Environment & Science

Red Horse Ranch

Anyone who's ever dreamed of owning a mustang will get their chance in southwest Michigan this weekend.

Sorry, car enthusiasts. We're not talking about Fastbacks and GTs.

These are wild horses the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is offering for adoption at the Red Horse Ranch in Cassopolis this Saturday.

Wolf on Isle Royale.
IsleRoyaleWolf.org

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Several U.S. senators want the federal government to decide faster what to do about Isle Royale National Park's imperiled wolf population.

Scientists say only three gray wolves remain on the Lake Superior island chain. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years, probably because of illness and inbreeding complications. 

The State of Michigan is weighing whether to open the door to commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

Millions of rainbow trout are raised for food by Canadians every year in Lake Huron and promoters of the business say Michigan should follow suit and could even become a world leader in aquaculture.

State officials are trying to figure out what the risks are and the idea is likely to face opposition from sport fishing groups and other conservationists.

Mixed reactions greet new clean water rule

May 27, 2015
The old Velsicol chemical plant site from across the Pine River.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Obama administration has finalized new regulations meant to clarify which bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Environmental advocates are calling for Enbridge to shut down its Line 5 pipeline which runs beneath the Mackinac Straits.

The Traverse City-based environmental group For the Love of Water (FLOW) issued a report today questioning the safety of the 62-year-old line.

The report says structural concerns and possible corrosion put the line at risk for leaks and ruptures.

Are gang members using social media to plan violence, to incite violence?
Scott Breale / Flickr

Gang members across the country aren’t just carrying guns. They’re also armed with Twitter and Facebook.

That’s the focus of a study whose title really says it all: "Internet Banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop."

It’s co-authored by Desmond Patton, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the School of Information.

Desmond Patton joins us today to talk about gangs and social networking. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A serious health threat to the state’s wild deer population has been detected in mid-Michigan. 

A six-year-old doe found in Haslett last month has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. 

The neurological disease is always fatal.  The disease is transmitted through saliva and other bodily fluids.   The disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose. 

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey want to find out where Asian carp eggs will have the most success.

They’re using a model nicknamed FluEgg to predict which rivers in the Great Lakes region are the most suitable for Asian carp to reproduce. The fish are not established here yet, but scientists want to be ready in case they do get in and get comfortable.

Relative sizes of ticks at different life stages.
CDC

Time to break out the long pants: tick season is back!

The past couple of years we've had a tick boom along the west side of the state and it's happening again this year.

Rich Keith spends a lot of time with ticks. He’s the director of the Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory. He and his wife Brenda have been doing tick surveys every year since 1997 for university researchers in Michigan and elsewhere.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

It looks like the toxic bacterial blooms on Lake Erie won't be as bad this summer.

Last August the blooms, which look kind of like algae or pond scum, were dangerous enough that people in Toledo and parts of Michigan couldn't drink their tap water for a few days.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A petition drive is launching this weekend in an effort to ban a controversial natural gas extraction process.

This will be the third time the campaign’s tried to get a question to outlaw fracking on the Michigan ballot.

LuAnne Kozma is leading the effort. She says with every attempt, it’s gotten easier to get people to sign the petitions.

Monarch caterpillars can die if they are exposed to milkweed that has been treated with neonicitinoids, a type of insecticide.
Monarch Watch

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, but some plants you buy for your garden could be toxic to them.

There’s been a big drop in the monarch butterfly population. By some estimates, they’ve declined by more than 90 percent over the past 20 years.

A new study from AT&T seeks to explain why we use our phones behind the wheel
user Jason Weaver / flickr


It’s pretty common knowledge that texting while driving is dangerous. But for some reason, many of us still do it.

A study released from AT&T tries to shed some light on just how distracted we are by our smartphones while driving.

On top of texting, the AT&T survey finds 27% of drivers between 16 and 65 admit to Facebooking when they drive, and 14% use Twitter, with a full 30% of those folks admitting they tweet "all the time" while driving.

Enivronmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a meeting in Kalamazoo tonight to get feedback on its proposed plan to clean up a 22-mile section of the Kalamazoo River.

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. Some of it had polychlorinated biphenyls; or PCBs.

Monarch Watch

Monarch butterflies are not around in the numbers they used to be — not by a long shot. By some estimates, monarch populations have dropped by 90% over the past twenty years. 

But why has that happened to these iconic butterflies? 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Experts say that with at least nine coal plants in Michigan slated to shut down in the next 10 months, natural gas is the likely replacement as the primary source for generating energy.  But they are not predicting a large increase in natural gas production in the state. Instead, they say there likely will be more pipelines and other infrastructure built to import more natural gas from nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Researchers believe these are the only remaining wolves on Isle Royale National Park — a mated pair and their offspring (left).
John Vucetich / Michigan Technological University

The wolf population on Isle Royale has been dropping for some time.

There were nine animals last year. In their latest winter study report, researchers on Isle Royale only spotted the three wolves pictured above on the entire island.

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

DTE Energy is moving forward with a solar power project near Ann Arbor.

Ryan Stanton of The Ann Arbor News reports the project will be visible to motorists traveling the highway. 

SS Badger
wikimedia commons

The Lake Michigan car ferry SS Badger is set to return to service this week.

This comes after more than $2 million in upgrades as part of a deal between Lake Michigan Car Ferry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The herring gulls of Bellow Island played a large role in the US government's decision to ban the use of DDT.
user Steve Voght / flickr

    

If there's one pesticide most everyone can name, it's DDT.

When the U.S. government banned DDT in 1972, it was seen as a great victory for the environment.

But you might be surprised to learn that tiny Bellow Island (colloquially known as Gull Island, off the shore of Northport in Leelanau County) played a huge role in convincing the government to ban DDT.

On the Kalamazoo River just downstream from the confluence of Talmadge Creek. Around 1 million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the river in 2010.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today, the state of Michigan announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy over the largest inland oil spill in American history.

The state’s $75 million consent judgment with Enbridge won’t be coming as a huge cash payment. Most of the money has already gone to, or will be going to river restoration or recreation projects along the Kalamazoo River.

Reid Frazier / Alleghany Front

A study released by a team of Penn State scientists found evidence that groundwater near a shale gas well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania was tainted by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and drilling for natural gas. The study suggests the chemicals traveled through sideways cracks in the ground. 

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

A Canadian advisory panel has recommended approval of a permanent, underground nuclear waste repository within a mile of Lake Huron in Ontario.

The panel made its recommendation this week in a report to Canada's environment minister, who is expected to make a decision within four months. 

Illustration courtesy of U.S. Global Change Research Program

 

Our climate is changing and people are working out ways to adapt.

A new report takes a look at how climate change is affecting weather in the U.S. and what people are doing to try to get ready for more changes in the future.

farming equiptment
Helen Hanley / creative commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is teaming up with three states –  Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana –  and 40 groups to jointly tackle cyanobacteria, that scourge of Lake Erie that briefly shut down Toledo's water supply last summer.

Cyanobacteria thrives on phosphorus and other nutrients in runoff from farms. The hope is to deprive cyanobacteria of some of the food it needs to reproduce in massive quantities.

Purple Loosestrife is an invasive plant found in wetlands and on roadsides throughout much of North America.
user liz west / Flickr

Amos Ziegler has developed a smartphone app that could make it a lot tougher for invasive plants and critters to sneak into our state and get a foothold before they're detected.

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

The Bruce Nuclear site sits across Lake Huron from Michigan’s Thumb region.

Ontario Power Generation wants to bury some of its nuclear waste on the site in Kincardine, Ontario. All of the company’s low and intermediate level waste would be buried there forever, far underground.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Large animal farms will no longer be allowed to give or sell excess manure to smaller farms between the months of January and March.

Brad Wurfel is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the larger farms know not to do this, but sometimes the smaller farms will spread the manure on frozen, snow-covered fields. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers say there would be beneficial side effects from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan. 

The plan is intended to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.  CO2 is a large factor in climate change.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The fight is on over how to make sure Michigan's electric grid remains reliable.

The state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, will close nine coal-burning electric power plants by next April to comply with regulations on mercury emissions.

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