Upper Peninsula

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has tentatively approved the last major permit needed for construction of a copper and silver mine in the western Upper Peninsula.

The permit deals with protection of wetlands, inland lakes and streams. It will become final after being signed by Orvana Minerals Corp. and state officials.

beingmyself / flickr

A bill to let people hold, pet, and take pictures with bear cubs has passed the state Senate. The measure would allow an Upper Peninsula bear ranch to continue to offer the experience. It would let the public handle bears up to 36 weeks old or less than 90 pounds.

Senator Rebekah Warren voted against the bill.

She says lawmakers should put residents’ safety ahead of the financial benefit of a single business.

michigan.org

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Spotty snowfall in the Upper Midwest is making some business owners happy and hurting others.

Snow accumulation is below normal across the region for the second consecutive winter. It's picked up over the past week as temperatures have fallen dramatically. But some areas are having a feast and others a famine.

Sarah Long says bare ground caused her resort in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to lose nearly three weeks' worth of reservations. But heavy lake-effect snow in recent days has turned things around.

sierrafoothillsreport.com

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has declared a State of Energy Emergency in part of the Upper Peninsula.

There’s a shortage of propane in parts of the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. 

According to the governor’s state of energy emergency declaration, high demand for propane, coupled with repairs on a propane pipeline terminal has resulted in a temporary shortage.

The executive order suspends regulations restricting how many hours a day propane truck drivers can operate.    Drivers must travel longer distances to get to where propane is available.

www.isleroyalewolf.org

An animal welfare group has the green light to start collecting signatures in its attempt to stop a new law opening Michigan to a wolf hunt.

On Thursday, a state board approved petitions drafted by the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

Michael Hodge is their attorney. He said there is no evidence that wolves are a problem in the Upper Peninsula.

“So it’s a hunting season for trophy hunters who want to kill an animal that just basically reappeared in the state of Michigan in recent years,” said Hodge.

user metassus / Flickr

A ballot campaign will launch this week to overturn a new law that allows the state to establish wolf hunting seasons in the Upper Peninsula.

The campaign Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will appear before a state elections board on Thursday to get its petition approved for circulation.

Jill Fritz is the Michigan director for the Humane Society and the leader of the petition drive. She said the gray wolf was only recently removed from the endangered species list.

beingmyself / flickr

Bills to ease restrictions on owning and breeding large carnivores in Michigan are likely to come up again in 2013.

Governor Rick Snyder recently vetoed the legislation because of language he said would compromise public safety.       

Republican state Senator Joe Hune said the measure has attracted unfair criticism. He said many opponents cite an incident in Ohio a year ago, when a man deliberately freed a number of dangerous exotic animals he owned.

user metassus / Flickr

Legislation that could allow a limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula cleared the state House Wednesday, and is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The grey wolf was recently removed from the federal endangered species list.

State Representative Jeff Irwin is a Democrat from Ann Arbor. He was one of the “no” votes.

“This is an animal that just came off the endangered species list. The populations are not even healthy or even abundant, and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about shooting wolves in northern Michigan,” Irwin said.

michigan.gov

The company Orvana Resources is one step closer to getting the approval it needs to build a new mine. The Copperwood Mine is proposed for a site north of the town of Wakefield in the western U.P. The state is reviewing the company’s final environmental permit.

The Department of Environmental Quality has already given the company mining, wastewater and air permits.

State Senate passes bill that could lead to gray wolf hunting season

Nov 30, 2012
USFWS

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.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The Eagle Mine near Marquette is under construction. It will be mining mostly nickel and copper along with smaller amounts of other metals.

The company Rio Tinto owns the mine.  They’ve received their state and federal permits, but those permits are being challenged in court.  The mine has been divisive in the community.  A lot of people want the mining jobs, and many others are worried about the impacts the mine could have on Lake Superior and nearby rivers.

Dan Blondeau is a spokesperson for Rio Tinto.  He says the company will be spending about a million dollars on environmental monitoring that’s required by their permits.  But he says residents have been telling them that wasn’t enough.

“For the last several years, community members have told us they’d have more trust in environmental monitoring if it was done independently.”

Rio TInto Eagle Mine, Oct. 2010
Rio Tinto Eagle Mine

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell has refused to halt construction of a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

In an order signed today, Bell rejected a request by the Huron Mountain Club, a private sportsmen's group, to stop work on the mine while the club's lawsuit works its way to trial.

The exclusive club owns about 19,000 acres of forest land in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County, including an 11-mile stretch of the Salmon Trout River, according to the AP.

NEWBERRY, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it's making good progress battling an Upper Peninsula wildfire as some people return to their homes.

NEWBERRY, Mich. (AP) - Rain is lending a hand to crew members who are battling a wildfire that has consumed 31.6 square miles of forest in the eastern port of Michigan's sparsely populated Upper Peninsula.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of disaster in the Upper Peninsula counties of Luce and Schoolcraft, where wildfires already have consumed more than 20,000 acres.

Snyder's declaration Friday means all state resources will be made available to protect public health and safety in the ongoing efforts to fight the wildfires.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The boom and bust nature of the mining industry is nothing new to residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And while recent decades have seen the region's once-prosperous iron and copper mines falling further and further into "bust" territory, the last few years have seen a resurgence of interest from companies hoping to pull valuable ore from this remote part of the state.

Seney wildfire
USFWS

SENEY, Mich. (AP) - Officials say a wildfire believed to have been triggered by lightning has expanded to at least 3,200 acres of a wildlife refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says crews are working Thursday to control the fire at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. High winds and dry conditions have hampered firefighting efforts.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the blaze that was estimated at 2,500 acres Wednesday had spread to at least 3,200 acres Thursday.

So far, no injuries or building damage have been reported.

Michigan Highway 28 remains open as aerial control efforts succeed in limiting the spread south of the highway.

The fire started Sunday. The refuge covers 95,000 acres in northern Schoolcraft County, about 85 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie.

SENEY, Mich. (AP) - Officials say a wildfire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has burned at least 600 acres of a wildlife refuge.

The Mining Journal of Marquette and WLUC-TV report the fire at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Schoolcraft County is believed to have been started Sunday by a lightning strike. It grew Monday and continued to burn on Tuesday. Officials say dry conditions contributed to its spread.

A message seeking updated information about the fire was left Wednesday morning by The Associated Press with an official at the refuge.

No injuries or damage to buildings was reported. The refuge plans to evaluate whether to close trails in the area for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Huron Mountain Club files federal lawsuit against Upper Peninsula mine

May 8, 2012

A private club in the Upper Peninsula has filed suit to stop the construction of a new mine in Marquette County.  It’s the first federal lawsuit to attempt to stop the project. 

The nickel and copper mine, owned by Kennecott Eagle Minerals, has received permits from the state.  But the Huron Mountain Club says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to sign off too.

The club owns nearly 20,000 acres of forest downstream from the mine on the Salmon Trout River.

The lawsuit says sulfuric acid produced by sulfide mining could pollute the river, and the club is "horror-struck" by the prospect of the watershed collapsing because part of the mine will be dug directly underneath it.

The lawsuit also says the federal government needs to consider the potential for damage to Eagle Rock, a site near the entrance to the mine that is sacred to American Indians.

The mine has been under construction since 2010.

Attorney for the Huron Mountain Club Rick Addison expects Kennecott will argue that it is too late to bring up this issue, but he says it was the company’s decision to build the mine without the necessary permits.

"The lateness argument has no resonance to me, it’s simply the last refuge of the environmental scoundrel," said Addison.

In a written statement, Kennecott says the mine has been extensively reviewed and already survived multiple legal challenges.

WLUC-TV / YouTube

I remember making little chains out of Starburst wrappers when I was a kid, but building an entire garment with them?

That's what Diane McNease of Ishpeming High School has done.

WLUC-TV produced a short piece on McNease and her dress. Here it is (I like the host's reaction to the lead of the story):

McNease definitely has some artistic flair. She said she strung wrappers in the dress below the corset to "give the illusion that the dress is, kind of like, falling apart."

She said friends donated around 18,000 wrappers for the corset, matching hair bands, and purse. It took her around 5 months to make.

More evidence that young kids today are far from slackers. We stopped after stringing 10 Starburst wrappers together.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

A Central Upper Peninsula Indian tribe is asking the United Nations to help curb sulfide mining in the Upper Great Lakes.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) recently sent the United Nations a document outlining how governments are locating and planning mines on Indian land without getting input from tribes.

Tribal officials say that infringes on their treaty rights. 

KBIC member and document co-author Jessica Koski said the tribe needs to have a seat at the table.

“This is our traditional territory.  This is where we hunt, we fish, we gather, and those are rights that are maintained in treaties,” said Koski.

Koski said the mines create the equivalent of battery acid, which drains into nearby watersheds.

“That is a huge problem. There is no example in the entire world of a sulfide mine that hasn’t polluted water resources. And this is an issue that would last for generations and centuries in the Great Lakes region,” said Koski.

Mining company Kennecott Minerals said its design contains safety components that will keep Lake Superior from being polluted.

Supporters of the mine say the area badly needs the jobs.

But Koski said the mine currently being built in Marquette County is slated to last only five years, and the U.P. needs economic opportunities that are long-term.

“And that could be tourism, recreation, agriculture—local sustainable economies where we can thrive into the future and not have this ‘boom and bust,’ which is a very well-known phenomenon with the mining industry, which is why the U.P. is so desperate for another gasp of another mining boom,” said Koski.

Koski also said a sacred site near the nickel and copper mine has been fenced off and degraded. Mining company Kennecott Minerals says the tribe still has access to Eagle Rock.

Koski said their U.N. document aims to educate the public about state and federal governments approving mines on Native land without consulting tribes.

It comes on the heels of the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The U.S. approved the multi-nation “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People” two years ago.  But a U.N. human rights official who visited the U.S. last week said more needs to be done to heal historic wounds, including a return of Native American lands to tribes.

Prarie Plant Systems

A Canadian company specializing in plant-based pharmaceuticals wants to turn an old copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula into a large-scale medical marijuana farm.

Paul Egan from the Detroit Free Press reports that Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), along with their stateside subsidiary SubTerra, purchased the White Pine Mine in 2003 and began using it for other types of plant-based research. But the company hopes to start using the facility to produce pot and tap into Michigan's market of 131,000 medical marijuana users.

According to Egan, PPS already operates a marijuana growing facility in Canada and has a lucrative contract to supply medical pot to the Canadian government. But while Michigan voters have approved medical marijuana use, the project is still a long way from becoming a reality.

Egan writes:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder would all have to sign off, and in the case of the first two agencies, reverse direction on policy. Federal agencies consider marijuana illegal. DEA agents have not cracked down on small operations to supply licensed patients but almost certainly would view SubTerra as a major bust opportunity.

Legal hurdles aside, why use a mine to grow an underground pot crop?

Egan spoke to Brent Zettl, president and CEO of PPS:

Growing marijuana hundreds of feet underground - the same way the company started its Canadian operations in 2001 - provides security, constant temperature, controlled light and humidity, and protects the plants from bugs and diseases, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides, Zettl said. He said any medical marijuana sold in Michigan should be subject to the same regular and rigorous testing as is found in Canada.

However, according to Egan, PPS's regulated growing techniques have caused some Canadian users to complain about the quality and taste of the company's product.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

flickr - caninest

In the last few years, illegal wolf kills in the Upper Peninsula have been going up as more sportsman become convinced that wolves are harming the deer population.

The antipathy toward wolves might change now that the species is no longer federally protected, but it also might change as more research is done on other predators in the UP.

Howard Meyerson of the Grand Rapid Press, reports on deer predation research being conducted in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mississippi State University students.

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.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Michigan-based bank among those to fail stress test

Ally Financial, headquartered in Detroit, made the Federal Reserve's list of major banks that failed to show they have enough capital to survive another serious downturn.

From the Associated Press:

The Federal Reserve says 15 of the 19 major banks stress-tested passed. The Fed noted that all 19 banks are in a much stronger position than immediately after the 2008 financial crisis. Still, SunTrust, Ally Financial and MetLife joined Citi in failing to meet the test's minimum capital requirements.

Ally Financial released a statement saying the Fed's analysis "dramatically overstates potential contingent mortgage risk, especially with respect to newer vintages of loans."

The Fed reviewed the bank balance sheets to determine whether they could withstand a crisis that sends unemployment to 13 percent, causes stock prices to be cut in half and lowers home prices 21 percent from today's levels.

Mixed reactions to Gov. Snyder's consent agreement plan for Detroit rescue

Yesterday, Detroit City Council saw a proposed consent agreement put forward by Gov. Rick Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon. The agreement proposes a financial advisory board, among other things, to help right Detroit's financial problems.

The initial reaction from many on city council and Mayor Dave Bing was negative - with several saying the plan takes too much power away from the city's elected leaders.

The Detroit Free Press gathered reaction from Detroit residents, which they say, was mixed. Here's one example:

Sherina Sharpe, 31, a lifelong Detroit resident who teaches writing, said she doesn't know what the best course of action is, but she wants to see the city flourish and isn't ready to shoot down proposed solutions.

"I'm open to solutions as long as they actually benefit the people who live here," she said.

You can read the agreement and weigh-in with your thoughts here.

Broadband deal reaches across Big Mac and into the Upper Peninsula

The Mackinac Bridge won't just transport people and goods, it will also transport large packets of information under a new deal announced yesterday. From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced a deal between the nonprofit Merit Network Inc. and the Mackinac Bridge Authority. It allows Merit Network to purchase strands of cable crossing the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge for use in a fiber-optic broadband project called REACH-3MC.

The project is part of an effort to expand broadband access in Michigan. Snyder says it will help "serve job creators and the Upper Peninsula."

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Over the weekend, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community.

"What’s a personal memory you have that has some kind of connection to Michigan?"

The answers show how the state's unique character gets into our blood, and why so many people feel at peace and at home in Michigan:

Jennifer - Being 6 years old and digging a tunnel in the snow to get out of the front door of our little house in Carson City during the blizzard of 1978.

John - First time I stood on Deadman's Hill & looked out over the East Jordan River Valley.

Dani - Several years back, I took a nap in a massive willow tree on the bank of the Au Sable River in Lovells. That tree is absolutely amazing, probably my favorite spot to be in the entire world. Once you climb into it, there's a sort of landing in the tree. I was able to stretch out fully and sleep comfortably while listening to the soft sounds of nature around me.

JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula says every region in the state could benefit from a strong and vibrant Detroit.

Republican state Senator Tom Casperson has become an unlikely advocate for a regional transit system in southeast Michigan that would connect Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

Casperson’s district in the U.P. would not benefit directly from the transit system. But the U.P. could benefit long term from newfound political ties to Detroit.

Meg Cramer/Michigan Radio

The Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore is a special place for Midwestern ice climbing. Every February, hundreds of climbers meet in Munising for Michigan Ice Fest. That’s because the Lake Superior shoreline has one of the highest concentrations of accessible ice climbs in North America.

Usually, Bryan DeAugustine is a middle school principal. But this weekend, he’s a volunteer instructor at Michigan Ice Fest.

“Ice climbing is like solving a puzzle and doing gymnastics at the same time. So it’s a nice marriage of your mind and your body. You have to really be focused and balanced. It’s just a fun way to spend the day outdoors.”

Ice climbers wear metal cleats strapped to their boots. In each hand, they carry an ice tool that looks like a small pick axe. They swing, chop, and kick their way up vertical ice.

It’s a lot less dangerous than you might think. Everyone uses ropes and harnesses. Still, advanced climbers often give this advice: don’t fall.

Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes were recently taken off the endangered species list. Now, the state of Michigan is responsible for managing the wolf population.

Michael Nelson is a professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University. He’s an author of a new report on people’s attitudes about wolves in Michigan. His report is based on a statewide telephone survey conducted in 2010. 

Nelson says they asked people throughout the state how they felt about the following four statements (on a five point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree):

  1. "I enjoy knowing wolves exist in Michigan."
  2. "I would be likely to purchase a license to hunt or trap wolves."
  3. "The decision to hunt wolves should be made by public vote."
  4. "Wolves should only be hunted if biologists believe the wolf population can sustain a hunt."

Michael Nelson says overall, Michiganders tend to value wolves.

"Generally, we found out that people enjoy knowing there are wolves in Michigan. This varies from place to place. We also found out that in general, the people of Michigan really support wildlife biology, wildlife science as an important way to make decisions about wolves."

But he says people’s feelings about wolves change based on where they live in the state.

user metassus / Flickr

As of last Friday, wolves in Michigan are no longer a federally protected “endangered species.”

On December 21, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in Washington that Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and are stable enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The current populations in each state are:

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.

The company that runs an iron ore mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula plans to invest the $60 million to extend the life of the Empire Mine to 2015.

From a Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. press release:

This project is expected to allow Empire to continue producing at a rate of approximately 3 million tons of iron ore annually through its remaining mine life.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reports Friday that the investment will go toward the purchase of mining equipment.

The announcement from the Cleveland-based mining company was part of $1 billion in planned investments for all of its operations in 2012.

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