Michigan Energy & Environment

IPR brings you the stories and sounds of nature Up North. Hear about our changing natural world, and the challenges northern Michigan faces with a growing economy and a fragile ecosystem.

Scientists pushed to share their data sooner

Nov 21, 2013

Some policymakers say scientists hold onto their data too long. They say by the time the information is released, it can miss the window for addressing pressing problems.

The federal government is urging scientists to share their data sooner, but good data is like gold to scientists.

It can solve a lingering puzzle, and lead to professional success. That's why some scientists are considered data hoarders. They protect the information they collect.

But in a recent survey of over 1,300 scientists, Carol Tenopir found more of a spirit of collaboration than competition.

Tenopir participates in a National Science Foundation project called DataOne. Her job is to figure out how to overcome barriers to data sharing and broaden access to information.

Though only a small percentage of scientists said they actually share their data, she was surprised to find many are eager to do so.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A fish that was nearly wiped out of the Great Lakes is on its way to a full recovery now in Lake Huron. Lake trout are suddenly doing what biologists have been trying to get them to do for more than 40 years: make babies. The change might mean a more stable and resilient ecosystem in the future.

Jim Johnson didn't think he'd see the day when lake trout recovered in Lake Huron. Johnson runs Michigan’s Fisheries Research Station in Alpena. He’s been working on the lake for 25 years and for most of that time it looked hopeless.

Larry McGahey / USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Michigan wildlife officials are dismissing claims that bad information led to the state’s upcoming wolf hunt.

Opponents of the hunt are asking Governor Rick Snyder to suspend it based on a recent MLive report. It raised questions about a number of alleged wolf encounters with humans, pets, and livestock in the U.P.

U.P. Senator Apologizes For Fictionalized Wolf Threat Story

Nov 8, 2013

The state senator who led the campaign for a wolf hunt has now apologized for using a fictional story to highlight the need to remove the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list.

Tom Casperson, a state senator from Escanaba, sponsored a resolution in 2011 urging the federal government to de-list the wolf. Casperson included a story about children at an Upper Peninsula day care who were threatened by three wolves.

He admitted Thursday on the Senate floor that story wasn’t exactly true.

State To Reduce Public Land Holdings

Oct 28, 2013

Natural resource officials have sent a plan for managing public lands to Governor Snyder. It proposes to sell off nearly a quarter of million acres and to shrink the boundaries of some state parks.

Land Cap
In recent years the debate over public lands has been hot. People in some rural areas have complained there’s too much public land and that local communities ought to have more say when the state buys and sells properties.

One year ago the Michigan apple harvest, hurt by a late winter warm-up and a spring freeze, was almost nonexistent at 3 million bushels. This fall, the crop is projected to yield a record-setting 30 million bushels, but now there's concern that not enough pickers will be in the orchards.

Toxic Algae Pushes North As Corn Belt Expands

Oct 7, 2013

For years Lake Erie has been the poster child in the Great Lakes for the problem of toxic algae. More recently, though, the problem has been showing up around Lake Michigan. Figuring out the causes of the algal blooms can be tough since watersheds are complex systems but some environmentalists are pointing the finger at corn. It’s a valuable cash crop today and could be a growing part of the farm landscape in the Great Lakes in the years ahead.

Kid's Creek Revived

Sep 27, 2013

In the Spring, Munson Medical Center hopes to build a new cancer center. But the spot they picked out – just north of their hospital – had a creek underneath it. So the medical center has been working to reroute the creek. And now – it’s actually closer to what it once was in the past.

Earlier today, a crowd looked on as pitchers of water were poured off a bridge near Munson Medical Center. And with that, a new section of Kid's Creek was officially born.

A new audit says the state could be doing a better job of regulating oil and gas drilling in Michigan.  The Michigan Auditor General's report says almost 70 percent of wells currently producing oil and gas are not being inspected as frequently as the state had planned. Also, it says the department needs to better document and report environmental violations.

Brine Investigation To Proceed

Sep 13, 2013

Some residents in northern Michigan are upset about the practice of spraying liquid waste from oil and gas wells on dirt roads. County Road Commissions have been doing that for decades to control road dust. But an incident this summer has critics accusing state officials of failing to protect human health.

Falls Short
In Benzie County, in June, a county official decided to test the water being sprayed on the dirt roads. It tested at levels way above limits to protect human health from cancer causing chemicals.

One Problem Farm Has Most Wolf Livestock Kills

Aug 15, 2013

One problem farm in the Upper Peninsula appears to exaggerate the problem of wolves killing livestock. A main reason state officials approved a wolf hunting season this year was to prevent such attacks.

Poor Practices

In management unit B, a single cattle ranch accounts for nearly three-fourths of incidents when wolves killed livestock. That’s according to data compiled from Department of Natural Resources reports.

Earlier this summer, a Kalkaska company spread industrial waste on roads in Benzie County. The toxic contaminants were mixed with brine from oil wells that is used to keep down dust on gravel roads.

The pollutants tested way above what’s allowed for human contact. And some residents think the DEQ is treating the oil and gas industry with kid gloves.

Set of Coincidences

If Bryan Black hadn’t been out tending his garden one morning in early June, it’s likely nobody would even know about the toxic chemicals spread on nearby roads.

DEQ Cites Company for Road Brine Violation

Jul 31, 2013

State environmental regulators sent a notice of violation to a Kalkaska company last Friday.

The DEQ says the company, Team Services, violated its permit for applying brine from oil and gas drilling to keep down road dust in Benzie County.

A sample taken by the Benzie County Road Commission exceeded state standards for toxic chemicals, such as benzene, by as much as a thousand times. The brine was applied in early June on several roads southwest of the village of Lake Ann. 

Dead Fish Good Sign For Anglers, Not Swimmers

Jul 17, 2013

Just in time for peak travel season dead fish have been washing ashore on parts of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Kevin Skerl, the chief of natural resources at the lakeshore, says it’s not a big concern.

“This is something that happens every year. It’s just a question of if the conditions are such that the dead fish are showing up on beaches where people are,” says Skerl

Oil Pipeline Spurs Rally At Straits

Jul 12, 2013

Environmental groups want an oil pipeline company to replace a sixty-year-old line that runs under the Straits of Mackinaw. They’re holding a rally at the Straits this Sunday.

Beth Wallace with the National Wildlife Federation says there have been leaks in other sections of line 5, not in the part that runs under the Straits.

“You know this pipeline is not spill proof. And an expansion of a sixty year old pipeline that runs through some of the most sensitive areas in the world is not the direction that we should be going,” Wallace says. 

New Restrictions Possible For Informal Shooting Range

Jun 10, 2013
Laura Herberg

Michigan has a handful of informal gun ranges located on state land. There’s one on the outskirts of Traverse City that’s been around since the sixties. It’s future is now uncertain as area residents are raising issues of noise and safety.

A Place To Relax
Just south of Traverse city, not too far from the Boardman River and along a dirt road there’s a field with a steep embankment perfect for catching bullets.  It’s clear why this section of state land is used as a shooting range.

A new kind of community garden officially opened with a ribbon cutting today near Traverse City. It’s a solar energy garden funded by customers who lease solar panels from Cherryland Electric Cooperative.

The SUN Alliance, is the first of its kind in Michigan. Electric customers can buy a share in a solar project that’s installed and maintained by the company.

The co-op already has installed the first array of 80 panels on its property and 80 more customers are on a list waiting for panels to arrive for a second array.

Five Michigan Indian tribes have decided to challenge the state’s decision to hold a wolf hunt in the western Upper Peninsula this coming fall.

The tribes of the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority say the state did not consult with them in a meaningful way before establishing a gray wolf season, and that’s required by a 2007 consent decree.                                                            

Aaron Payment, chair of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, says the wolf is sacred in tribal culture and the hunting season disrespects that.

A referendum on wolf hunting in Michigan will be on the November 2014 ballot, but the vote will not stop a wolf hunting season in the Upper Peninsula scheduled for this fall.

Petitions to let voters decide whether the law should remain on the books were certified Wednesday by a state elections panel. The “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” ballot campaign says allowing the gray wolf to be hunted could return it to the endangered species list.

Recently we reported how native fish are doing really well in one of the Great Lakes. The fish involved are not exactly well known species. But there is one that’s a household name in lakeshore communities and its success is sparking some scientific debate.

A fish with a cult following
Food and travel writers who visit The Cove seldom forget to mention the Chubby Mary. It’s a Bloody Mary with smoked chub in it. Mario Batali even put a photo of the cocktail on Bon Appetit’s website along with his endorsement.

U. P. Wolf Hunt Coming This November

May 10, 2013

There will be a wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula this fall. Hunting will be allowed in three separate zones beginning November 15th.

The state Natural Resources Commission approved the hunt Thursday. State officials hope 43 wolves will be killed in the hunt.

Until recently the Gray Wolf was listed as an endangered species, but state officials say numbers have grown dramatically since the year 2000. A total of 658 of the animals were counted in the U.P. this winter. Some have complained that's lead to an increase in attacks on livestock and pets.

A state House committee has approved a measure that would change how hunting is managed in Michigan, and bypass a referendum on wolf hunting if it’s on the ballot next year.

Two questions dominated the hearing on the bill: whether hunting is an appropriate part of plans to manage wolves in the Upper Peninsula, and whether the Legislature should approve a new law to allow wolf hunts before the referendum.

It might surprise you to hear that some native fish are doing really well in one of the Great Lakes. For years now, we’ve heard bad news about the lakes. Most of it has to do with invasive species getting into the lakes and wrecking the food web. One writer memorably called it a slow-moving underwater wildfire.The recent swing in the other direction is so dramatic scientists are a bit puzzled and can’t explain what’s happening.

Regime shift?

Wolf Hunt Opponents Say They Have Enough Signatures For A Statewide Vote

Mar 27, 2013

People fighting a proposed wolf hunt in Michigan 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, director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign, says she’s optimistic state officials will validate enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. If that happens, the vote would not be until November 2014, but any decision to approve a wolf hunt would be put on hold until after the vote.

Bad News for Isle Royale Wolves

Mar 26, 2013

A new report says the wolf population on Isle Royale is in dire straits. Researchers could find no evidence in their winter survey that any pups were born last year.

It’s the first time in 40 years that wolves failed to reproduce.

John Vucetich says the small population is so inbred that the remaining eight animals either won’t or can’t produce offspring.