Environment & Science

Though long gone from Michigan, the wolverine can be found in other parts of the US and Canada.   But in declining numbers:

The Associated Press reports:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the wolverine should be to be added to the list of endangered and threatened species.

But the federal agency says adding the wolverine now is precluded by higher priorities - that is, other species considered in greater danger.

The agency says in a decision posted Monday that the small mammal known for its ferocity will be added to the candidate species list.

Rural Michigan is fighting a war with feral swine and wild boars.   The problem is getting worse.   Now, the state is about to take a major step up declaring them an "invasive species"

The Associated Press reports:

Michigan's fight against feral swine and wild boar is escalating.  Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director Rebecca Humphries announced Friday she signed an order declaring the swine an invasive species in Michigan.

Sooper Yooper

Dec 9, 2010
Billy Cooper, the Sooper Yooper
Painting by Mark Heckman, courtesy of Thunder Bay Press.

With 180 invaders already in the Great Lakes, it might take a superhero to keep them out.  Luckily, we have one: Sooper Yooper!   A new children's book written by Mark Newman and illustrated by the late Mark Heckman, features Billy Cooper, an ex-Navy Seal who lives in the U.P. with his scuba-diving bulldog, Mighty Mac.  I spoke with Mark Heckman's wife, Diane, and author Mark Newman about the book and Mark Heckman's legacy.

Top 3 Things to Know about Sooper Yooper:

  1. A dive in icy Lake Superior to catch a sea lamprey is not for the faint of heart.  Please leave this to the professionals.
  2. Billy Cooper is not a shapeshifter, nor does he have x-ray vision or invisibility.  Instead, he's super smart.
  3. Having trouble getting legislation passed in Congress?  No problem for Sooper Yooper.  He must have some mighty good lobbying skills.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new report finds last July’s massive oil spill in mid-Michigan sickened many people, but the long-term effects of exposure to the spill is unclear. 

The Michigan Department of Community Health worked with local health departments in Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties to compile data on people who were affected by the Enbridge Energy oil spill.

Everything’s back to normal at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan after a spill last week.

A drain valve for a filtering system failed and 100,000 gallons of slightly radioactive cooling water overflowed a holding tank. The water contaminated the shoes and outer clothing of some plant workers, but no one was harmed.

Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Michigan's soon-to-be Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Rodney Stokes, says he wants more people to hunt and fish in the state.

Stokes was named director of the department by Governor-elect Rick Snyder earlier this month.  Snyder announced he would be dividing the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two agencies: The Department of Natural Resources and The Department of Environmental Quality.

Stokes told The Detroit News that he wants to expand the focus of the department's recruitment efforts and that he has no plans to increase license fees.

The Associated Press reports:

Revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses were $45.3 million in the most recent budget, said Sharon Schafer, the department's assistant division chief for administration and finance. That's down from 2005 when adjusted for inflation.

Current distribution of the Bighead Carp
USGS

Update December 3rd 5:13 pm:

Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says "as far as I know, no one thinks there are any Asian Carp in Lake Erie." He says Lake Erie is colored red in the USGS map above because two Bighead carp were found in commercial fishman's nets several years ago. They colored the entire Lake red based on these two incidents.

December 1st 5:27 pm:

The state of Michigan has suffered another legal setback in its effort to keep Asian Carp from reaching the Great Lakes.  

A federal judge in Chicago has denied a request by Michigan and several other states to order the closure of canals which link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin. Asian Carp are a voracious invasive species.  The carp have devastated Mississippi River fish populations.  

“The court agreed that Asian Carp are indeed a threat," says Joy Yearout,  a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, '"But the judge also ruled the actions the federal government has taken over the last several months prove they are addressing the threat enough to make it not immediate enough to require a court order."

Federal agencies have stepped up construction of electric barriers to keep Asian Carp from passing into Lake Michigan.  Other methods are also being studied. 

The states may continue their legal fight.  They are also asking President Obama to order the canals closed.

Lynn Davis, Farm Drainage in Ohio
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A few years back, we at the Environment Report did a comprehensive series called, "The Ten Threats to the Great Lakes." Doing our best to make it comprehensive, we broke each of the Ten Threats into several stories.

We joked that the "Ten Threats" series turned into a 33-part series as we dug deeper into the issues.

For the series, I traveled to northwest Ohio and met with Lynn Davis. His grandfather had started a farm drainage business in 1910 using a steam powered trenching machine. Davis later took over the business from his father and uncle.

Photo by Lindsey Smith

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is already shuffling things in Lansing. He’s planning to split up the Department of Natural Resources and Environment... back into two separate agencies.

Dunes near Saugatuck
Norm Hoekstra

Conservationists are celebrating a recommendation to approve a $7 million grant to preserve dune-land near Saugatuck.

The grant will help the City of Saugatuck purchase the 171-acre property. The land includes thousands of feet of Lake Michigan shoreline; plus dunes, wetlands, and lakes.

Recycling Schools

Nov 30, 2010
Photo by Jennifer Guerra.

A lot of Michigan’s big cities are shrinking. People have left the state to find work. Others have moved their families to the suburbs. As Jennifer Guerra reports... that has left a lot of urban school districts with empty school buildings. But instead of tearing the buildings down, some districts want to recycle them.
 

 

Asian Carp
Kate.Gardner / Flickr

Michigan is one of five states taking the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to court to prevent the Asian Carp from getting into the Great Lakes. Organizers of an environmental advocacy group and chefs at a Grand Rapids restaurant want the same thing, but have a different approach. Chefs at a Grand Rapids restaurant are serving Asian Carp at an event Tuesday night to benefit efforts to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Tuesday is the final day for a Michigan fall tradition….firearm deer season.

Brent Rudolph is Deer and Elk Program leader for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.  He says deer season got off to a slow start two weeks ago. But, he says:

We have heard talk that both that first weekend…and the long Thanksgiving weekend…having a decent number of hunters. 

Rudolph says it will be next Spring before a final estimate for the number of deer harvested during the past two weeks will be known.  

Rent-a-Goat

Nov 23, 2010
Goats make excellent landscapers.
(Photo by Lindsey Smith)

If you’ve got a large piece of land that’s overgrown with weeds and brush, you could bring in big lawnmowers and bushhogs. But if you want something a little more low-key… you could rent a goat. Tanya Ott brings us the story of one Michigan couple who've built a business on landscaping with goats.  

Special thanks to Lindsey Smith for her help with this story.

Grand Rapids, MI
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids is one of only a handful of cities in the U.S. picked to participate in a new program to prevent potential damage to life and property because of climate change. It's the only city in the Midwest that's participating. The rest are in Arizona, Florida, and Massachusetts.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

People who live near Detroit’s massive Marathon Oil refinery came out as part of a national protest against a proposed pipeline in the western U.S.

The Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would transport heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. That’s the same type of oil the Detroit plant is being retrofitted to be able to process.

Most metal food cans are lined with a chemical called bisphenol-A.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)

Bisphenol-A or BPA – is a chemical that has been used for more than 40 years in food and beverage packaging. It can leach out of those packages and get into food and drinks. More than a hundred peer-reviewed studies have linked bisphenol-A to health problems. Until recently the Food and Drug Administration said that our current low levels of exposure to BPA were safe. But new studies have shown subtle effects of low doses of BPA in lab animals.

Infested hemlock
Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service

The invasive hemlock woolly adelgid has found its way into Park Township near Holland, Michigan. Ken Rauscher with the Michigan Department of Agriculture says they are currently surveying the area to see how widespread the infestation is.

Many hunters prefer to take a buck.
(Photo by Scott Bauer - USDA)

Last year in Michigan, there were more than 60,000 car accidents caused by deer. Farmers say they can lose a lot of money when deer eat their crops. And there are deer munching on backyard gardens and even running down sidewalks.

Photo courtesy of www.epa.gov

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency briefed people at a meeting last night in Battle Creek about the continuing clean-up of the Kalamazoo River oil spill.  EPA officials say they've finished cleaning up 50 sites in the river. 

Rick Snyder
Snyder's campaign website

There wasn’t a lot of talk about environment during the race for governor, but Governor-elect Rick Snyder made it clear during the campaign that he thinks the state’s regulatory system is broken and said he wants fewer regulations on businesses. That has some people wondering whether that means there will also be fewer of the regulations that prevent pollution in the state.  I talked with James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, to get his take on this.

Rogue River
Trout Unlimited

Efforts to protect and restore a cold water fishery north of Grand Rapids could serve as an example for the nation.

Fishermen know the Rogue River best for its spring and winter steelhead runs through Rockford. National coldwater conservation group Trout Unlimited also wants to protect habitat for the brook and rainbow trout that live there. So it designated the watershed as its newest "home river."

Michigan's next governor will have a lot of influence over what happens to our farms and lakes and state parks.

Today we're taking a look at the two major party candidates for governor, and how they compare on some of the big environmental issues.

If you've ever lived in the south, you know kudzu. It's an invasive plant that grows like crazy. Covers highway signs and telephone poles and anything that doesn't run fast enough.

There's a plant in Michigan that's getting a little crazy too. It's not kudzu-crazy yet, but experts say we need to get a handle on it.

It has a memorable name: dog-strangling vine.

Black bear carrying fish carcass
Alan Vernon / Creative Commons

Bear attacks are something we're used to hearing about out west or in Alaska, but in northern Michigan it can be rare just to see one.

The Detroit Free Press reports a hunter fought off a mother bear that was trying to climb into his tree stand.

Chad Fortune was bow hunting when two cubs tried to climb into his stand. He pushed them off, but the mother of the cubs put up more of a fight. Fortune was treated for his injuries at a nearby hospital. Wildlife officials say they plan to euthanize the bear.

Building a knee wall in an attic
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio's The Environment Report

Habitat for Humanity says it's saving money by fixing up foreclosure in Michigan, rather than building new. The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams visited volunteers working on rehabbing a house in Ypsilanti Township. Megan Rogers with Habitat says rehabbing foreclosures costs about 1/3 less than building new, but it can be a bit more challenging:

It appears there may be another oil spill in Michigan... this time on a beach on Lake Huron.  The Associated Press is reporting that investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are searching for the cause of a spill at Cheboygan State Park.

The spill war reported Tuesday and cleanup crews were at the site yesterday.

The AP says the oil, "covered a section of beach measuring about 25 yards by 300 yards."

Gas drilling rig in Appalachia
User Meridithw / Wikimedia Commons

What a fracking week on Michigan Radio!

Lester Graham of Michigan Watch and Rebecca Williams from the Environment Report are bringing us a series of reports on what might be a big part of Michigan's future: energy companies moving in and using a practice called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to get at gas deposits buried deep under Michigan.

Just how interested are energy companies in these gas deposits? Graham reports

James Hansen being arrested in Washington D.C.
Rainforest Action Network / Creative Commons

NASA Scientist James Hansen has been arrested in front of the White House. Hansen was participating in a protest against mountaintop removal coal mining. The Associated Press covered Hansen's arrest. The article said Hansen issued a statement saying mountaintop removal...

Pages