Michigan environment

Satellite image of Great Lakes
Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Our Great Lakes Month in Review for June looks at reducing phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie and a Wisconsin town that wants to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan.


Current State talks with Jon Allan of the Department of Environmental Quality about the plan to protect one of the state’s most treasured natural resources.

www.cleanwateraction.org/mi

In the second half of his presidency, Barack Obama has been flexing his muscles on environmental regulations. The president has proposed regulations that would significantly cut carbon emissions, one of the main contributors to climate change. But the administration isn’t just worried about air pollution and climate change, they’ve also been thinking about water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized a rule that would limit pollution into streams and wetlands that are upstream of major waterways.

http://msutoday.msu.edu/

Even the most casual cable TV viewers have, on occasion, been led to ask themselves "How long could I survive in the wild without food? What could I eat?" Peter Carrington will offer those kind of insights tomorrow at Michigan State University’s Beal Botanical Garden. He's the assistant curator of the Beal Garden, where he is the edible and toxic plant specialist. He’s also been an assistant instructor in the MSU plant biology department. His free, 40-minute session is called "Weeds you can eat, and NOT."

April Van Buren/WKAR

The state of Michigan used to be rich in wetlands. The receding glaciers that carved out the Great Lakes also left smaller depressions across the landscape which would fill in with water and become important habitats for all kinds of birds, amphibians, and other animals. But after Europeans began to colonize the region, those areas were drained for agriculture or development. Today, we learn about a program that’s helping private landowners restore some of that habitat, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

April Van Buren/WKAR

If you’re planning your summer vacation, you’re probably going to be booking a hotel or summer cottage soon. And so will some of the winged visitors to the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens here on the MSU campus. But, lucky for them, the bees at MSU’s “bee hotels” won’t be needing reservations.

Flickr - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

The conversation around climate change often focuses on how it will disrupt human life. Scientists warn that food shortages, flooding in coastal cities, and deadly heatwaves are just a few of the potentially devastating consequences of a warming planet. But humans aren’t the only ones at risk. Even small changes in temperature could drastically alter the native habitats of plants and animals across the globe, including here in Michigan.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

Officials say there are some 2,800 vacant, under-utilized and contaminated brownfield sites in Mid-Michigan. Some are the legacy of a wave of automotive plant and parts supplier closures spanning three decades. Others are former gas stations, garages and dry cleaning shops that contain an array of environmental pollutants. These idle sites are a threat to public health and a barrier to economic development. Now, a new federal grant will be put towards remediation.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it’s found a deer in Meridian Township that’s tested positive for chronic wasting disease.  It’s the first reported case of the disease in the state since 2008, and the very first time it has occurred in a wild deer population. Chronic wasting disease is not harmful to humans, but is always fatal to deer.

http://www.letsbanfracking.org/

For the third time in recent years, opponents of hydraulic fracturing are organizing to end the practice in Michigan. The Committee to Ban Fracking, based in Charlevoix, has begun a ballot campaign hoping to put a ban before voters in next years general election.

Satellite image of Great Lakes
Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

At the end of each month, we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. This month, some of the biggest environmental stories had to do with energy and how we transport it across the Great Lakes region.

Flickr - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

The alewife was once the scourge of the Great Lakes. The small, silver herring made its way into the basin through the St. Lawrence River in the late 19th century and proceeded to wreak havoc on the ecosystem. If you were around the region in the 1960s, you might remember the stench of thousands of dead alewives washing up on Great Lakes beaches. Now, scientists are concerned with a decline in the population of this invasive species and how the shrinking numbers of alewives could impact their main predator, the popular Chinook salmon.

In the coming year, nine of Michigan’s coal-fired power plants are scheduled to retire. That has environmentalists and renewable energy advocates cheering. And the state’s two major utilities, Consumer’s Energy and DTE, say they are ready to invest in a more sustainable energy future. But first, the companies say, Michigan has to return to a fully regulated electricity market.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

There’s no shortage of talk in Michigan about renewable energy sources. But despite all our efforts to go green, our state is still very dependent on fossil fuels. Recently, a Traverse City-based oil and gas company has been looking at an area in and around the city of Mason as a possible drilling site.

Courtesy University of Michigan College of Engineering

Think about an everyday substance like pollen. There’s lots of it floating around right now. It’s probably on your car windows. Botanists think of pollen’s role in the world as helping propagate new plants. Allergists think of pollen’s role as being something that causes sneezing.

State officials and other stakeholders are asking Michigan commuters a question: do you drive to work alone? If so,  they want to remind you of options that could not only reduce air pollution, but lower your gas budget and benefit your health. Governor Rick Snyder has declared May Commuter Challenge Month. Part of the effort is aimed at the many drive alone commuters that you see on the state’s roads every day.

Ashley Wick

Along with the spring tulips and early morning birds, you might have also started to notice a few butterflies now that the weather has warmed up. Michigan is home to over 150 species of butterflies, from swallowtails to monarchs. And that means that  soon, volunteer monitors will be out in full force for the annual state butterfly survey.

Satellite image of Great Lakes
Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we’re focusing on agriculture and water across the country, from California to the Great Lakes.

WKAR file photo

Nitrogen plays an essential role in plant growth, but it’s a scarce resource in nature. Farmers used to have to use beans or legumes to fix the nutrient into their fields. But with the advent of artificial fertilizers, agriculture has been able to bypass that step and put the nitrogen directly into the soil. While this has allowed farmers to increase production of nutrient intensive crops like corn, it’s had some other, not so great, side effects.

In the natural world, it’s fair to say that if amphibians aren’t happy, then nobody’s happy. Frogs and toads are incredibly sensitive to water quality, and an upcoming volunteer survey in Michigan aims to check on amphibian well-being in the state.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/

Take a look in your medicine cabinet or your shower and you’re likely to find microbeads. Those are the small plastic spheres used as exfoliants in products like face wash or toothpaste. The tiny beads have been big news since scientists found them showing up in the Great Lakes several years ago. Last week, Michigan became the latest state to introduce legislation that would ban products containing microbeads.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

Developers are about to become the owners of 30 acres of city land straddling Lansing and East Lansing. Monday evening, the Lansing City Council approved the sale of the former Red Cedar Golf Course property to Ferguson/Continental Lansing LLC. Developer Joel Ferguson and his partner Frank Kass want to build a $276-million complex at the site that could include a ten-story hotel, restaurant and housing. Part of the site would remain green space.

http://www.midmeac.org/

Have you ever been strolling along the Red Cedar River and noticed a group of people in waders hunting for bugs? If you have, there’s a good chance they were volunteers with the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. The grassroots group has been around for over 20 years and focuses on environmental issues in the mid-Michigan area, including river protection, green transportation, land use and sustainability. The organization recently hired a new executive director. Jeremy Orr is a Spartan alum and is returning to Lansing to take the reins of MMEAC.

Flickr - Jeff Kubina

Barriers have developed that are standing in the way of advanced energy use in Michigan. That’s according to a report released recently by Michigan’s Institute for Energy Innovation. The institute says its report is the first serious effort to identify those barriers.

Flickr - UCL Engineering

For years, environmentalists have been calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal ash. That’s the byproduct of coal that’s produced when it’s burned for electricity. In December, the agency did just that, issuing the first ever federal guidelines about its storage and disposal.

Flickr - Seth Sawyers

Shortly before Thanksgiving, some rural businesses in Michigan’s Thumb region faced a difficult request. At the peak of the fall harvest, Consumers Energy asked several customers to voluntarily curtail their natural gas usage for 10 hours a day. The shutoff didn’t last long, but agri-business leaders say it highlighted an ongoing concern for the future of Michigan’s energy infrastructure.

Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we talk about the dramatic rise in lake levels this fall, the latest legal updates on Asian carp, and the U-N’s stance on the Detroit water shut-offs.

Flickr - Tom

Where you live in Michigan makes a big difference when it comes to the price you pay for electricity, especially if you’re living in the Upper Peninsula. Turning on a light bulb there could cost you more than double than it would in the Lower Peninsula, and energy bills in the UP are expected to grow even bigger now that the power plant supplying most of the region’s electricity could be retired.

Flickr - LouisvilleUSACE

Stopping new invasive species from taking hold in the basin has become a top priority for Michigan and other Great Lakes states. At the top of their hit list: Asian carp. The non-native fish have already infiltrated the Mississippi River system, crowding out native species and creating a nuisance for boaters.

https://glg.natsci.msu.edu/

We were first introduced to drones by the United States military, which has been using them, controversially, it must be pointed out, for years in places like Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and Yemen. But like many other technologies that have been pioneered by the military, such as computers, duct tape and GPS, drones have numerous commercial applications. And one of the biggest sectors where drones could become a game-changer is in agriculture.

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