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Environment & Science

Japanese stiltgrass.
National Park Service

Invasive plants are really good at being bad. They’re hard to get rid of, and a new study finds that even if you rip them out, they can have lingering effects for years.

Dan Tekiela is an invasive plant ecologist at the University of Wyoming. He studied Japanese stiltgrass, and calls it one of the top three worst invasive plants in the eastern U.S.

Tekiela says they removed the plant from several sites. Three years later, things were worse.

“We found the disturbance of us removing that invader actually promoted other weedy and invasive species,” he says.

Gray wolf.
Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

The Trump administration’s detailed budget proposal leaves fewer resources for protecting endangered species. Under the proposed plan, the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be trimmed to $1.3 billion for 2018.

Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says that’s about an 8% funding cut for conservation. He says the Trump administration’s cuts to the domestic side of the budget, in favor of defense spending, aren’t a surprise.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A major river dredging project is nearly ready to begin in downtown Flint.

In about two weeks, crews will begin removing river sediment contaminated with coal tar from a section of the Flint River.   The coal tar was a by-product produced by a gas plant that was located along the river a century ago. Consumers Energy bought the plant in the 1920s.  The utility is handling the cleanup.

(PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. MOHAMED FAISAL)

This Memorial Day weekend, anglers dipping their fishing lines into the St. Clair River and Lake Erie are being asked to help contain a viral outbreak that's killing fish.

This spring saw the biggest Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia.  or VHS, outbreak in Michigan since 2006.   

A Bald eagle perched on a branch
ellenm1 / flickr

After nearly going extinct, the bald eagle population across the United States has been recovering. In Michigan, the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in Michigan has doubled in the past 15 years.  

Heather Good is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. Good joined Stateside to talk about the bald eagle's recovery, and new challenges facing the birds of prey today.

Paw print
Tracy Ducasse / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Researchers have developed a way to track endangered species using smartphones and drones, and you can help them with that work.

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / Creative Commons

Sea lampreys have devastated Michigan waters for decades. But now, scientists hope that sterilizing some males will help control the population.

Marc Gaden is with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

"The goal is to overwhelm the lampreys, to have the sterilized males out-compete the fertile males, and reduce spawning in that system to the bare minimum," Gaden said.

According to scientists, the invasive species has the ability to wipe out native life.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new survey finds a majority of Americans (54%) lean toward regulations as the best way to increase our use of renewable energy versus relying on economic markets alone.

Cary Funk is the associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. She says a majority of Americans say that increasing the use of renewable energy sources should be a top priority for the country’s energy policies.

“But there’s a closer divide on whether or not government regulations are necessary or whether the private marketplace can ensure that businesses and consumers increase more reliance on renewables even without regulations,” she says.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

The state House has passed a bill (HB 4205) that would restrict the ability of state agencies to write regulations that are tougher than federal rules. Environmental groups are lining up against the bill.

Under the measure, agencies would not be able to create rules that are more stringent than federal ones - unless directed to by state law, or if the director of a state agency proves a "clear and convincing need" to exceed the federal standard.

Elk in the wild
Courtesy Hunter Fodor

They disappeared from Michigan around 1875.

But these days, there's a flourishing herd of wild elk near Gaylord, and anyone can go to see them.

Drew Youngdyke, editor of Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine, joined Stateside today to explain how Michigan's elk made their comeback, what conservation methods look like today, and what seeing one of "Michigan's best kept secrets" is like.

Ben Simo / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he will spend the summer months developing a recycling strategy to be rolled out in the fall.

“We need to do better in recycling,” he said. That is an area where I wanted to see more improvement, and we haven’t kept up the pace that we have in many other areas.” 

He says Michigan’s residential recycling rate of 15 percent is among the lowest in the country, and the state has not met a goal of doubling that.

This map shows land ownership and location of the exploratory copper drilling project.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan Radio's ongoing MI Curious series gives listeners a chance to ask a question. Then, we do our best to get an answer.

The next question comes from Daniel Moerman from Superior Township, near Ann Arbor. He won our last voting round.

Why it's hard to get plastic bag bans to stick

May 18, 2017
Plastic bag in a tree.
Katy Ter Haar / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Plastic bags are all around us. They’re a persistent litter problem on land and along the Great Lakes. Some cities have tried to ban bags or charge a fee for them. But it's hard to make these bans stick.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Creative Commons

A new federal bill up for a vote in Congress Thursday could hurt efforts to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species.

An amendment to a Coast Guard bill would loosen regulations against ballast water discharges by cargo ships. Experts say this is one way that invasive species enter new environments.

Marc Smith is Regional Conservation Director for the National Wildlife Federation. He says the harm from invasive species is well known.

Satellite photo of the St. Clair River, Lake Saint Clair, and Detroit River
Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is recommending that loss of fish and wildlife habitat be removed from the list of environmental impairments on the U.S. side of the St. Clair River.

The Removal Recommendation Report is available for public comment until June 14, 2017.

Smokestacks at a coal-burning power plant
Michigan Radio

DTE Energy will close its last coal-burning plant by 2040, and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The decision comes in spite of the Trump administration's decision to slam the brakes on the Clean Power Plan, which would have allowed the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the first time.

While the president and top administration officials continue denying the causal connection between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change, many corporations, including utilities like DTE, have accepted it as fact.

old faucet
Gene Selkov / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

Lead service line
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor is approaching a milestone of sorts. The city is replacing the last of its lead connections in the water system.

Ann Arbor city officials say they never allowed full lead service lines, the water pipes buried underground that connect homes to the water main.

Where are lead water pipes in Michigan? Here’s our best guess

wellcomeimages / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


May 12 is International Nurse’s Day, and the 197th birthday of Florence Nightingale.

Stateside talked about Nightingale, one of the more famous healers, with Dr. Howard Markel, University of Michigan medical historian and PBS Newshour contributor.

Birds breeding early to catch up to climate change

May 11, 2017
Courtesy of Powdermill Nature Reserve

 

New research shows that in order for some early birds to catch the worm, they have to breed sooner in the spring.

 

Luke DeGroote is the avian research coordinator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and he runs the bird banding program at the museum's Powdermill Nature Reserve.

 

Right now, he’s in the thick of spring migration.

 

“It’s sort of a bit like fishing, in a way. We put out our nets to see what we catch,” he says.

A photo of a beach
mike_miley / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

The U.S. Geological Survey reports since the turn of the last century, water levels of Lake Michigan have increased in a series of even higher peaks. One was in 1964. An expensive house in St. Joseph was taken by the lake.

There was damage up and down Michigan’s coast. Another high lake water moment spanned from 1985 to 1987, and again there was a lot of damage to homes, beachfront property and industry.

Courtesy of Rebecca Fedewa / Flint River Watershed Coalition

After battling bottled water giant Nestle, residents and concerned citizens near Evart now are trying to keep another company from drawing down and potentially contaminating their water supply.

Just six miles from Nestle's wells, Michigan Potash, a Colorado-based company, is seeking permits to drill 11 injection wells for a potash mining operation. Potash, a mineral element, is naturally occurring in Michigan and is used in many forms of fertilizer.

An apple orchard.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The past few days have seen unseasonable cold across much of Michigan, with temperatures falling below freezing in many parts of the state. A late freeze like this one threatens Michigan’s fruit crop at a crucial time in its annual cycle.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Now that President Trump has signed the spending bill, Great Lakes funding is safe, at least for now.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funded in full for 2017. But Trump wants to eliminate this funding entirely in his 2018 budget proposal.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

It makes sense that the more we run our air conditioners during the heat of the summer, the more pollution we put into the air. But now scientists have figured out exactly how much more.

David Abel is the lead author of a study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, and a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A grid of small cartoons (emoji)
Theus Falcão / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Can emojis – those little expressive cartoons that pop up on cell phones and online – help protect users' internet privacy? 

A fight is brewing over Great Lakes fish

May 4, 2017
Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

The rules for commercial fishing in Michigan are being rewritten in Lansing. The law is old and needs to be updated. There are only 21 non-tribal businesses licensed by the state to catch fish for market. Tribes fish under their own rules.

Simone Tosi

Researchers have found a commonly used pesticide can significantly impair the ability of honey bees to fly. The pesticide is called thiamethoxam and it’s used on crops like corn, soybeans and cotton, along with many vegetable and fruit crops.

Timothy Bargar / USGS

Monarch butterflies need more to eat. That's the conclusion of a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The only thing monarch butterfly caterpillars can eat is milkweed.

Wayne Thogmartin is a quantitative ecologist with the USGS. He says the butterfly population has dropped by about 80% since the mid-90s. The population has rebounded a little bit in the last three years, but Thogmartin says it's not a huge improvement.

User mgreason / wikimedia commons

A conservation group is raising questions about Dow Chemical's attempts to convince the Trump administration to drop studies that show Dow's pesticides could harm endangered species.

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