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.

Susan Bence

A Wisconsin town is getting a lot of attention these days, on the issue of drinking water. Waukesha lies outside the Great Lakes basin, but it has received permission to take water from Lake Michigan. Officials are still debating the political and financial impact, and a group of mayors is challenging the town’s action.

Adam Bechle

Tsunamis can devastate communities along the oceans. The giant waves are often triggered by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But scientists say tsunamis are also a common occurrence on the Great Lakes. 

Last month, we heard how an abundance of deer is reshaping the forests in northern Michigan. Deer are eliminating trees like maple, oak and cedar in many places.

The trees can’t reproduce because any seedling that sprouts up is eaten.

Today, we visit a forest in Leelanau County where a conservation group has taken an unusual step to address the problem.

DTE Energy

The future of energy regulation in Michigan is uncertain.

For months, state lawmakers have debated the state’s energy rules, but for months they’ve failed to pass legislation. Republican leaders want to do the first major overhaul to energy law since 2008. 

Kathy Partin

Four hundred acres just north of Traverse City will be protected for recreational use, with new trails to hike and bike, with the help of a grant issued by the state.

Each year, the Natural Resources Trust Fund gives out millions of dollars to selected local governments to fund some of the largest conservation projects in the state.

The 400-acre parcel will be purchased by Milton Township, with the help of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. It was formerly the site of Camp Maplehurst, with views of Torch Lake, Elk Lake, and Grand Traverse Bay.

NASA

Environmental leaders are asking for federal help to fight pollution in Lake Erie. 

The National Wildlife Federation, along with U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Marcy Kaptur, wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list the western part of the lake as ‘impaired.’ Officials in Michigan already consider that section of the lake to be impaired.

The problem is algal blooms.

Sam Corden

Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they’re harvesting them. They say these plants are a threat to biodiversity, but they can benefit farmers and even power homes.

Should a judge force the government to deliver bottled water, door to door, to everybody in Flint?

The Flint water crisis has gone to federal court: a group of activists say the state’s efforts really aren’t reaching a lot of people – especially older, sick, or low-income people.

There’s several plaintiffs here:  a group called the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Flint resident/activist named Melissa Mays.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Off roaders have used state forest roads in the Upper Peninsula as trails for years. Now they might have the same opportunity to use those types of roads below the Mackinac Bridge.

House Bill 5275 would permit Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) to use any state forest road across the state, unless it has been closed. Most of these roads are already open to motorized traffic from vehicles with license plates, but not to machines like all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or side-by-side vehicles. The legislation, which was introduced by state Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona), is currently sitting in the state Senate.

“Right now we have limited use and sporadic accessibility for our ORVs and side-by-side machines,” Triston Cole says. “And this is the next step in increasing tourism and improving our economy here in northern Lower Michigan.”

Cole says many off roaders in the Lower Peninsula are heading north to the Upper Peninsula to use its more numerous ORV trails. He wants to keep them below the Mackinac Bridge.
 

But some are concerned about potential environmental impacts if the roads are opened up to ORVs with aggressive tire treads. 

Arborist Bo Burke takes reporter Taylor Wizner on a climb.
Bo Burke

To get to his workplace, Bo Burke of Cedar, Michigan has to do some climbing. He’s a certified arborist – “an individual trained in the science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees,” according to the International Society of Arboriculture. 

He also teaches people to climb trees for fun.

 


Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Heidi Grether as the new head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, his office announced today.

Grether is the current deputy director for the Michigan Agency for Energy and is a former executive at BP America, where she helped manage Gulf Coast restoration efforts after the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.

Snyder said in the press release:

A proposal to reduce salmon stocking in Lake Michigan has upset some sport fishermen. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is polling members of an advisory committee to see how strong opposition is to the plan.


Michael Poole doesn’t buy the line that filtered tap water is safe for him and his neighbors to drink.

“There may be a day when I might be able to trust” the water, he says. “But until then, I’m getting this right here.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state legislature is on summer break for the next couple months but expect lawmakers to take on significant legislative questions when they return in September, says Rick Pluta.

Pluta is Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

One of the those questions is energy reform — a topic that legislators have been debating for months in Lansing.

“There are a lot of disparate entities who have different ideas about how [energy reform] ought to look,” Pluta says in an interview with IPR News Radio.
 


Eleanor Bennett

Mara Fae Penfil is fascinated with fungi. Last month, she quit her job in Traverse City and is traveling the country teaching people about mushrooms—but not just any mushrooms. Penfil is intrigued by the obscure, medicinal varieties. She’s been selling medicinal mushrooms through her website, Female and Fungi. She says many people pass them off as bark or dirt, but they're everywhere—and not by accident. 

 

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