Upper Peninsula


In the entire history of Michigan, there has been only one state poet laureate: Edgar Guest.

But, the Upper Peninsula can boast of having a poet laureate. Recent voting in a grassroots campaign gave that honor to Russell Thorburn.

Russell Thorburn joined us today to talk about what this honor means to him professionally and personally.

Listen to the full interview above.

On today’s show we explored the differences residents in the UP have as compared with "trolls," you know, residents under the Mackinac Bridge.

How do perspectives about our state change depending on where we live?

And, we got the story behind Banner Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo and the women who made them.

Also, the UP’s own poet laureate joined us to talk about the rise in regional poet laureates, as well as what that honor means to him.

First on the show, as you've likely heard by now, a state election panel will have to decide the official outcome of Detroit's mayoral primary. That's because Wayne County's election board refused to certify the election. It should be noted that the county election board acted on the very last day before the deadline to certify the election.

The controversy centers on some 20,000 write-in votes that may have been incorrectly marked by Detroit poll workers.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan appeared to win the primary handily over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Despite running as a write-in candidate, Duggan won by about 16 points, according to unofficial results.

But if these almost 20,000 write-in votes get thrown out, the two winners would switch places, with  Napoleon coming out on top, and former Detroit Medical Center Mike Duggan finishing second.

Whatever the outcome, Duggan and Napoleon will face off in November.

But this drama raises many concerns, including the ability of Detroit poll workers to do their jobs properly, whether there needs to be a recount, and whether---as suggested by Benny Napoleon--the U.S. Department of Justice needs to babysit the big November election.

Jocelyn Benson, interim dean of Wayne State University's law school and an expert in Michigan's constitutional and election law, joined us today to help us sort this all out.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new petition drive is being launched to stop Michigan from holding a wolf hunt.

Last winter, more than a quarter million people signed petitions to put a ban on wolf hunting on the November, 2014 ballot.

But, state lawmakers passed a second law circumventing the petition, opening the door for a wolf hunt this fall. Thus the need for a second referendum petition drive.

Wayne Pacelle is the president of the Humane Society of the United States. He expects they will easily collect more than 200 thousand signatures.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Andy Dillion's campaign funds in disarray

“Michigan election officials are declining to allow the closing of a fund from state Treasurer Andy Dillon's 2010 race for governor because of $105,000 that isn't properly accounted for. Dillon lost to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in the race for the Democratic nomination. The Detroit Free Press  says that no one has made any claims of improper activity, but the Department of State normally requires campaign funds to have zero balances before they can be dissolved. Dillon spokesman Terry Stanton says the issues are technical and are being addressed by the campaign treasurers,” according to the Associated Press.

Governor Snyder headed to the UP

“Governor Rick Snyder is on a road trip in the western Upper Peninsula. The governor has several stops planned Monday and Tuesday, starting at Miner's Heritage Memorial Park in Ironwood where he will speak at the dedication of a trailhead. Snyder also will tour a mine in Wakefield before going to Houghton and Hancock. On Tuesday, he'll be in Copper Harbor and Negaunee,” the Associated Press reports.

Wolf hunt petition drive joins three others

The campaign to outlaw wolf hunts in the Upper Peninsula officially launches today with an event in Lansing. It joins three other petition drives already in the field.

“Right to Life of Michigan wants to get around Governor Rick Snyder’s veto of a bill to require consumers to buy a separate insurance rider if they want abortion coverage. Environmental groups want to outlaw a controversial natural gas drilling method known as “fracking.” There is also a drive to end the Legislature’s practice of making some controversial legislation immune to referendum challenges,” Rick Pluta reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Opponents of Michigan’s planned wolf hunt are training petition circulators this weekend for the effort to put a second referendum on the ballot.

A big part of the training will be to answer the question “Didn’t we already do this?”

The answer is yes….and no.

Last winter, wolf hunting opponents collected enough signatures to put the issue on the November 2014 ballot and sidetrack plans for a wolf hunt this fall. But state lawmakers passed a new law this Spring and put the hunt back on track.

Michigan may be, in many ways, the most diverse state in the union. California and Texas are much larger. Alaska is out-of-the world vast, though fewer people live there than in Macomb County.

Flickr/Sarah Sosiak

A group of Michigan writers is headed to the Upper Peninsula where they are going to spend a couple of weeks making stops to talk about books, writing, and presumably talking a little bit about Michigan.

On the tour is Bonnie Jo Campbell, a Michigan author. Her works include the bestselling novel Once Upon a River and American Salvage, a collection of short stories. Ron Riekki, is also a Michigan author and the project director of the book tour.

They both joined us today to talk about the fourth annual Upper Peninsula book tour.

Listen to the full interview above.

Still not sure what the Affordable Care Act means or what it does or doesn’t do? You’re not alone. Politics aside, we took a closer look at Obamacare and what it all means for you.

And, the unseasonable cool weather in Michigan is probably good for you, but not so good for the crops. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to talk about what is causing it.

And, a Detroit native joined us today to tell us how he sees the city's bankruptcy as a new opportunity.

Also, the fourth annual Upper Peninsula book tour is about to begin. We spoke with a couple Michigan authors who will be participating.

First on the show, by now you’ve heard a bit about Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing. About half of Detroit’s nearly $20 billion in debt is due to shortfalls in the funds for retiree benefits. According to emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s estimates, the pension funds are behind by about $3.5 billion. Unfunded health care obligations are pegged at about $5.7 billion.

Detroit is not unique in its unfunded pension and retiree health care obligations. Other municipalities in the state are also behind.

Anthony Minghine is the chief operating officer of Michigan municipal league.  He joined us today.

McMILLAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The fire danger is on the rise in northern Michigan again, one year after a blaze destroyed 31 square miles of forest and marshland in the Upper Peninsula.

The Duck Lake fire was the largest of many wildfires that struck northern Michigan in 2012.

The blaze in Luce County's McMillan Township hit last May and destroyed 136 structures. Another fire destroyed 5 square miles in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in upper Michigan's Schoolcraft County.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The owner of the controversial Eagle mine project in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Rio Tinto PLC, says it will sell the project to Canada's Lundin Mining Corp. for $325 million.

The deal will require approval from regulators.

Rio Tinto is still building the mine which they say is 55% complete. Construction started in 2010.

MICHIGAMME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Tunneling at an Upper Peninsula mine is expected to be completed less than two years after digging started.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reports that Redpath Mining Contractors and Engineers expect to finish their work Friday at the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township.

More than two miles of tunnels have been built since drilling started in September 2011. The operation will mine and backfill ore which contains nickel and copper.

Logan Chadde

It has been a good year for maple syrup in Michigan. Farms produced twice the amount of syrup as they did last year, thanks to prime weather conditions that extended the tree-tapping season into April.

Syrup production ended in the Lower Peninsula in early April, and the Upper Peninsula continued production until the end of April. The official numbers of gallons produced will be released in early June. 

user: mosoltysik / Flickr

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was voted 'The Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011,' we know that. 

Some Michigan natives try to avoid the popular tourist sites during peak visiting months. The crowds can be overwhelming for some tourists, too.

Lifelong Michigander or not, if you're trying to soak up Michigan's beauty without all the people, check out michigantrailmaps.com.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state board authorized a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula on Thursday.

The decision comes after months of passionate debate.

Carol Smith is one of many people who urged the Natural Resources Commission to reject the proposed wolf hunt in the U.P.

“I really worry about our state’s legacy if we allow wolf hunting,” Smith told the commission.

But there were also people who urged approval of the hunt.  And in the end, the commission voted six to one to authorize it.


Governor Rick Snyder has signed Senate Bill 288. That could clear the way for a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula.

His signature clears the way for the state's Natural Resources Commission to vote on a recommendation to hold a limited wolf hunt this fall in three parts of the UP.

The Governor told Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith that he believes the NRC will base its decision on what he called "sound scientific principles."

"If you think about it, I think sound scientific principals are how we should decide these things, to make sure we are doing the proper environmental functions that protect whatever species we're talking about, so it's sustainable for the long term," said Snyder.

More than quarter of a million Michiganders  signed a petition asking to put a wolf hunt proposal on the November 2014 ballot. And the coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected says Senate Bill 288 is a deliberate attempt by lawmakers to circumvent their petition effort.

The Governor's response?

Shawn Malone / Vimeo screen grab

The wonders of our night sky often escape us.

The rainbows of the fleeting Northern Lights or the bright streak of a comet frequently slip behind cloud cover or crowded city skylines, leaving stargazers unrewarded.

But Shawn Malone, of Lake Superior Photo, was luckier than most.


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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

People fighting a proposed wolf hunt in Michigan are celebrating a milestone today.

They delivered a quarter million petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office this morning.   The petition calls for a statewide vote on the law authorizing the wolf hunt.

Jill Fritz is the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign.    She’s optimistic that state officials will validate enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.


Anybody who lives in Michigan would not be shocked to hear that there is a lot of good beer, and a lot of good bars to support it.

The problem is finding where exactly are all of the good bars and drinks.

That mystery has been left to word of mouth, hearsay, and luck - until now.

Recently a father-son duo have helped in providing a solution to that problem by doing the kind of research that many dream about. 

On a month long road trip they searched every corner of the Upper Peninsula to find exactly where good bars,  good drinks, and good times can be found. 

The results of their bar hopping excursion were thoroughly documented in a travel guide, entitled Yooper Bars.

In their guide, they break down the history, flavor and atmosphere of over 100 bars that help make the Upper Peninsula unique.

The guide is packed full of facts, bar savvy and humor, such as each bar's specialty drink, food, staff,  celebrity sightings, and favorite jokes.

We had an opportunity to sit down father and researcher emeritus, Randy Kluck as well as his son, author and entrepreneur, Kevin Kluck. 

The two give us the details on memorable food, drink, stories, and tell us about what it takes to visit 110 out of the 300 bars that are located in the Upper Peninsula.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.”