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.

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.

Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste.

Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011.

“I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says.

Scientists study chemicals for their potential to cause cancer, but usually they examine them one at a time.

And yet, we’re exposed to mixtures of different chemicals every day.

If you ever get a chance to meet a sea lamprey, you won’t forget it.

They look like an eel but they’re actually a fish. They have a suction cup for a face, with hundreds of razor sharp teeth.

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.”

A pot of money used to clean up abandoned pollution sites in Michigan is just about gone. So in Antrim County, where a plume of contamination threatens drinking water, commissioners recently decided to spend $250,000 on the problem to partially match $750,000 the state offered in return.

It's a deal that could signal a new approach to environmental clean up for the state.

When you think about rattlesnakes, you might picture Arizona. Or Texas. Somewhere out in the desert. But one snake’s rattle doesn’t come from the deserts of the Southwest. It’s from the pine forests of Michigan.

In fact, Michigan is a stronghold for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

The decision on a nuclear waste storage site near Lake Huron has been kicked down the road a bit.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 25,000-30,000 new oil and gas wells were drilled and hydraulically fractured annually in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

A feature article in the journal Health Affairs says the body of research on the potential health effects of all this fracking is "slim and inconclusive."

Peter Payette

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s ban on Russian boar and other breeds of exotic swine.

Michigan banned several strains of boar as invasive species because they breed prolifically, endanger other wildlife, and ruin woods and farmland.

An Upper Peninsula hunting ranch sued, saying the state got it wrong – that the law is impossible to enforce because there’s little to no difference between strains of swine, especially when they escape into the wild.

Honey bees are under attack from a lot of threats.

Researchers say varroa mites are the biggest threat. They suck blood from bees, and can kill entire colonies.

Zachary Huang is an associate professor at Michigan State University. He says these mites use a special skill to attack bee hives. They can change how they smell, so the bees don’t know they’re there. They can actually mimic the smell of a honey bee.

Michigan Radio

Fisheries managers in Michigan are enlisting fishermen in the fight against Asian carp infestation. The state Department of Natural Resources is asking anglers to inspect their live bait for juvenile Asian carp.

The small fish look very similar to minnows and other common types of bait but their eyes are set lower on their bodies. DNR Resources Manager Nick Popoff says their eyes are “sub-terminal.”

Peter Payette

The State of Michigan is weighing whether to open the door to commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

Millions of rainbow trout are raised for food by Canadians every year in Lake Huron and promoters of the business say Michigan should follow suit and could even become a world leader in aquaculture.

State officials are trying to figure out what the risks are and the idea is likely to face opposition from sport fishing groups and other conservationists.

A serious health threat to state’s wild deer population has been detected in mid-Michigan. 

A six-year-old doe found in Haslett last month has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. 

The neurological disease is always fatal.  The disease is transmitted through saliva and other bodily fluids.   The disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose. 

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey want to find out where Asian carp eggs will have the most success.

They’re using a model nicknamed FluEgg to predict which rivers in the Great Lakes region are the most suitable for Asian carp to reproduce. The fish are not established here yet, but scientists want to be ready in case they do get in and get comfortable.

Tom Carr

The largest coal-fired passenger ship still operating in the United States is the S.S. Badger in Lake Michigan. It’s a beloved 1950s car ferry that sails between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

For years it was the subject of an environmental controversy because it was polluting the lake.

This year, that’s changed.


Time to break out the long pants: tick season is back!

The past couple of years we've had a tick boom along the west side of the state and it's happening again this year.

Rich Keith spends a lot of time with ticks. He’s the director of the Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory. He and his wife Brenda have been doing tick surveys every year since 1997 for university researchers in Michigan and elsewhere.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, but some plants you buy for your garden could be toxic to them.

There’s been a big drop in the monarch butterfly population. By some estimates, they’ve declined by more than 90 percent over the past 20 years.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

Aaron Selbig

The Grand Traverse Butterfly House opened last weekend – a couple of weeks later than planned. When the first group of butterflies was introduced to the garden, they were killed by plants that contained a deadly chemical.

Now the owner of the butterfly house is concerned that local home gardeners may be unknowingly killing butterflies with the same chemical.

Cyndie Bobier says it was a chemical in the flowers she had planted that caused the first group of butterflies to die.

S.S. Badger sets sail to a greener future

May 15, 2015
S.S. Badger

A Lake Michigan icon sets sail today with a new lease on life.

The Ludington-based car-ferry S.S. Badger will still give passengers the experience of riding a historic, coal-fired vessel. But the largest coal-fired passenger ship operating in the U.S. will no longer dump its coal ash into the lake.

The wolf population on Isle Royale has been dropping for some time.

There were nine animals last year, and in their latest winter study report, researchers on Isle Royale only spotted these three wolves on the entire island:

Isle Royale has been home to the longest running predator-prey study in the world -- researchers have been studying how wolves prey on moose here since 1958.

Today, the state of Michigan announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy over the largest inland oil spill in American history.

The state’s $75 million consent judgment with Enbridge won’t be coming as a huge cash payment. Most of the money has already gone to, or will be going to river restoration or recreation projects along the Kalamazoo River.

If you're worried about the oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, you may have a tough time finding detailed information about it. Much of the oversight is handled by the federal government, and the records are often kept secret.

A bill that's in the state house right now would go even further to exempt oil and gas pipelines from Freedom of Information Act requests.

 

Our climate is changing and people are working out ways to adapt.

A new report takes a look at how climate change is affecting weather in the U.S. and what people are doing to try to get ready for more changes in the future.

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