endangered species

Cassidy Hough

Steve Smith has explored old caves ever since he was a kid — usually illegally.

 Now he just does it legally.


“Listen to the water dripping, and bats, and you can smell the timbers and almost visualize what the miners were going through. I have a passion for this.” 

Bronte Cook/Interlochen Public Radio

The Huron-Manistee national forest covers nearly one million acres of land in northern Michigan - including the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness area, one of the most popular wilderness recreation sites in the region.

Nate Peeters, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service, says trails at the Nordhouse Dunes are really busy during the summer months; and while people are encouraged to use the wilderness as a resource, this presents unique problems. 

According to Peters, littering is one of the biggest human-based problems in the area.


Today on Stateside, a public policy and economics professor at Hillsdale College weighs in on the free college tuition proposals that are bound to arise in this week's Democratic debates. Plus, some species of native freshwater mussels are under threat and we look at how their decline could change the Great Lakes.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below.  

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This week on Points North, we look at animals and the threats they face. Great Lakes piping plovers were on the verge of extinction in the 1980s, but recently they’ve been making a comeback. Still, their slow recovery is hindered by absent-minded beach walkers, high water levels and racoons.


Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

Half a century ago, hundreds of pairs of piping plovers lived in the Great Lakes. But by the 1980s, they were on the verge of extinction and only a dozen pairs remained.

Over time, wildlife biologists have helped increase the population. But it’s still well below a stable number and each year there’s a new threat.


Piping plovers are small, stout white-gray birds. In the spring, they can be found nesting on the shores of the Great Lakes. Once a fixture on the lakes, the birds are now on the federal Endangered Species List.

We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.

Biologists say the sixth mass extinction episode on Earth is already happening. But researchers say if we only look at species extinctions, we miss a big part of the story.

Paul Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of biology at Stanford University, and an author of a new study about this published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Trump administration’s detailed budget proposal leaves fewer resources for protecting endangered species. Under the proposed plan, the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be trimmed to $1.3 billion for 2018.

Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says that’s about an 8% funding cut for conservation. He says the Trump administration’s cuts to the domestic side of the budget, in favor of defense spending, aren’t a surprise.

Researchers have developed a way to track endangered species using smartphones and drones, and you can help them with that work.

Bumble bee added to the endangered species list

Jan 12, 2017

For the first time in the U.S., a bumble bee has been listed as an endangered species. 

It’s called the rusty patched bumble bee. The species is no longer found in Michigan, but small populations still exist elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

You might’ve heard about cougars being spotted in Michigan. There are also cougars out west and there’s the Florida panther. But what we’re talking about here is something called the eastern cougar.


A recent report from the National Audubon Society points to troubling times ahead for our bird population.

Climate change could make some huge changes for birds in North America: About half of our 650 species would be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find totally new places to live or become extinct – all of this in just the next 65 years.

Jonathan Lutz is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. He says in Michigan, about 50 species are vulnerable to the changing climate.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Starting today, gray wolves are no longer under federal protection in the Upper Great Lakes region. That means states have a free hand to go after wolves that cause problems for people.

Wildlife officials say delisting is long overdue, but court battles had blocked their efforts.

Wolf numbers in the Upper Great Lakes have rebounded dramatically over the last decade. It's a success story of recovery under the Endangered Species Act.

Great Lakes Wolves Not Endangered

Dec 21, 2011

Gray wolves will no longer be protected as an endangered species in the upper Great Lakes. The federal government announced today wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will be removed from the list in January. That means state agencies will be allowed to kill wolves that are causing problems and could also establish a hunting season for the animals. State wildlife officials say there is growing pressure to establish a hunt for wolves.

Officials Take Comment On Wolf Delisting In The U.P.

Jun 17, 2011

Residents from across the Upper Peninsula gathered in Marquette last night to learn more about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list.  The agency says the animal has not only recovered, it is thriving in the Western Great Lakes Region.  Officials say it's time to let states determine how they'll manage the wolf themselves.

Delisting opponents say recovery efforts are not complete.  They say wolves keep the whitetail population healthy, as they go after the weakest and sickest deer. 

Federal wild life officials announced today the gray wolf is fully recovered in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing again to take the animal off the endangered species list in the Western Great Lakes Region.

Two previous court battles resulted in keeping gray wolves under federal protection.

Wolf Shot In Eastern U.P.

Feb 22, 2011

State officials are offering an award for information about an illegal wolf kill in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The wolf was found February 11th, with an apparent gunshot wound, south of Newberry.

Wolves are still considered an endangered species in Michigan. They can't be killed unless in defense of human life.

Just last month, state officials reported that a wolf pup was likely poached in the northern Lower Peninsula as well.

Wolf  poaching has been on the rise in recent years, even as the state is trying to get Michigan wolves off the endangered list.

A federal wildlife agency will consider taking wolves off the endangered species list for the fourth time in Great Lakes states. Minnesota and Wisconsin and various sportsman groups asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the animal from the list. Michigan also supports the change.

Wildlife biologists have evidence that wolves are breeding in the Northern Lower Peninsula. They trapped a wolf pup last week in Cheboygan County. They were trying to capture an adult to put a radio collar on it.

Biologists put an ear tag on the pup and released it.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment confirmed two small packs in the Lower Peninsula. This is the first evidence of wolf breeding south of the Bridge since their population was wiped out in the early 1900's.

State wildlife officials say there's a lot of public anger about the high number of wolves in the Upper Peninsula, and people are taking matters into their own hands.

In the most recent case, a court in St. Ignace convicted a man for illegally shooting a wolf last December and fined him two thousand dollars. But, state officials also are frustrated because wolves are still given the highest protection under federal law. 

The state of Michigan is asking federal officials for the authority to kill wolves that prey on livestock or attack pets. Right now, only wolves that threaten people can be killed, because wolves are still protected under the endangered species act.

But most problems are from wolves that attack livestock or pets, state wildlife officials say. And the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment no longer captures and moves problem animals.

Wolves Below The Bridge

Mar 23, 2010

For the first time, state wildlife officials say there's a wolf pack in northern Lower Michigan. A pack is defined as two or more animals travelling together, but it doesn't necessarily mean there's a breeding pair.

"The pack designation has more to do with the fact that they hunt together," says Tim Reis, wildlife supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

He says officials found two separate sets of tracks at the same time on private land in northern Cheboygan County.