Citizen Foresters Green Grand Rapids By Planting Trees


Citizen foresters learn to care for and properly plant trees in parks and neighborhoods. Photo by Stacey Miller.

By Howard Meyerson

People often think forests grow somewhere other than in cities, but licensed forester Margaret Studer says it’s not so. Urban forests are found all around Grand Rapids – in parks, residential neighborhoods and even cemeteries. That’s why Studer works with area volunteers who want to green the community by planting trees and becoming a Citizen Forester.

“Our work is broader than city parks,” notes Studer, director of the Urban Forest Project, a program of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the non-profit that works closely with the city to maintain and promote its parks. “Urban forests aren’t just on public lands. We work with residents on their own bits of forest and public spaces.”

If you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer for something good and enjoy being outdoors, consider reading on and learning more about the program and joining the others who are working to green the city. You can find out more in my latest piece for Experience GR Blog.

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Oil and Birds Don’t Mix: Potential Risks at the Straits of Mackinac


Line 5 runs under the Mackinac Straits. Photo by Michael Barera.

By Howard Meyerson

Darrell Lawson loves birding at the Straits of Mackinac. There are miles of open water and the Michigan lakeshore is gorgeous. Thousands of birds fly along Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula shorelines and funnel through the Straits during annual spring and fall migrations.

There are waterbirds, waterfowl, raptors and warblers, woodpeckers and plovers, to name just a few. More than 200 bird species have been observed at Pointe La Barbe, just west of St. Ignace. Those listings appear on eBird, the Internet site by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

“I lead all kinds of trips for Audubon and spend quite a bit of time up there,” notes Lawson, a software engineer and president of Petoskey Regional Audubon Society. “I go there 25 to 30 times in the spring and the fall. On one of my best days we saw 40-some Great Egrets. We might normally see a couple in a year. To see that many is incredible.”

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Enbridge Line 5. Map by NOAA.

Given the abundant and diverse bird life found at the Straits, Lawson and other Petoskey Audubon members have grown increasingly concerned about the 63-year-old Enbridge Inc. oil pipeline, known as Line 5. It runs along the lake bottom between the peninsulas.

Thousands of birds

Should either of the two 20-inch-wide, five-mile-long pipes rupture, the impact on birds could be devastating. Endangered Piping Plovers are known to nest in the area, to say nothing of the thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, and turkey vultures that migrate across the Straits annually and the untold damage that could occur to fisheries, recreation, boating, and tourism.

Petoskey Audubon sent Governor Rick Snyder a letter in December 2015 requesting that the line be shut down until its safety and integrity can be verified, Lawson said.

“If we have an oil spill there, that oil could end up in a lot of places like Waugoshance Point (at Wilderness State Park), which is a huge birding area,” Lawson elaborated. “There is a nesting tern colony on the Coast Guard pier that is worrisome…. A huge raft of redheads also hangs out in the Straits area every fall.” Continue reading

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Federal funds slated for Negwegon State Park to protect its wetlands


The new acquisition will protect wetlands and fill a gap creating eight miles of beach. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich. – A $900,000 federal grant to acquire private property within Negwegon State Park on Lake Huron is going to help protect coastal wetlands and endangered species, according to federal officials. The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant was approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and announced early in February.

“The main reason (Negwegon) was selected is the size of the habitat, and being able to connect two pieces (of the park) to make one large tract of land,” said Mara Koenig, public affairs specialist for the U.S. FWS Midwest office in Bloomington Minnesota. “The other is that it contains the endangered Hines emerald dragonfly. Pitcher’s thistle also grows there, and it has the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, which is proposed for federal listing as threatened.”

Negwegon officials say they have long hoped to acquire the 390.8 acre, known as the Dault property. It abuts state park property but sits between the park’s north and south units on Thunder Bay. The private inholding has been a priority acquisition that consolidates state land within the dedicated park boundaries. Continue reading

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Fly Fishing Film Tour Comes to Michigan, Bigger than Ever


Fishing for fabled milkfish in Seychelles, shown in “Chanos Chanos”. Photo: Jako Lucas.

By Howard Meyerson

Mid-winter is a slack time for many Michigan fly anglers. The rivers are frigid, and coveted fly hatches, like Hexes and Hendricksons, are months away. But the joy of fly fishing knows no bounds. It glows like a hot ember, even in winter. And that smoldering excitement becomes boisterously evident in the darkened theaters and bars where fly anglers gather, often by the hundreds, for the annual Costa Fly Fishing Film Tour.

Now in its 10th year and screening in nine or more Michigan cities this winter, the once fledgling event has become a nationwide phenomenon.

“When we started, we didn’t realize what it would become,” said Doug Powell in a phone interview from his Boulder Colorado office. “I knew it would be fun and a good time, but I had no idea that it would grow as it has, and branch out from hard-core fly anglers to kids, husbands and wives and lawyers. I just didn’t see that coming.”

Powell is the co-founder and managing director for the tour which held its 2016 Michigan debut in Marquette on February 2. The two-hour film festival annually presents the newest works by the nation’s top fly fishing film makers.

Different each year, the tour provides a look at the heart of fly fishing, showcasing stories that range from poignant and humorous, of Midwest anglers and their obsession for trout or muskellunge, to down-home, steamy explorations of fly fishing for redfish on southern bayous, and meaty conservation issues like saving Atlantic salmon. Each tour also highlights the unusual, extreme and fascinating possibilities for fly fishing around the globe. Continue reading

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Pheasant Restoration Initiative Gains Ground

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Pheasant numbers are expected to improve in area were habitat is being restored. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR. 

By Howard Meyerson

Lansing. — Now five years into a 10-year plan to restore pheasant habitat in portions of Michigan, state and other wildlife biologists are crowing a bit. Grasslands are being restored and progress is being made. The challenge, they say, is getting more people involved.

“I think we are doing really great,” said Al Stewart, the Michigan DNR’s upland game bird specialist. “I would like to see more progress, but we are still on schedule.”

The 10-year goal for Michigan’s Pheasant Restoration Initiative is to impact or restore 200,000 acres of pheasant habitat, according to Stewart, along with providing hunters 25,000 acres they can hunt. The work is progressing in three priority areas where pheasant populations currently are strongest. Those include the “Thumb Area” (Huron, Tuscola, and Sanilac counties), central Michigan (Gratiot, Saginaw, and Clinton counties), and southeastern Michigan (Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe counties).

Stewart’s agency is working with Pheasants Forever, regional conservation districts, and private land owners to develop 10 pheasant cooperatives in those areas – agreements where groups of landowners manage their lands to benefit pheasants.

“We’ve gone from nothing and one or two farm bureau biologists – our boots on the ground – to having eight on the ground, which is really helpful,” Stewart said. “We also have gone from no co-op coordinators, people who work with private-land folks and offer technical assistance, to hiring a couple to rally the troops and move things forward.” Continue reading

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Signs of trouble at MDEQ, years before Flint lead crisis


The Flint River. Photo: Bridge Michigan.

I am old enough to remember when Michigan had an Attorney General who was aggressive about bringing polluters to justice – and who won big cases. It was an era when DNR budgets for environmental enforcement were flush, a period when EE staff were eager to do the right thing to protect Michigan residents and natural resources.

Unfortunately, that began to change when Gov. John Engler took the reins of state and began dismantling environmental and natural resource protection programs and encouraging permit expediency over enforcement. Some, perhaps, for good reason, but with far too much emphasis on mollifying business.

The Michigan legislature also bears responsibility. It’s not enough to just point fingers at Gov. Rick Snyder. It’s no secret that the political climate for the last decade, or more, has been one hostile to government regulation and environmental enforcement, a period characterized by shrinking agency budgets and making them less effective by spreading staff resources far too thin.

When you read the piece below, and you should, consider who you voted for and whether their rhetoric, and subsequent actions, really are good for the state. I think not.

Have a great day.


Analyisis: A 2010 federal audit expressed concern about shortcuts Michigan’s drinking water safety program was taking to save money. An expert testifying before Congress today concludes from the audit that water safety regulation in Michigan is “more broken than we think.”

Source: Bridge • The Center for MichiganSigns of trouble at MDEQ, years before Flint lead crisis

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Bird Town: Detroit Bird Conservation Efforts on the Rise

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Nature and industry meet on the Detroit River. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Call Detroit Michigan what you will: Motor City, Hockey Town, Tiger Town or Motown. Increasingly, it is becoming a Bird Town. Greening efforts all across its urban landscape, from tree plantings in parks and overgrown lots to urban gardens and wetland restorations—all are improving living conditions for birds.

“Detroit is a hotbed for birding,” notes Greg Norwood, biologist for the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) which encompasses 10,577 acres of quality habitat along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Those include coastal marshes, islands, wetlands and shoreline parks. “This is an internationally recognized good birding area because of its geography. We have a world renowned hawk migration and a really significant waterfowl migration here.”

Established in 2001 and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, DRIWR it is the only international wildlife refuge in North America. Its purpose is preserving habitat that otherwise would be lost, including stopover habitat for migrating birds and waterfowl.  Several hundred thousand Broad-winged Hawks and Turkey Vultures come through each fall headed south. Giant flocks of Tundra Swans, Redhead Ducks, Scaup and Canvasbacks also move through during their west-to-east migration between nesting areas on the North American prairies and wintering grounds on the Atlantic seaboard. Continue reading

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Grand Rapids-Area’s Winter Adventure Race is the largest in the U.S.

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Racers run, snowshoe, bike and use a map and compass to find checkpoints. Photo:  Jamie Gaysbeek Photography.

By Howard Meyerson

More than 400 hearty winter adventurers will test their mettle and wits this weekend when they gather in the woods outside of Grand Rapids to compete in the 5th annual Michigan Adventure Race Winter Edition – the largest winter adventure race in the U.S.

“It’s us against the elements; we don’t race against the clock,” declares 44-year-old, Kent Snoeyink, a retired Standale school teacher who will team up with his 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, and compete for a third time. “It’s fun thing to check off on my bucket list – and it’s a thrill to compete with Hannah. I’ve run marathons and mud runs. Marathons are boring. This has a lot of variety.”

That variety – running, snowshoeing, fat-tire cycling and navigating the 6-mile route by map and compass – is drawing the race’s largest crowd yet, according to organizer, Mark VanTongeren.

To find out more about the race and the fun and challenges the competitors face, take a look at my latest piece on the Experience GR Blog, published by the city of Grand Rapids. Read more: Largest winter adventure race in the U.S.

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Predator-Prey study: Wolves not threat to deer you may think


Researchers are learning that predators, winter weather and habitat influence deer populations and survival. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

By Howard Meyerson

In the snowy woods of the western Upper Peninsula, wildlife researchers are learning a thing or two about deer survival: what preys on adult whitetails and fawns — and what else contributes to their deaths.

Some in the hunting community presume the answer is wolves. Many know harsh winters take a toll. Both are true, according to recent research, but a lot depends on other factors, such as the availability of young forests and food, predator density, and what other prey are available.The study, started in 2009 by Mississippi State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has turned up some surprises.

“We’ve been surprised by a few things in Phase I (low‑snow study),” notes Dean Beyer, a researcher with the DNR. “We learned that adult does were avoiding core wolf areas and that coyotes were avoiding them, too. That put coyotes and does in the same area, which probably resulted in a greater mortality by coyotes. And we were all surprised by the rate at which bobcats killed fawns. The rate is much higher than other species.” Continue reading

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Use of mating pheromone approved in lamprey fight

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Mating pheromones will be used to manipulate lamprey behavior. Photo: C. Krueger, GLFC.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich – A sea lamprey mating pheromone used experimentally to manipulate lamprey behavior got a green light last month from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It can now be used as a wide-spread management tool in Great Lakes and other waters.

“Until now it has been experimental,” said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which funded development of the male sex pheromone known as 3kPZS. “Its use has been in the lab or on a stretch of river like the Ocqueoc where there has been very limited use. We now have approval to use it on a management scale. This brings us one step closer to using it as management technique.”

The EPA approved registration of 3kPZS as a bio-pesticide in December, 2015. Researchers note that it is the first-ever vertebrate pheromone bio-pesticide.  It is not a compound that kills lamprey in the manner of FM or Bayluscide, which are regularly used on Michigan waters.  The pheromone has been tested as an attractant odor to draw sea lampreys into traps so they can be removed from river systems. Its use improved trapping efficiency by 53 percent, according to Dr. Weiming Li, the Michigan State University professor who discovered the pheromone.

“I started to work on this in 1998,” said Li, E.J. Fry Chair of Environmental Physiology at the university. “Previous work (research) showed it’s often the male that gets to the spawning ground before the female. It was speculated that males were releasing pheromones (to attract the females). Many knew that males got to spawning grounds and started to build nests. The females joined them later. (Another researcher) showed on a small scale that females are attracted to males when they are sexually mature.” Continue reading

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