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.

The common tern used to nest in great numbers in the lower Great Lakes region, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. But in recent decades, common tern nests and their brown speckled eggs have largely disappeared from the region. 


A new birding trail will be unveiled at Beaver Island this weekend. The trail encompasses more than 12,000 acres of public land. Lake Michigan's largest island is a critical stopover for migratory birds flying north.

Katie Keen is a wildlife technician with the Department of Natural Resources. She says it’s a driving trail with look-out stops along the way.

"It's a just great location being right out on Lake Michigan, where spring migration just brings all sorts of birds through: sparrows, vireos, warblers. It’s a great place for birding."

Michigan Sea Grant

Grand Traverse Bay has been named one of the best bass fishing spots in the U.S. by Bassmaster.

Bass are doing well in many parts of Lake Michigan with the help of an invasive species from Europe. Round goby has quickly become one of the most common feeder fish in the lake.

Dave Clapp manages the state’s research station in Charlevoix and says goby are thick in the rocky areas where small mouth bass tend to congregate.

Border Collies Enlisted To Clean Beaches

May 21, 2014

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


And now, in our continuing effort to keep you in touch with all the world, we now have an update on seagulls.


From the shoreline at North Avenue Beach in Chicago, the blue water of Lake Michigan stretches as far as the eye can see. But beneath that pristine image, there's a barely visible threat, says Jennifer Caddick of the Alliance for the Great Lakes: microbeads.

These tiny bits of plastic, small scrubbing components used in hundreds of personal care products like skin exfoliants and soap, can slip through most water treatment systems when they wash down the drain.

Piping plovers making slow, steady comeback

May 20, 2014

It’s piping plover nesting season along the dunes of the Great Lakes. The tiny birds were labeled endangered back in the mid-80s.

Since then, they’ve steadily been making a comeback. But it takes a whole lot of effort.

One of this year’s nests is in Ludington State Park. There's a female who’s chosen to rear her young in this park before.

But this time she picked an odd spot to do it. She’s right in the middle of a beach-side parking lot.

It’s hard to spot the tiny nest, which is surrounded by pavement.

Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development

Three weeks after a state panel voted on new Right to Farm rules, there’s still a lot of confusion about what’s allowed and not allowed for people raising chickens, goats, bees and other livestock in residential areas.

Jamie Clover Adams is the director of the state Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. She sat down with Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta to explain where things stand. Adams says this is not the final word on backyard livestock rules in Michigan – they will be reviewed and very likely updated again in 2015.

New legislation in Lansing would make it easier for utilities to expand access to natural gas in rural Michigan.

A state House panel will hold a hearing on the bills Tuesday.

Supporters hope it will help people keep the heat on during the cold winter months. A number of Michigan communities faced propane shortages during this past winter.

Tom Carr

If the wind is right, the Buckley area could see 60 power generating windmills rise above the fields.

That's about what it would take to crank out enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes, which is what NextEra Energy Resources hopes to produce here. Wexford County does not currently have any windmills feeding power to the utility grid.

The Juno Beach, Fla. company is asking the county's permission to first put up a tower to measure the wind, says spokesman Steve Stengel.

Drive on I-94 just outside Chicago between Gary and Michigan City, Ind., and you catch a glimpse of the massive sand dunes that make up the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Tucked between coal plants and steel mills, the dunes are as high as 200 feet, stretching along the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan.

These dunes were formed some 14,000 years ago, and most are now covered in forest, says park ranger Bruce Rowe, who has worked at the lake shore for 30 years.

An energy company has agreed to pay a $5 million dollar fine and plead no contest to a misdemeanor anti-trust charge as part of a plea deal. Under the bargain, Encana Oil & Gas USA also promised to help the state pursue legal action against another oil company.

If you've been wondering why your favorite pine tree has been turning brown as the weather warms up, you can stop wondering and start blaming winter.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor in the horticulture department at Michigan State University. He joined us to explain what the snow, cold and wind has done to our conifer trees. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

A Michigan Tech biologist says wolves should be brought to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior if officials want to save island vegetation.

John Vucetich heads a study of the predator-prey relationship in the park between wolves and moose. He says more wolves would help keep the moose population under control. He says, if left unchecked, moose will over-browse and decimate the island’s vegetation.

Vucetich says this is the point where scientists must ask themselves what the purpose of a protected area is.

File photo.

Climate change is making Michigan farmers more vulnerable to dramatic weather shifts, according to a report released this morning by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It claims climate change is no longer a future threat, but a reality now.

The 45-day wolf hunting season that began November 15 inflamed passions, both pro and con.

Now that the first-ever wolf hunt is wrapped up, what were the results?

John Barnes explored the impact of the hunt in a recent piece for MLive, which breaks down the ages of the 22 wolves killed over the course of the hunt. He joined us on Stateside today (you can listen to the audio above).

Courtney Kotewa

A snapshot of Pictured Rocks Lakeshore in northern Michigan will be featured on the 2015 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The annual passes are sold nationwide and for use at any national park. Courtney Kotewa of southern Michigan took the photo during a family outing. The image selected as the winning photo of the National Park Foundation's photo contest. 

Nearly 20,000 photos were submitted to the 2013 Share the Experience contest. Share the Experience is the official photo contest of America's national parks and federal recreation lands. 

Kotewa said the photo almost didn’t happen as she was not sure she would take her phone with her on the kayak trip for fear of dropping it in the choppy waters of Lake Superior. Although she grew up in southern Michigan, this trip was Kotewa’s first time to Pictured Rocks. The grand-prize winner said visiting was on her mom’s bucket list. 

Bob Allen

New rules proposed for oil and gas drilling in Michigan are getting a mixed response, at best, from watchdog groups. The rules would apply to a type of drilling often referred to as “fracking.” Critics say the proposed changes continue to favor the oil and gas industry over neighbors and the public.

The official line in Michigan has long been that drilling for oil and gas is well-regulated and done safely, but many people are not convinced.

Hal Fitch directs the state’s supervision of the oil and gas industry and says they are responding to those concerns.

Michigan cities graded on air pollution

May 1, 2014

The American Lung Association just released its annual report card on air quality, State of the Air.

Detroit and Grand Rapids made the list of most polluted cities for their ozone levels (Detroit ranks 34th worst out of 220 cities; Grand Rapids ranks 30th).

But others made the cleanest cities list: Kalamazoo and East Lansing scored well for particle pollution. Those are very tiny specks found in smoke and exhaust.

Michigan’s attorney general and its chief environmental regulator are teaming up to get more information about a 60-year-old pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Attorney General Bill Schuette and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant sent a letter to Enbridge Energy Tuesday.

Wyant is an appointee of Governor Rick Snyder and Schuette is an elected Republican. They joined Democrats who’ve recently demanded more information about the pipeline.

It feels like we've finally emerged from the record-setting cold winter, doesn't it? So, as we look ahead to spring and summer what's in store? Mark Torregrossa is MLive meteorologist and he joined us today.

*Listen to the full interview above.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Sara Hoover

Almost 200 people filled a room at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center Monday night to debate a new use for the Vasa Pathway.

A new type of bicycle has exploded in popularity, and for the first time cross-country skiers are sharing their trails with fat-tire bikers. 

Emotional Topic


A state agriculture commission has adopted a new rule on livestock in residential areas. It gives local governments more authority to ban or regulate raising farm animals in backyards.

Great Lakes Governors Sign Invasive Species Agreement

Apr 28, 2014

There was a meeting this past weekend of the governors of eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes. The focus of the meeting was the threat to the Great Lakes that’s posed by Asian carp and other invasive species.

The states and provinces approved a 10-page mutual aid pact. It includes agreements to alert other members when there’s an invasive species threat, how to request help, and to share research and expertise.

Sara Hoover

Near the shores of the Lake Michigan sits a grove of sequoias. They stand on the site of a former Morton Salt factory, where men once mined salt brine out of the Great Lakes. Sequoia trees are not native to Michigan, but this grove has grown in Manistee for more than 65 years, ever since Mrs. Morton brought the saplings with her from the West Coast. Since then, the giant trees have grown accustomed to tough Michigan winters.

Those trees are going to take another trip. Or their clones will.