Upper Peninsula

Peter Payette

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge last year was down more than 20 percent compared to the late 1990s, and there is no single explanation for the trend. But there is one region where residents say they know what happened to their tourists and have a plan to rebuild.

Susie Keirns has been coming to the Les Cheneaux Islands area her whole life. She’s sitting next to a cabin on the beach in Hessel that her mom stayed in 70 years ago when she was expecting Susie’s sister.

“My sister’s 70 now,” she says. “So that tells you how many years we’ve been coming up.”

Peter Payette

For many families in Michigan, high summer means a trip to the Upper Peninsula. But the number of people who cross the Mackinac Bridge has been declining steadily for almost twenty years.

It looks like that trend could turn around this year. But it also appears that many longstanding ties between visitors and the U.P. have been lost along the way.

Taleen and Marshall Jackson live in Mt. Pleasant but their hearts are in the U.P.

“We try to get up here as much as we possibly can,” says Taleen at the end of a June weekend in St. Ignace.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A tiny worm is causing big problems for spruce trees in northern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources says an infestation of spruce budworms is attacking balsam fir trees, as well as white and black spruce. The inch-long worms consume the trees’ needles from the top down.

DNR forester Ron Murray says it’s been decades since Michigan has seen such a large outbreak.

“The spruce budworm is a cyclical pest that comes around about every 30 to 50 years," says Murray. "We’re looking at this as potentially being the beginning of the next one.”

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put the northern long-eared bat on the “threatened” species list. The agency stopped short of saying the species is in danger of being wiped out by white-nose bat syndrome. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the country.

Dan Kennedy is an endangered species expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says the decision gives state wildlife officials more time to plan while the bats hibernate.

Next month, a decision could be made on whether to sell thousands of acres in the Upper Peninsula to a Canadian mining company, Graymont Inc.

It would be the largest sale of public land in Michigan’s history.

Deal would lower electricity rates in the Upper Peninsula

Jan 14, 2015
user: adamshoop / Flicker

Governor Rick Snyder has announced a preliminary agreement that would lower electricity rates in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Rates have jumped in the Upper Peninsula to subsidize an aging coal-fired power plant in Presque Isle, which lost its largest paying customer – a mining company.

Larry McGahey / USFWS Headquarters

State wildlife officials say they’re disappointed in a court decision that restores federal endangered species protections to the gray wolf in Michigan and other Great Lakes states.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the wolf was improperly removed from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. State wildlife officials say the decision not only blocks future wolf hunt seasons in Michigan, it denies farmers and dog owners the ability to kill wolves that threaten pets and livestock.

A plan to increase the cost of electricity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been delayed. The rate increase would have taken effect today, but federal regulators have raised questions about its fairness.

The plan would raise rates 20% to 30% for residents and businesses across the UP. In total, the region of about 310,000 people would have to come up with more than $100 million over the next year.

The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

There are plenty of questions about how we’ll generate electricity in the U.S. in the next century. But the problem is particularly pressing in the Upper Peninsula. The owners of the Presque Isle power plant in Marquette are ready to close it. The agency that regulates the energy grid won’t allow that, and residents of the UP are paying millions of dollars to keep it running.

 


Writer Beverly McBride tells a story about cultural identity among the Native American population. 


The story is from the first chapter in her latest book in the series "One Foot in Two Canoes." In the book description, McBride explained what that saying means:


There is a saying that it is possible for a Native American to travel down the smooth river of life with one foot in each of two canoes, one canoe representing tribal heritage and way of life, and the other "western" thinking and living, committing fully to neither, as long as the river is smooth without rocks, challenges or bends. But when adversity strikes or a proverbial bend in the river appears, a person must then jump into one philosophical canoe or the other, embracing their own culture or denying their heritage. The alternative to making a choice is to float, swim or sink, drowning in the river of life.

Beverly McBride lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The story is read by Jackson Knight Pierce.


* Listen to the full story above.


 

Today on Stateside, Upper Peninsula writer John Smolens tells his story "Where Art Thou, Marquette?" 


When we talk in Michigan about "food insecurity" and "food deserts", it's usually about Detroit, Flint and cities battling poverty.


But there is another region where access to healthy, fresh food is a constant challenge: the Upper Peninsula.


Take Alger County. It has been classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a "low income, low access community." That means people have to drive at least ten miles to get to a fully stocked grocery store.


Gov. Rick Snyder is staying silent on the latest scandal related to the state’s prison food service contract. That’s while the matter is under investigation.

Last year, Michigan privatized its prison food services and hired Philadelphia-based Aramark to handle them.

The Detroit Free Press reports Michigan State Police suspects an Aramark food service worker of trying to conspire with an inmate to have another inmate killed.

Catholic Parish Bans Gay Man From Ministering

Jun 17, 2014
WNMU Marquette

A gay man from Marquette has been told he can no longer actively participate in mass at his local Catholic parish.

The mandate from St. Michael’s came after Bobby Glenn Brown held a commitment ceremony Saturday with his partner of 31 years.

OK, maybe you’ve seen the picture: sunny, 80-degree weather and people lying out in the sand – maybe even getting sunburned on the shores of Lake Superior. And maybe, there in the background, huge pieces of ice still floating around in the lake.

John Lenters is a climatologist at Ann Arbor-based LimnoTech, an environmental consulting firm.

Lenters says says because of the size and depth of the lakes, it will take a while for them to warm up after the extremely cold winter.

The ice is melting, but Lake Superior warms up slowly before it hits 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Listen to the interview above. 

Yoopers were excited that they made the dictionary. It's too bad people won't learn the right way to pronounce their nickname.

Picture this: You live in a corner of the Upper Peninsula that is full of natural beauty. But the population in your town is shrinking and aging, even to the point where it's hard to find police officers and firefighters because everyone's just getting older.

And there's little in the way of economic opportunity.

Now here comes a huge Canadian company that wants to buy 10,000 acres of state-managed forest land to build a massive limestone mining operation. There's the prospect of massive amounts of money and the hope of jobs.

And there's the fear of losing the natural beauty of your corner of the UP.

What to do?

That's the real-life dilemma happening in the Rexton area of the Upper Peninsula.

Keith Matheny is a writer with the Detroit Free Press and he's been following this story. Keith joined us today.

*Listen to the interview above.

Governor Declares Emergency In Marquette Over Frozen Pipes

Apr 17, 2014
Marquette Fire Department / Mining Journal

A winter of freezing pipes and broken infrastructure has hit one community in the Upper Peninsula hard enough to prompt Governor Rick Snyder to declare a state of emergency for the area Thursday morning.

The declaration paves the way for state aid in Marquette County, where water and sewer pipe damage has already cost the county $1.6 million dollars. Several local communities have run out of money to pay for repairs. Officials say they expect the situation to get worse before it gets better. 

Welcome, dear "Yooper." And we’re not talking specifically to those of you who live in the Upper Peninsula. We’re talking about the actual word "Yooper." It’s official, according to the 2014 edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

Anne Curzan is an English professor at the University of Michigan, and she joins us every Sunday on Michigan Radio for "That's What They Say."  Anne joined us today to discuss the specifics of this new official word. 

Listen to the full interview above.

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Wikimedia Commons

Several northern Michigan counties could see revenue cuts, if Congress stops funding for “Payments In Lieu of Taxes,” or PILT. The change would affect Leelanau and Lake counties, as well as Benzie, Manistee, Mason and other areas with significant national park and forestlands.

The payments have gone on for decades, offsetting losses to local governments and schools which are not able to collect property tax on government land.

Extremely cold weather may have played a part in the damper on hunters’ success in bagging a wolf in the Upper Peninsula. It’s been almost two and a half weeks since a wolf was taken by a hunter.

It was December fifth, to be exact, when the last wolf was bagged. Twenty wolves have been taken so far, and it’s not likely that number will reach the limit of 43 set by state wildlife officials. 

Group Petitions In Favor Of Wolf Hunting

Dec 3, 2013

Petitions will start circulating Wednesday that would again give state officials the legal right to hold wolf hunts in Michigan. Monday the Board of State Canvassers approved wording for the petition, which is backed by Michigan hunting groups.

Drew YoungeDyke, with Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, says they want to collect enough signatures to put proposal in the hands of state lawmakers by late Spring.

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.

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