the Great Lakes that border Michigan.

It would also ban it for the future.

Critics say the bill lacks foresight.

"We think it is a mistake to limit research in this area," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "We have a number of universities who have gotten grants to do research on offshore wind. It may be decades down the road, but to restrict our ability to even learn the possibilities there is extremely shortsighted."


On today's Environment Report, we talked about ticks.

Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell told me that tick season is booming in Michigan this year.

And the boom is happening in areas where ticks were relatively rare a few years ago.

NEFCO / YouTube

Detroit has budgeted $683 million to move forward with plans to build a biosolids dryer facility in the city. If built, it is expected to be the largest facility of its kind in the United States.

What exactly is a "biosolids dryer facility," you ask?

It converts human waste materials into energy or fertilizer.

Whether you view this as innovative green technology or just plain gross, the contract is a big deal for Detroit. 

Shawn Malone / Vimeo screen grab

The wonders of our night sky often escape us.

The rainbows of the fleeting Northern Lights or the bright streak of a comet frequently slip behind cloud cover or crowded city skylines, leaving stargazers unrewarded.

But Shawn Malone, of Lake Superior Photo, was luckier than most.

Flickr user "Steve and Sara"

Antifreeze often looks like a sports-drink or Kool-Aid and it can have a sweet smell that attracts animals and kids. A bill in the Michigan legislature would require that a bittering agent be added to antifreeze so humans and animals don’t want to drink it.

cford3 / Wikipedia

Burning coal in a power plant creates byproducts called fly ash and bottom ash.  That ash contains a lot of bad stuff - mercury, lead, arsenic, to name a few.

While some plants ship the dry ash to landfills that accept hazardous materials, others mix the ash with water to make a slurry, which is moved into holding ponds.

Eventually, the water in those ponds is released into the nearest waterway.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

For the first time in nearly a half century, people will be encouraged to fish along a portion of the Red Cedar River as it winds its way through the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.

At a ceremony Monday near the campus’s western edge, MSU dignitaries, including Sparty, took turns dumping buckets of Steelhead trout into the meandering Red Cedar River.

Organizers want anglers to start casting their lines into the Red Ceder in hopes of reeling in the sportfish.

That’s a big change.

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Little green flags will be popping up along the shores of Lake Charlevoix this summer to promote a new guardian program.

It's sponsored by the Lake Charlevoix Association. Waterfront residents and businesses that have the power to impact the watershed are encouraged to sign up.

The Lake Guardian commitment asks individuals to pledge to do nine things, including avoiding
"the use of yard fertilizers containing phosphorous and to limit the use of fertilizers wherever possible." Committed members will also vow to request that landscapers use "lake-friendly methods" and to use native plants to cover exposed soil and "work to control erosion on or near our Lakeshore."

mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court says government regulators can take action when they fear a power company construction project might significantly increase air pollution, without waiting to see if they were right.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued DTE Energy in 2010 because the company replaced key boiler parts at its Monroe Unit 2 without installing pollution controls that are required whenever a utility performs a major overhaul. DTE said the project was only routine maintenance.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out the suit, saying EPA went to court too soon.

But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his decision Thursday. In a 2-1 ruling, the court says the law doesn't block EPA from challenging suspected violations of its regulations until long after power plants are modified.

Millions of undocumented immigrants in this country are hoping this is the year for immigration reform. On today's show, we explore what the future holds for mixed-status families.

And, it's being called "one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America." Why beavers along the Detroit River are such a big deal.

And, it’s been a week now since Governor Snyder announced Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency manager, and it was a week ago that we last spoke with Daniel Howes, business columnist at the Detroit News. We checked in with Howes about the prospect of a Detroit recovery.

All that, and roller derbies and march madness, on today's show.

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If we're lucky, we can catch a glimpse of a migrating bird or two as they pick their way north, but most pass over without us ever knowing.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes it this way in their Round Robin blog:

An invisible river of animals, rivaling any scene from the Serengeti but consisting of half-ounce birds that pass quietly overhead, in the dark.


I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but folks in Washington aren’t exactly getting along these days.

They couldn’t agree on how to cut the deficit, and now we’re facing automatic, across-the-board spending cuts from the federal government.

The cuts are scheduled to start March 1.

$85 billion will have to be stripped out of the federal budget this year alone.

The White House sent a press release detailing how these cuts might affect environmental programs in Michigan.

Here's what they wrote:

Michigan would lose about $5.9 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Michigan could lose another $1.5 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

We heard a lot about about how the sequester might affect things like airports, school funding, and Medicare, but we wanted to know more about the numbers above.

How might environmental programs in the region be affected?

A Michigan DNR conservation officer holding a 100 lb. wolf hit by a car in the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan Whitetail Pursuit / Facebook

This picture is making the rounds on Facebook.

It was posted on the Michigan Whitetail Pursuit page and has been shared more than 3,000 times.

The animal was so big, I wasn't sure if the photo was manipulated. I checked in with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to find the story behind the photo.

It's legit, according to Ed Golder of the MDNR.

"This picture is of one of our conservation officers from Iron County in the Upper Peninsula. The wolf he is holding was hit by a car near Watersmeet in Gogebic County," said Golder.

"Tribal police were the primary responding agency. The wolf will go to an Upper Peninsula tribe so it can be mounted and displayed for educational purposes.

The wolf -- which was healthy and in good shape -- weighed about 100 pounds but looks bigger in the photo because of its full winter coat."

That's a warm winter coat.

- H/T to Sarah Hulett

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Legislation that could allow a limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula cleared the state House Wednesday, and is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The grey wolf was recently removed from the federal endangered species list.

State Representative Jeff Irwin is a Democrat from Ann Arbor. He was one of the “no” votes.

“This is an animal that just came off the endangered species list. The populations are not even healthy or even abundant, and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about shooting wolves in northern Michigan,” Irwin said.

Stateside: Studying wolves to understand the environment

Dec 11, 2012
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Michigan Radio’s Rebecca Williams visited Isle Royale, a remote island in Lake Superior reachable only by ferry or airplane.

Williams spoke with scientist Rolf Peterson about the island’s diminishing wolf population.

“Over the past 54 years, researchers have collected more than 4,000 moose skeletons on the island.  The bones offer clues about the moose population – and about the wolves.  Wolves got here by crossing an ice bridge from Ontario in the late 1940’s,” said Williams.

Peterson’s studies are extensive.

“This study of wolves and moose is the longest running study in the world of a predator and its prey.  Rolf Peterson has been involved for 42 years of the study. He’s been here through the brutal black fly summers and the harshest winters. He and his wife Candy live in an old fishing cabin on the island for much of the year,” said Williams.

To hear and see the entire series, you can see our topic page: Lessons from Isle Royale's Wolves and Moose.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

State Senate passes bill that could lead to gray wolf hunting season

Nov 30, 2012

A controversial piece of legislation that would make the gray wolf a game species has passed the Michigan Senate.

The bill, introduced by Escanaba Republican Tom Casperson, paves the way for a possible hunting and trapping seasons for wolves.

If the bill becomes law, the state’s Natural Resources Commission would be allowed to determine if a hunt were needed.

There are nearly 700 wolves in Michigan today, up from under 300 just a decade ago. The wolves, removed from the endangered species list this past January, are concentrated in the western Upper Peninsula.

Andrew McFarlane / Flickr

Lakes Huron and Michigan are reaching record low water levels, and businesses along the Third Coast are feeling the effects.

Yesterday, Russell Dzuba, the harbormaster in Leland, Michigan (think Michigan's pinkie right on Lake Michigan), spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about what he's seeing out his window.

The low water levels have revealed a sand bar inside the Leland Harbor.

"...that ordinarily is not a good thing in a harbor," said Dzuba.

From the interview:

"We had an incredibly warm season - warm winter season last year, and we lost a lot of water to evaporation, and that takes place during the whole winter, as well as the summer.... Traditionally, we don't freeze as we did in the old days. It used to freeze all the way across the channel, 11 miles out to North Manitou Island. That hasn't happened here in a number of years."

You can listen to the interview here:

Last month, I posted on the low lake levels. If they continue to drop, which is expected, the low lake level record from March 1964 will be beat.