Environment & Science

Environment
1:25 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Smoke from Canadian fires seen across parts of UP

Smoke from Canadian fires is covering parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
mainfr4me Flickr

Police say a layer of smoke covering parts of Michigan's central and western Upper Peninsula is from forest fires burning in Ontario, Canada.

Michigan State Police say Tuesday that people in the area have been calling in reports to public safety officials with concerns about the smoke.

Planes flying for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been checking for smoke, and pilots report it's blowing across Lake Superior.

Police say there are no reports of fires in the Upper Peninsula.

Weather
11:05 am
Tue July 19, 2011

What do all the heat warnings, advisories, and watches mean?

The calculation of the heat index triggers all the warnings, watches and advisories. It's a measure of air temperature and relative humidity.
NOAA

Media outlets around the state want you to know... IT'S HOT!!

They have several different ways of telling you it's hot.

There are heat advisories, warnings and watches, heat indices, and ozone action days.

But what do all these terms really mean?

Here's a breakdown of the terms you might be reading or hearing about.

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Commentary
10:58 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Ohio bill poses threat to Lake Erie

We’ve had more than enough to worry about in Michigan this year -- and more than enough game-changing legislation to follow.

But perhaps as a result, most of us missed something that happened in Ohio that could have had a tremendous negative impact on us, and on everyone in the Great Lakes states.

And the threat isn’t over yet. Earlier this month the Ohio Assembly, which is their legislature, passed a bill that would have allowed businesses to withdraw as much as five million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie -- without even getting a state permit.

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Environment
11:15 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Man arrested, police shut down public hearing in Saugatuck

Police arrest 70-year-old Garrit Sturrus after he tries to hold open the doors to the meeting so the crowd in the hall could hear. Police asked him to leave but he refused.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The township is seeking public input on a proposed legal settlement with a billionaire looking to develop property along the Lake Michigan shore.

The public hearing will have to be rescheduled since police shut it down before anyone got a chance to speak. More than 400 people tried to fit into a space that holds half that.

“This was not a good venue to do this,” Saugatuck-Douglas Police Chief Ken Giles said.

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Great Lakes
11:24 am
Mon July 18, 2011

Coast Guard: 2 boaters found 'unresponsive'

DETROIT (AP) - The Coast Guard says divers have found two people missing since their boat capsized in Lake Michigan during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race and that the two are "unresponsive."

The Coast Guard did not indicate in its news release whether the two boaters were alive or dead.

Authorities say a Charlevoix County dive team recovered the two boaters about eight hours after the reports the boat had flipped.

The boaters' names have not been released.

The other six people aboard the sailboat WingNuts were rescued. The boat capsized early Monday near the Fox Islands, west of Charlevoix during the Chicago Yacht Club race.

Environment
2:51 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Illegal wolf kills spiking in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

In 1992, biologists counted 20 wolves in Michigan. The population has gone up since then and in 2010, 557 wolves were confirmed in the U.P.
www.isleroyalewolf.org

No other wildlife species, it seems, causes such extremes of emotion as the wolf.

Some people want to protect it at any cost.

Others want to shoot the animal on sight.

And in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula illegal wolf kills are spiking.

Wildlife officials say they can defuse the situation if they can just get gray wolves removed from the endangered species list.

Interlochen Public Radio's Bob Allen filed a report with The Environment Report on the controversy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Allen reported that the return of the gray wolf in the U.P. more than 20 years ago didn't cause concern, but that's changed in the last few years as some hunters are convinced wolves are decimating the white tail deer population.

Here's Allen's report:

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Weather
12:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Power restoration nearly done after Monday storms

Around 218,000 customers lost power in Monday's storms.
Christoper Sessums Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Environment
3:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Coyotes make themselves at home in Michigan cities

Bill Dodge is a PhD student at Wayne State University. He's leading a team of researchers looking into the behavior of urban coyotes in Oakland County.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Coyotes have been moving into a lot of American cities. Here in Michigan, you could potentially see coyotes almost anywhere. But researchers don't know a whole lot about the state’s urban coyotes.

A small research team from Wayne State University hopes to change that. They're trying to figure the animals out. They want to find out how many coyotes are living in cities. And they want to know what they’re eating, and how they survive.

A few weeks ago, one day just after dawn, I met up with the research team at the side of a road in Oakland County. We crossed the road to get to a grassy, undeveloped piece of land. The group fanned out to look for evidence of coyotes... that is: tracks, and scat.

After just a few steps, we found tracks.

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Environment
12:54 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Local girl scouts take aim at palm oil in cookies

Burning peat forests in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations.
Ann Dornfeld Environment Report

To make way for palm oil plantations in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, forests are slashed and burned.

By clear-cutting these forests, foreign governments and companies can ruin the habitat for animals like Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, and orangutans.

The Detroit Free Press has a story about two local girl scouts who are hoping to get palm oil out of their Girl Scout cookies.

From the Freep:

The Girl Scouts don't have a badge for "Demanding the Organization Stop Using Palm Oil in its Iconic Cookies and Causing a National Brouhaha."

If the organization did, Rhiannon Tomtishen, 15, of Ann Arbor and Madison Vorva, 16, of Plymouth would have them sewn on their vest or sash.

A 2007 project about orangutans for a Girl Scout Bronze Award has snowballed into a nationwide campaign to remove palm oil from Thin Mints and the rest of the cookie lineup. When the girls learned that Indonesian and Malaysian plantations destroy the rain forests these great apes call home to grow the ingredient, they did what the Girl Scouts taught them to do -- take action.

The Free Press reports that teens met with national leaders in the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. to raise their concerns and they hope to have a follow call with the leaders next month.

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Michigan fish advisory
5:31 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

State adds to fish warnings this year

The new Michigan Fish Advisory is out.  The advisory lists which Great Lakes fish are fairly safe to eat, and which should be avoided.

In general, blue gill, crappie, yellow perch and rock bass are safer to eat than fish like carp, lake trout, white fish, and catfish.

Women of child-bearing age and children have to be especially cautious about eating too many fish, because chemicals in fish can potentially cause neurological damage.

State toxicologist Kory Groetsch says the level of mercury in locally-caught fish has stayed about the same over the past few decades.

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Environment
2:29 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Number of bald eagles in Michigan rising

A bald eagle spotted near Horseshoe Lake recently
J Scot Page

The number of bald eagles in Michigan has risen to 700 eagle pairs, up 70 from last year, according to the Associated Press.

Here's more from the AP article (care of the Chicago Tribune):

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Environment
11:49 am
Fri July 8, 2011

Grand Rapids takes on lead poisoning

User: wayneandwax flickr.com

Grand Rapids is celebrating the success of a program aimed at preventing lead-poisoning. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports the number of cases of lead poisoning in Grand Rapids has fallen 75-percent since the program began.

Lead poisoning poses serious health risks for children under six-years-old. Lead-based paint is a hazard in homes built before 1978. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says more than 85-percent of houses in the city were built before then.

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Environment
3:16 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Thieves are stealing material from abandoned Flint houses

Abandoned home in North Flint
(Photo by Traci Currie/Michigan Radio)

Thieves in Flint are stealing copper pipes, aluminum sidings, indoor fixtures, and appliances from vacant houses. They are taking the material to scrap dealers for quick cash.

Doug Weiland is with the Genesee County Land Bank. He says Flint lost over 70,000 jobs due to the downsizing of the auto industry.

"So the city of Flint’s population is literally about half of what it was at its peak, and we have roughly half of the property that had been used in the past sitting vacant."

Environment
12:18 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

The sugar beet comeback

Sugar beets competing at a state fair
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user kregarious)

Sugar beets are large white beets that grow well in Michigan’s cooler climate. In fact, farmers have grown sugar beets in the Bay area for more than 100 years. The beets are planted at the end of April and harvested at the beginning of September. From then until March, the beets are processed into sugar.

Refineries run 24 hours a day and seven days a week with no breaks for holidays. If machines were to stop in the middle of the process, sticky molasses would harden inside the equipment. In the end, the sugar beets become white granular sugar, powdered sugar, or brown sugar. If you’ve bought a bag of sugar at a Michigan grocery store, chances are it’s sugar beet sugar from the Michigan Sugar Company.

Things are going pretty well for the Michigan sugar industry now. But twenty years ago, the industry nearly dissolved. Steve Poindexter is a sugar beet specialist with Michigan State University:

“The sugar industry, back in the ‘90s, was struggling, trying to get production up. The yields were down and not going up, and profitability was very low.”

That was the result of a push toward raising beets with higher sugar content. The experiment was a failure. The low yields caused many farmers to stop growing beets. Things got so bad, Michigan sugar beet farmers were granted almost 20 million dollars in disaster funds.

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Environment
9:42 am
Tue July 5, 2011

Karate farmers take back the neighborhood

Hakim Gillard works at the Harvesting Earth farm and he also works at King Karate in Flint.
Photo by Kyle Norris

King Karate is a martial arts studio that’s been in the Flint area for 22 years. But in the past few years, the couple who run the studio have broadened their definition of self-defense…and that’s why they’ve added farming to their arsenal.

18 year old Hakim Gillard has a lot on his plate today.

First he’s got to harvest vegetables for tomorrow’s farmer’s market...

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Environment
9:29 am
Tue July 5, 2011

Finding out how Michigan residents feel about wind power

Residents in Manistee and Benzie counties are receiving surveys in the mail this week. The survey will ask questions about wind energy.

Christie Manning is a visiting professor at Macalester College in Minnesota. She’s supervising the survey.

“To understand what it is about wind energy development that creates a sense of pro or anti in individuals; what are the various factors that tip a person to feel one way or the other?”

Township officials will use the survey results to help them with future zoning decisions.

There’s also an online version of the survey that’s available to anyone who lives in Michigan.

Environment
5:19 pm
Mon July 4, 2011

DNR to move slowly in enforcing swine ban

Feral swine often escape from hunting ranches.

 The state Department of Natural Resources says it will move slowly to enforce a ban on wild boar species that takes effect at the end of this week. The order declares some breeds of swine dangerous invasive species.

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Environment
4:01 pm
Mon July 4, 2011

Battling the 'Asian Carp on Land'

(photo by Peter Payette) (courtesy of the Environment Report)

On July 8th, the Department of Natural Resources will follow through with a designation that wild hogs are an invasive species.    There are several thousand feral pigs believed to be running wild in Michigan, according to  Mary Detloff, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  

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Environment
1:44 pm
Sun July 3, 2011

Storms knock out power to 125,000 in SE Michigan

Storm in Fort Gratiot, MI
Flickr/mdprovost

Michigan utility crews are working to restore power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.  Last night’s storms knocked out power for 125,000 customers.

The severe thunderstorms hit the southeast corner of the state, with hail and winds up to 64 miles per hour that knocked down trees and power lines.

The storms focused on metro Detroit and Michigan's rural thumb area. DTE Energy says 95,000 homes and businesses remain without service and a few will have to wait until Tuesday to get their power back.

Environment
12:16 pm
Sun July 3, 2011

Profs call for wind farm noise restrictions

An MSU professor compares the sound of a turbine to someone talking while you're trying to sleep.
Kevin Connors MorgueFile

Michigan’s wind industry is just getting started, but a group led by two Michigan State University professors is calling for stricter noise levels at wind farms in the state.

MSU's Kenneth Rosenman says that’s why this is the perfect time to put tougher noise regulations in place on turbines.

Current guidelines call for a limit of 55 decibels. Rosenman says 40 decibels would be much better. He  gives some comparisons:

"Normal conversation is 60 decibels," Rosenman says. "A ringing telephone is 30 decibels. A whisper is 30 decibels."

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