You can listen to today's Environment Report above.
This week, the Department of Natural Resources went through a big training drill that’s a first of its kind in Michigan. The drill is supposed to prepare the agency for what to do if the Asian carp makes its way into Michigan’s rivers.
A dozen boats stamped with the DNR logo line the shores of the St. Joseph River. Some of them are normal fishing boats.
But a few have these metal poles sticking out about three feet in front of the boat. At the end of each pole are these long pieces of metal cable that hang down in the water.
The DNR’s Todd Somers is the foreman of one of these homemade boats. He points out a 240-volt generator near the back of the boat. It can deliver up to 16 amps through the metal poles at the front of the boat; sending electric shocks through the cables into the river. That’ll stun any fish nearby.
Michigan wolf hunting licenses are expected to go on sale Saturday. But Ed Golder, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources public information officer, says that date may not work out because of high demand. When the wolf hunting licenses do go on sale, the state will sell up to twelve-hundred of them. The hunt is limited to six counties in the Upper Peninsula. Only 43 wolves will be allowed to be killed.
Energy assistance will help low-income families
State regulators have approved a 99-cent monthly fee to help low-income Michigan residents pay their energy bills and avoid losing electricity, natural gas, or propane. The charge applies to all customers, starting in September, unless a utility opts out of the program. The Michigan Public Service Commission says only a few so far have declined to participate.
According to the Associated Press, if a utility opts out of the program, it can't cut off power between November and April 15th. Michigan's largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, plan to participate.
MI State Police cracking down on human trafficking
Michigan State Police say 10 teenage girls forced into prostitution have been rescued as part of a national crackdown. Detroit Sergeant Ed Price says the girls were removed from motels and other locations last week in Wayne, Genesee, Oakland and Macomb counties. According to the Associated Press, eighteen suspected pimps were arrested, although only one in Flint has been charged so far. The investigation is ongoing.
The DNR announced this morning it will delay wolf hunting license sales until September 28th. The licenses were to go on sale this Saturday, August 3rd. Licenses will be sold on a first come, first serve basis.
Democrats in the state House have introduced a package of bills that would add more state regulations to the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’ We spoke to a co-sponsor of the legislation on today's show.
And, as the use of meth makes headlines across the state, we talked to one woman about her recovery and what she's doing for other addicts.
And, it’s going to be a hot week for Michiganders. We took a look at what health concerns are related to the increased temperatures.
Also, we spoke with Gary Whelan of the State Department of Natural Resources about what is being done to keep the Great Lakes stocked with fish.
First on the show, the debate over expanding Medicaid in Michigan continues.
Governor Snyder is still pushing for the state Senate to vote on the legislation. It would expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults in the state. The state House has already approved it.
Over the weekend, Mark Schauer waded into the debate.
Schauer – a Democrat – is running for Governor in 2014. He said on Saturday that he does not understand why Governor Snyder is not calling the Legislature into a special session.
Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s “It’s Just Politics” team, joined us today to answer Mark Shauer’s question.
The state Department of Natural Resources says about 750 acres in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula will be protected, available for public use, and managed as a working forest. The recent announcement of a $1 million Forest Legacy Program grant for the effort is expected to help protect nearly three-quarters of a mile of Thumb Lake frontage. The 750 acres in Charlevoix County will remain in private ownership, the Associated Press reports.
Tire dump transforms into farmer's market
A site once used as a tire dump is now a farmer's market following years of work by a community, the state, and federal officials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provided a $40,000 grant and a $60,000 loan to help finance the project in Mecosta County. The state of Michigan helped cover the cost of tire disposal as well as a trail, fishing pier and other recreational improvements, the Associated Press reports.
Hillary Clinton comes to west Michigan
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to speak to business leaders in western Michigan today. Clinton is the guest of honor at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids' 26th annual dinner. Ready for Hillary, a self-described national grassroots group, is organizing a rally outside the event. The group hopes to encourage Clinton to run for president in 2016, the Detroit Free Press reports.
State wildlife officials plan to recommend Thursday that Michigan hold a wolf hunt this Fall in the U.P.
Gray wolves in Michigan were until recently listed as an endangered species. There are about 700 wolves in Michigan. Farmers say the growing wolf population is a threat to livestock.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will receive a recommendation to kill 47 wolves, as part of a hunt, focused in three parts of the Upper Peninsula. The commission may vote next month to set the dates for a wolf hunt.
The state Senate passed a controversial bill this week.
Senate Bill 78 would prohibit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from setting aside an area of land specifically to maintain biological diversity. Basically, that means protecting the variety of plants and animals that live in an area.
Senator Tom Casperson sponsored the bill. He has argued that the DNR has too much authority to set aside land.
Here's what the bill would do (excerpted from the Senate Fiscal Agency floor summary):
--Prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Natural Resources Commission from promulgating or enforcing a rule or an order that designates or classifies an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity. -- Delete the conservation of biological diversity from the DNR's duties regarding forest management, and require the Department to balance its forest management activities with economic values. -- Eliminate a requirement that the DNR manage forests in a manner that promotes restoration. -- Provide that a State department or agency would not have to designate or classify an area of land specifically for the purpose of achieving or maintaining biological diversity. -- Delete a legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
Critics of the bill say it could tie the DNR’s hands.
Detroit Council working on plan to counter emergency manager
The council will meet this morning. The Detroit News reports they want to hear more from Mayor Dave Bing:
The full panel plans to meet at 9 a.m. today to study its options for appealing Gov. Rick Snyder's determination that the city is in a financial emergency, paving the way for an emergency manager.
Council members have asked Bing to come to the table and said they may vote on a response to the governor by Thursday. The city has until Monday to appeal.
Bill aimed at stripping DNRs power to manage for biodiversity clears Senate
Senator Tom Casperson-R (Escanaba) has a victory. His bill, Senate Bill 78, would keep the Michigan Department of natural resources from setting aside land for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity. The Senate passed that bill along a party line vote. 26 Republicans for, 11 Democrats against. You can read more about this legislation from Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams.
Lansing casino project loses court decision
A federal judge has issued an injunction last night against the tribe that wants to build the casino - the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker granted the state's motion for an injunction pending resolution of the Attorney General's lawsuit. The judge says the tribe cannot apply to the federal government "to have the … property taken into trust unless and until it obtains a written revenue sharing agreement with the other federally-recognized Indian Tribes in Michigan."
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.
Hunters in much of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula will have a cap on the number of deer they can take home this season. A disease that’s killing thousands of deer has prompted the state to enforce new hunting restrictions.
Last winter was unusually warm and that’s helped create fertile breeding ground for the biting fly that spreads Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. It has infected deer in a record 30 Michigan counties; killing at least 13,000 deer this year. EHD does not affect humans.
Brent Rudolph runs the deer and elk program at the Department of Natural Resources.
Reuters alleges that the emails suggest top company officials discussed a plan to divide up counties in Michigan auctioning "prime oil- and gas-acreage" in order to avoid a costly bidding competition.
Both companies deny the allegation, though they admit to discussing the possibility of entering into a joint venture in Michigan.
Yesterday, Reuters reported:
Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp tumbled Monday after a Reuters investigation showed that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners.
Following the report, the state of Michigan pledged to determine whether the two energy giants acted two years ago to suppress land prices there.
In Michigan, private land owners can sell the drilling rights on their properties, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources holds auctions to sell state-owned rights called "oil and gas leases" biannually.
Around 2008, this market gained national attention when the Utica and Collingwood Shale oil and natural gas fields drew interest as potential natural gas mother lodes in northeast Michigan. Companies looking to access the reserves thousands of feet underground through a new process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, started purchasing these rights. Bids for the drilling rights per acre soared to record highs in the May 2010 auction.
Gov. Snyder signed legislation aimed at improving Internet access in Michigan's rural areas.
According to Snyder's office, the new law will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install Internet infrastructure.
More from Gov. Snyder's office:
Senate Bill 499, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install facilities along state-controlled rail-trails – former railway lines converted to walking and bicycling paths. Companies will pay not more than $500 in application fees to the Department of Natural Resources, plus a one-time fee of 5 cents per linear foot used. Revenues will go into the Michigan Trailways Fund or the Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“Keeping costs low will encourage more companies to expand wireless Internet access to Michigan’s rural areas, essential to continuing our economic reinvention,” Snyder said.
There's been a spate of black bear sightings in West Michigan over the past few days with at least one birdfeeder as a casualty.
Residents in Greenville, about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, saw a bear wandering around a residential neighborhood and sightings have also been reported in nearby Lowell and Vergennes Township this week.
Wildlife authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources don't know if it's the same bear being spotted, or more than one.
Bear sightings in general in many parts of the Lower Peninsula have become more common over the past few years.
[Bump] said a lot of the time, the bears are young males that get pushed out during the breeding season. They’ll head down looking for new territory.
“It’s not that we’re completely full up in the north – it can’t take one more bear – it’s just that we’re getting more taking the chance and moving south.”
He said bears like to travel along rivers and forested corridors and they appear to be finding good routes to travel...
Bump said some female bears appear to be moving south too. And some might be setting up camp... and having babies.
“We think we have an established population now as far down as Grand Rapids, possibly into Ionia County. We're getting more and more reports of bears in southern Michigan, even bears that are too young to have moved, so they had to have been produced in southern Michigan.”
This past February, Williams and producer Mark Brush got the chance to tag along with MDNR biologists in Oceana County as they tranquilized a black bear to replace a radio tracking collar.
Now that the warm weather is here, the collared bear is likely loping around in search of food.
You can see the bear in a deep sleep in the video below.
Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.
Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.
Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources. She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.
“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has filed its first legal action under an order that outlaws some breeds of exotic swine.
The Michigan DNR has filed a legal action in Cheboygan County against the Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve for refusing entry to state inspectors and harboring prohibited breeds.
This is the first legal action taken by the Michigan DNR since the state started enforcing the order on April 1.
*Correction - An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Michigan DNR is banning "some species of exotic swine." The MDNR is banning certain breeds not species. It has been corrected above.
So far, the research is showing a somewhat surprising result: that coyotes are a top predator of fawns in parts of the western UP.
From the Grand Rapids Press:
...what researchers found this past winter, the third year of a western U.P. deer mortality study, is that coyotes were the No. 1 predator followed by bobcats. Wolves came in fourth after a three-way tie among hunters, unknown predators and undetermined causes.
“I was somewhat surprised to see coyotes play as large a role in fawn predation as they did...,” said Jerry Belant, an associate professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University.