National Forest proposes temporarily closing some roads for non-motorized winter trails

Mushers like this one at the starting line of the Sweetwater Challenge dogsled event, would be able to train and run their dogs without concern about motorized vehicles on their trails in winter. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Mushers like this one at the starting line of the Sweetwater Challenge dogsled event, would be able to train and run their dogs without concern about motorized vehicles on their trails in winter. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan mushers eventually might get a long and safe trail system for running their dogs and for training in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. A Forest Service proposal to close about 3.5 miles of National Forest roads in winter to create a non-motorized winter recreation area for mushers, skiers and snowshoers is moving forward.

National Forest officials with the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District said a decision about the project is expected this winter. The public comment period closed Oct. 24, and a draft environmental assessment now is in circulation. It has a 30-day comment period, which is followed by a 45-day objection period. A link to the project can be found at

The road closures would occur in Sweetwater and Webber townships, where the popular 25-mile Sweetwater Challenge sled dog race has been run since 2006 under a special permit each time the race has been held. Mushers contend that a non-motorized winter recreation area there would allow them to run their dogs without worry during the winter.

The area has a mix of forest roads, county roads and trails that cross National Forest and private lands. It is a snowy region popular with mushers. Nearly 350 showed up in 2013 for one scheduled event. They arrived in the Manistee forest from as far away as Oregon, Vermont, Georgia and Minnesota, according to National Forest officials.

“(If approved), we expect it to go into effect this winter,” said Kathy Bietau, the National Forest District’s recreation planner. We’re looking to provide a safe environment for permitted sled dog events and for skiers and snowshoers. We’re proposing to close the roads to motor vehicles (every winter) from Dec. 1 through March 31.” Continue reading

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Higher brookie limit on three new waters

Wild brook trout (above) populations can be identified in rivers along with other wild trout species. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Three new Upper Peninsula brook trout streams will have a 10-inch minimum size in 2015. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — Anglers will be able to keep 10 brook trout per day on eight Upper Peninsula streams when the 2015 fishing season opens. DNR Director Keith Creagh earlier this month approved experimental regulations for three new U.P. streams where the usual five-brook-trout daily limit will be doubled.

The new additions come two years after similar regulations were approved for five other U.P. streams. The experimental 10-fish bag limit will stay in place until 2017 while state fisheries managers study the impact on native brook trout populations, and angling activity across the U.P.

“This was part of the original agreement (in 2012) with the Natural Resources Commission when the first five were designated,” said Phil Schneeberger, Michigan DNR’s Lake Superior Basin Coordinator.

The newly minted experimental brook trout streams are Bryan Creek in Marquette and Dickinson counties, Lower Rock River in Alger County, and Presque Isle River in Gogebic County. The other five include portions of the Dead River in Marquette County, Driggs River in Schoolcraft County, East Branch Ontonagon River in Houghton and Iron counties, East Branch Tahquamenon River in Chippewa County, and East Branch Huron River in Baraga and Marquette counties. Continue reading

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Graymont submits new mine proposal for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

An aerial shot of Graymont's Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

An aerial shot of Graymont’s Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A Canadian mining company, Graymont Inc., has submitted a revised proposal to mine limestone on state land in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say the request is now under review and the public is encouraged to submit their comments and concerns.

“We are getting a lot of conversation from the public. The reactions are all over the board,” said Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester and chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “We don’t know the exact date, but we plan to hold a public meeting, probably in the first half of December. It will be up in that neighborhood. (Meanwhile) the public can tell us what they think by letter and email.”
Graymont is proposing to:

  • Buy 1,005 acres of state land for a surface mine;
  • Exchange 1,630 acres of other, yet unspecified land for an equal amount of state land where a second surface mine will be developed;
  • Buy 7,250 acres of subsurface mineral rights under state forests for an underground mine;
  • Pay the state 18.75 cents per ton of extracted limestone, money that would go to Michigan’s State Park Endowment Fund.

The surface lands over the underground mine would continue to be owned and managed by the DNR. Public access would continue to be allowed.  The public would also be allowed to access areas around the surface mine that are not actively being mined. And the DNR would reserve a permanent easement for any existing trails on those lands.

Local residents in the proposed mining area in Mackinac County have expressed mixed opinions, according to O’Neill. Some think it will be good for the economy and bring jobs. Others are concerned about the disturbances that would likely follow.

O’Neill called it a “100-year proposal” that deserves a thorough review and added it is worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the state.

“Many local townships and county people think we should do it,” O’Neill said. “Other residents, who retired and moved there for quiet and solitude, don’t want the change.” Continue reading

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Great Hunt, Great Venison: Don’t let it go to waste

Grilled venison is a tasty way to handle backstrap. Photo: Holly Heyeser.

Grilled venison is a tasty way to handle backstrap. Photo: Holly Heyeser.

By Howard Meyerson

Hank Shaw may, or may not, age his venison after he shoots a deer. The California author, forager and food blogger hunts black-tails in an area where temperatures can reach 105 degrees. Properly aging venison requires having access to cold-storage, and aging results in a loss of meat volume.

“It isn’t worth it for other than the biggest buck,” explains Shaw, who’s “Hunter Angler Gardner Cook” blog won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Food Blog in 2013. Shaw has a developed a nation-wide following of wild-game enthusiasts and foodies.

He is unequivocal about other slices of venison cookery. Too many hunters waste good parts, he says, and far, far too many overcook the meat.

“It may or may not be the most popular game meat, but it (venison) is definitely the most abused,” Shaw writes on his blog. “…if you overcook it and handle the meat poorly when you kill the animal it will be poor fare at the table.”

Shaw, now 44, is an admitted late-comer to hunting. He shot his first deer in 2002, a mule

Hank Shaw scans for diving ducks while hunting. Photo: Holly Heyser.

Hank Shaw scans for diving ducks while hunting. Photo: Holly Heyser.

deer in Montana. He was 32-years old, but the idea of eating natural foods, those he hunted and butchered, fished or foraged, inspired him to make lifestyle changes. He hasn’t purchased fish or meat, other than a few times, since 2005.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Shaw about his growing success, during a phone interview from his Sacramento-area home. A former line cook and 15 year veteran political reporter, Shaw began foraging in an effort to find what he calls “honest foods,” those that grow naturally and don’t come pre-packaged in plastic. Continue reading

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Firearm Deer Season: Get out and scout if you want to find deer

Pictured are 13-year-old Henry Lerrett and Zach Parrett, 16, standing proudly with nice healthy racked bucks at their camp in Menominee County last deer season. (Courtesy | David Kenyon, Michigan DNR)

Pictured are 13-year-old Henry Lerrett and Zach Parrett, 16, standing proudly with nice healthy racked bucks at their camp in Menominee County last deer season. (Courtesy | David Kenyon, Michigan DNR)

By Howard Meyerson

Get out and scout. It’s common advice — so common, I’m afraid, that some hunters ignore those words of wisdom.

However, state officials are saying this season might present hunters with challenges, and scouting could make a difference. Deer numbers are down across the state, and acorns are highly abundant in the Lower Peninsula.

That could result in a one-two punch for hunters who haven’t done their homework once the firearm deer season opens November 15.

“I am telling people to hunt smart and be ready to move,” said Brian Mastenbrook, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife field operations manager in Gaylord. “People are always comfortable hunting their traditional spots, but they may not see as many deer this year. They have to be adaptable.

“I was just at a butcher shop, and the owner said, ‘A lot of deer are coming through,’ but the hunters are saying that the acorns are really concentrating deer in certain areas.” Continue reading

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Salmon Fishing Dismal

A chinook salmon leaps from one raceway to another at the Little Manistee River wier where eggs are collected. Photo: Howard Meyerson

A chinook salmon leaps out of a raceway at the DNR’s Little Manistee River egg take facility. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich. — Fall salmon egg-take efforts have drawn to a close in Michigan, and state officials are reporting another successful year. But coho and chinook salmon runs were far smaller than average on two key waters, the Platte and Little Manistee rivers, where most of the eggs are sought.

“We got the egg-take done without a hitch, but saw just under 3,000 chinooks, our lowest number of chinooks ever,” said Scott Heintzelman, the fisheries technician supervisor who oversees the Michigan DNR chinook salmon egg-take on the Little Manistee River. “Our 40-year average (for the run) is almost 12,000 fish.

“Our quota was 4.3 million eggs. We can do with about 1,500 males and 1,500 females,” Heintzelman said.  “Michigan needs 3.1 million to 3.2 million eggs, and Illinois gets about 800,000, while Indiana gets about 400,000.”

Salmon eggs are the foundation for Michigan’s salmon-stocking program. Collected each fall when the fish run upstream to spawn and die, they are fertilized and moved to hatcheries. The young fish that hatch are reared and released at various ports and along Lake Michigan tributaries.

Aaron Switzer, who oversees the state’s coho egg-take at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery, said 10,000 cohos were passed and collected this fall. That’s more than enough to reach the 5-million-egg quota (about 5,000 fish), but far fewer than the 30,000-fish runs that were seen in 2012 and 2013, or the 8,000- to 12,000-fish runs from 2008 to 2011. Continue reading

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Grand Rapids couple completes 70 day kayaking journey down the Mississippi River

Day 36: Gary and Linda De Kock. passing through Hannibal, MO continue paddling down the Mississippi River. Photo:  Mark Geerlings

Day 36: Passing through Hannibal, MO. continue paddling down the Mississippi River. Photo: Mark Geerlings.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — It was late September when Gary and Linda De Kock arrived by kayak at Mile Zero on the Mississippi River. The couple gazed at the signpost with relish and dismay. Seventy days had passed — 2,291 river miles — since they launched on The Big Muddy’s Minnesota headwaters.

The De Kocks had reached the end of their Mississippi River voyage, a journey to raise money for a good cause. It was the conclusion of grand adventure for the Grand Rapids couple, who previously backpacked in Greenland, kayaked off Baffin Island and now had celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary, camping on the Mississippi’s banks.

“I wanted time to slow down. When I saw the marker ahead, I stopped paddling,” said 63-year-old Linda De Kock, a self-employed vocational rehabilitation consultant. “It didn’t seem real; I wanted to enjoy the moment we had talked about for so many months.”

TheMississippi River passes through 10 states and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi River passes through 10 states and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Gary De Kock, a retired Grand Rapids wastewater treatment plant supervisor, was contemplating something else.

“I was thinking about 2 million paddle strokes. That’s what it took, 1,000 strokes per mile,” he said. “I had envisioned stopping to celebrate, but like time, the river doesn’t stop. The current was carrying us downstream — and we were already moving on.” Continue reading

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Mixing it up at Short’s Brewing

The craft-beer world is alive well and full of quirky, fun brews.  Joe Short,  the founder of Joe-short-390x245Shorts Brewing Company in Bellaire , epitomizes the playful spirit behind some of those tasty beverages. His brewing company produces 200 different beers. All are distributed exclusively in Michigan.

Why? Because Short, who grew up in northern Michigan, prefers to pour his creativity, and that of his staff, into developing the popular beer recipes that have made Shorts one of the leading craft-breweries in Michigan.

Here’s a recent piece I wrote about him for  Michigan Country Lines Magazine  If you get a chance to visit Bellaire, check it out.

Read more: Mixing it up at Short’s Brewing.

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Microbe to control invasive mussels in open water approved by U.S. EPA


Federal agencies are exploring how a new product might be used to control mussels in open water. Photo: GLERL.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS MI, –  Federal scientists working to protect Great Lakes waters and fisheries are enthused about a new commercial product called Zequanox, which kills zebra mussels and quagga mussels without harming other species. But additional research is needed before it is used widely, they say. It could have a big impact on Great Lakes ecosystems.

“Zequanox does show great promise, but our level of understanding about its use in the Great Lakes is pretty low,” said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, one of four federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that recently formed a collaborative to study the issues involved with broad-scale use of the molluscicide.

“We are looking to see if a comprehensive program is desirable,” Gaden said. ”It’s important to consider the impact. What would happen if you suddenly had billions of dead (decaying) zebra mussels out there. Would you end up with even more algae in the water? We have enough trouble now with anoxic (depleted oxygen) zones.

“The Great Lakes system changed pretty dramatically with zebra mussels, and we all agree that the lakes would be better off if they and quagga mussels never came. But they are well established and are now part of the food chain.” Continue reading

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Study finds black bears are not establishing themselves in southern Michigan

 and later returned north.  Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Most southern Michigan sightings were young bears pushed out of their territory. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

Maybe you remember the news reports: “Michigan black bears are moving south.” A spate of sightings just a few years ago confirmed that bears were showing up in unusual locales, such as Flint, Battle Creek, St. Charles and Lansing.

State biologists thought a population might have established itself just north of Grand Rapids.

And, if it was true that black bears were moving south, state wildlife managers wanted to educate southern Michigan citizens about living peacefully with bears in the neighborhood.

Well, that was then. Dwayne Etter now believes bears are not moving south to establish self-sustaining breeding populations in southern Michigan. He is the Michigan DNR wildlife researcher who collared and tracked 18 of the more southerly bears, beginning in 2010.

Each bear was found in a winter den and fitted with a GPS collar that transmitted its location every half-hour. The data points, when plotted on a map, showed Etter where each bear traveled — which river corridors they navigated; what routes they took through a forest; whether they crossed farmers’ fields or went the long way around them.

“I don’t think we will see bears expanding into southern Michigan and becoming residents,” said Etter, who plans to terminate the study this winter and pull the collars off the last four bears. “They are not establishing themselves down here.” Continue reading

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