Drilling for oil, the test of time

We hear a lot about moving away from fossil fuels, away from our dependence on oil to make so much of what we use, from gasoline to golf balls and ballpoint pens. And though we get steadily closer to that future; innovators continually move us forward, finding new methods, materials and technologies for providing the goods we want, our need for oil will continue for some time.

While cycling on a shaded route through a Grand Rapids park last summer, I noticed these old private wells and rigs. They stood hidden in the shadows of the forest like relics from another time, some abandoned, most emblazoned with graffiti. I promised myself I would come back and take a closer look. A few weeks ago I did just that.

Here’s a short but colorful winter look. Oil wells are an unusual photo/video subject for me, but the character, color and settings of these private wells caught my attention. Perhaps they will capture yours.

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I’m ready

Joshua Tree National Park, California. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Winter is in full swing here in Michigan. We got pummeled yesterday and the outcome is beautiful. We finally have good X-C skiable snow in southwest Michigan. But, as much as I enjoy traipsing around on snowy trails wearing trail crampons, or heading into the woods on skis or snowshoes, this scene from Joshua Tree National Park hit a nerve this morning. I find myself longing for warm, wide-open spaces.

I’m ready.

To all of you who inhabit cold or warm places, enjoy your weekend outdoors. –HM

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
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Southern Lake Michigan state park expanded.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR

Everyone loves beautiful sand beaches, and the mile-long stretch at Van Buren State Park, with its high dunes, trails, campground and day-use area, just got longer.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Van Buren County officials approved leasing its 17-acre Northpoint Conservation Area to the state agency for 25-years. The parcel borders the 400-acre state park on its north end adding 340 feet of beach along Lake Michigan. It will now be managed by MDNR.

The North Point Conservation Area has been a popular birdwatching spot and hiking destination. Its high, forested dune trails lead hikers to great views of the lake. The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has a conservation easement for the property to protect it from development.

Locally known as “The Old Boy Scout Camp,” it was maintained for generations by southwest Michigan Boy Scouts who planted trees and maintained the trails, among other things. New signage is planned along with revised hours for use.

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Quiet Adventure Symposium goes virtual

WCHA members collect and enjoy antique wooden canoes. Photo by Howard Meyerson

The lore and beauty of wooden canoes and the people that love them, the members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (woodencanoe.org), a national non-profit dedicated to preserving wood canoe heritage, are among the 40 or so online Zoom presentations planned for the 2021 Quiet Adventure Symposium in February.

The presentations planned cover great trips, paddle routes and hikes, personal adventures, on the water safety, programing for kids and many other outdoor adventure topics.

This year’s 26th annual event, formerly known at the Quiet Water Symposium, will be held online over five nights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each evening offers two parallel sessions with new speakers every 30-minutes. The first presentations begin at 7:00pm and the final two speakers begin at 9:00pm.

The 2021 event starts on Tuesday, February 16 and will continue on Thursday,
February 18. Presentations will come to you the following week on February 23
and 25. Saturday, February 27 at 7:00pm brings the Grand Finale, concluding
with a concert by Jerry Vandiver. The tentative agenda can be found on the symposium website: https://quietwatersociety.org/

Have a conflict one night during the virtual event or not sure which great
presentation to watch? Do not worry, registered attendees will receive links to
view the presentations once the event is over. The cost to register is $10.00. Direct any questions to Tammi Connell at EventManager@quietwatersociety.org.

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DNR pilot project clears the way for winter fishing access

Courtesy Michigan DNR

Note: It’s cold out there and northern lakes are frozen solid. Nice to see Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources taking steps to expand access to good ice fishing waters. Here is their recent announcement. Enjoy! –HM


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has organized a pilot program to keep boating access sites plowed this winter at more than two dozen popular Upper Peninsula ice-fishing locations.

Various local partners have volunteered to assist the DNR with the program to help ensure that access to ice-fishing opportunities in the U.P. are available consistently during winter.

The 26 locations – situated across 10 of the U.P.’s 15 counties – are DNR boating access sites managed for recreational boating.

“Because we have had continued requests from the public to maintain access throughout the winter, we’ve partnered with a number of entities to assist with plowing for winter access,” said Zack Bishop, a DNR Parks and Recreation Division unit supervisor. “We have entered into agreements with each partner to try this concept for one year. Depending on the success of the pilot program, we may or may not continue it into next winter.”

An evaluation to take place at the end of the winter will assess several things, including how often the plowed sites are used and whether damage occurs to the access ramps, which has been a concern.

Boating access sites to be plowed this winter include:

Baraga County: Vermilac Lake, Silver River

Chippewa County: Conley Point

Delta County: Kipling

Dickinson County: Hamilton Lake

Iron County: Indian Lake, Swan Lake, Lake Mary, East Lake Emily, Lake Ellen

Keweenaw County: Gratiot Lake, Lake Medora, Lake Bailey

Luce County: Little Lake Harbor, Kak’s Lake, Big Manistique Lake (County Line access)

Mackinac County: South Manistique Lake, North Manistique Lake, Milakokia Lake and Millecoquins Lake

Marquette County: Lake Michigamme, Greenwood Reservoir, Johnson Lake, Big Shag Lake, East Bass Lake

Schoolcraft County: Big Spring Landing

“The DNR is very pleased with our partners offering to make this program possible, including the county road commissions in Baraga, Chippewa, Dickinson, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties, Forsyth Township, Bayshore Resort Bait & Tackle, Travel Marquette, South Shore Fishing Association and Gwinn Bait & Tackle,” said Doug Rich, DNR Parks and Recreation Division western U.P. district supervisor.

This pilot project is something the DNR has been trying to implement for several years but doing so is not as simple as it might seem.

“The DNR has more than 85 restricted funds. By law, the adopted budget allocations involving the state and federal restricted funds must be used properly,” said Stacy Welling Haughey, DNR U.P. field deputy. “We cannot use funds from one source to pay for another. As an example, we cannot utilize funding that comes from boater registration fees for non-boating uses.”

Specifically, money used to build and maintain DNR boating access sites comes from the state’s Waterways Fund, which is derived from a portion of gasoline taxes and proceeds from the sale of watercraft registrations. This funding is restricted to be used only to support recreational boating.

DNR boating access sites are designed and built for boating, not winter use.

Haughey said DNR staffers consulted their counterparts in Wisconsin and Minnesota to learn how those departments address this same situation.

“It is often handled on a site-by-site basis. Wisconsin indicated they work with several local units of government and Minnesota mentioned that resort owners often keep the sites open to bring in tourists,” Haughey said. “In the U.P., we have worked with local units of government, tourism groups, county road commissions, bait shop owners, fishing groups and individuals in creating this opportunity for this winter, and we hope folks will get outside and enjoy the additional access.”

Organizations or individuals interested in partnering to keep additional sites open if this pilot project continues next winter, please contact Stacy Haughey at WellingS1@michigan.gov or 906-226-1331.

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All Along the Watchtower

A Tuesday fave. This modern rendition of Bob Dylan’s song, which was elevated by the late Jimi Hendrix, remains as important today. A global video by Playing for Change that reminds us we need to come together. Enjoy. –HM

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Trump moves to weaken Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Dark-eyed Juncos are among the common bird species that are disappearing.
Photo by Bill Thompson, USFWS.

Many North American bird populations are declining at an alarming rate. The findings of an international team of researchers, written by lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy, showed that 29%, about 3 billion birds, have vanished from North America and Canada during the last 50 years. Those findings were released in a report last year and published in the journal Science in September 2019. To learn about the findings, visit bit.ly/CornellLoO.

Currently, the Trump administration is attempting to relax provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect industries that unintentionally kill birds. The following story by Kurt Repanshek, with National Parks Traveler, presents updates on that issue. –HM


By Kurt Repanshek

Despite the loss of billions of birds over the past five decades, and the economic benefits of sustained migratory species, the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by allowing unintentional killings of birds.

The posting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final environmental impact statement on the changes to the act come, ironically, despite a federal judge ruling this past summer that the revisions produced by the Interior Department are “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA and therefore must be vacated.”

While public comment on the EIS runs through December 28, the changes are opposed by a bipartisan collection of politicians in Congress, 25 states, and various conservation groups.

“President Trump may have pardoned a turkey this week, but he’s in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy before the end of the year,” David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, said Friday. “The administration lost in court and is sidestepping that ruling with a rushed, corrupt process designed to keep the next administration from saving the lives of millions of birds. Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress.”

To read the entire story see: https://bit.ly/3qhUtGg

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Bear Trouble?

NOTE: It’s that time of year again and black bears are on the move in Michigan. Here are tips from Michigan DNR about preventing nuisance bear encounters in the fall. HM

Black Bear raiding a bird feeder. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Even though the weather has gotten cooler, black bears are still active throughout the fall as they prepare for hibernation and search for foods rich in calories to build up their fat reserves.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises northern Michigan residents to be aware of this autumn bear activity and take steps to avoid conflicts with bears.

In Michigan, bears typically enter their dens for hibernation by December, but timing can vary depending on food availability.

“When food sources are plentiful, bears can double their body weight in the fall to prepare for the time they will spend in the den,” said Rachel Leightner, DNR wildlife outreach coordinator. “Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will follow their nose in search of food. This may cause bears to move into new areas or return to areas where they have successfully gotten a meal in the past.”

Natural foods such as nuts and acorns from oak, hickory, and hazelnut trees are rich in calories and help to build fat reserves. Bird feeders also make an especially appealing and accessible food source as bird feed is high in calories. Bears also may be attracted to grills with food debris or unsecured trash. 

Tips to help keeps bears at a distance:

Remove bird feeders until the winter months when bears are in their dens.

Make sure to clean grills after use or store them in a secure building.

Store trash cans in a secure building and put them out the morning of trash collection service.

Check out this video with more tips on avoiding conflicts with bears.

Other information about preventing conflicts with bears at Michigan.gov/Wildlife.

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Hoping for the best

Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

It has now been two years since the National Park Service (NPS) began restoring the wolf population at Isle Royale National Park, with four arriving from Minnesota in the fall of 2018, followed by 15 more from Canada and the Michigan mainland in 2019. The wolves have since made themselves at home on the remote and rugged island park in Lake Superior and are preparing for the upcoming winter.

“What we have seen is wolves trying to pair up and establish territories, and those are the types of things we expected and hoped to happen,” said Mark C. Romanski, project coordinator for the wolf-reintroduction project at Isle Royale National Park and also the park’s natural resources program manager. Speaking in June, he said, “What we’re hoping now is that we’ll have reproduction and have wolf pups this summer, (but due to the coronavirus pandemic) we haven’t even been to the island yet.”

This story was published in the fall issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine. To read the entire story see https://bit.ly/35X4Nub

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Fishing for Trouble

Photography by Istock/Doug4537

By Howard Meyerson

It was one of those hot and muggy summer days on the Kalamazoo River and I had just finished securing my canoe on top of the car after a paddle, when I noticed the three young anglers parked next to me. All had come in the same truck and none were wearing masks. They were rigging their fishing rods, getting ready to walk down to the river.

I watched with mild consternation as two of them crossed the parking lot headed for the riverbank. Somewhat conflicted, I decided to say something and turned to the third, a nice 20-something area resident and said: “Do you know you can’t eat the fish in these waters? The sign down there by the boat ramp says they are contaminated.”

He looked up at me with surprise in his eyes and calmly said, “No. This is our first time here.”

“Check it out for yourself,” I responded pointing to the sign I had noticed earlier when three of us (all over 60) had launched solo canoes, each having driven our own cars to try to maintain social distance, masks in our pockets should we need them.

I was reminded of the ways of my youth — impulsive, spontaneous and sometimes unaware. Today, I don’t think of eating fresh-caught fish without knowing whether they are safe, meaning uncontaminated. When in doubt I check the online advice and warnings that are provided by Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Service’s fish consumption advisory program.

We don’t hear much about the fish consumption advisory program these days, but there is a wealth of information there about safe fish to eat, what lakes or rivers are contaminated, how many portions are safe to consume of various species and which not to eat at all, particularly if you are pregnant or young and plan to have kids soon, or have diabetes or cancer. It also describes how to prepare and cook fish to reduce contamination levels if those levels are low enough to allow limited consumption.

The information is found at Michigan.gov/eatsafefish where you can find answers to questions about what is safe, or not. Click “Find your Area” for specifics about various waters and the fish that are caught in them. There are also general statewide guidelines for waters that do not appear on the list organized by county, and what to consider with regard to mercury and other chemicals.

Many have heard about the contamination problems on the Kalamazoo River after
the Enbridge oil spill, but the problems there predate that incident. PCBs or Dioxin are the concern and most of the river has Do Not Eat warnings for popular species. Many other popular waters around the state have their problems, too. There are good health reasons to add fresh fish to your diet, and fishing is fun, but choosing wisely which fish you eat means fewer toxic chemicals get consumed and accumulate to cause later health problems.

I don’t know what the three young anglers decided to do, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I did notice them all standing around the sign reading it. That, I figured, was a pretty good start.

This column was published in the fall 2020 issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine. See: https://www.mibluemag.com/undercurrents/fishing-for-trouble/

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