Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indiana Bats Dying from Mysterious Mold

Indiana Bat
Indiana Bat
photo by Dr. J. Scott Altenbach
from the MD DNR
In response to information about a mysterious illness that has been associated with the deaths of more than 8,000 bats, conservation groups today asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close all bat hibernation sites and withdraw all federal permits to "take" — that is, harm or kill — imperiled bats until the cause of the deaths is understood. One species of bat that is at risk is the endangered Indiana bat.

While details are limited, scientists have given the name "white-nose syndrome" to describe a Fusarium mold that is exhibited around the dead bats’ noses. The syndrome is associated with the discovery of thousands of dead bats in at least two Albany, New York-area caves last winter. The two caves apparently lost over half their populations. This winter the "white-nose syndrome" has been found on a bat in a Vermont cave.

"Throughout the years, we have warned that the Indiana bat was one catastrophe from extinction. The public needs to know what the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing to meet this immediate threat, " said Mark Donham, program director for Heartwood.

The Indiana bat is one of the most endangered terrestrial mammals in the world. It was first listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. At least 700 individuals of this endangered and legally protected species have died in New York in the past 18 months. It is unknown if white-nose syndrome is the cause of the death or a symptom of what causes the death.

"Regardless of why these bats are dying, we must prepare for the worst," said Leigh Haynie, staff attorney for Center for Biological Diversity. "The Missouri and Kentucky populations of Indiana bats have been decimated; if the Vermont and New York populations of this endangered species are also dying, the Fish and Wildlife Service must take immediate emergency action to ensure this species does not go extinct. These are dire circumstances. The agency must act with all due haste."

The Manistee National Forest is considered to be the northernmost edge of its range.     - editor

a press release of the Center for Biological Diversity, "Mysterious Disease Threatens Survival of North American Bats; Conservation Groups Ask for Immediate Protections", Jan 29, 2008
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2007 Equine Survey - Horse Population Surges

Results from the 2007 Michigan Equine Survey have been compiled. The survey was conducted last summer by the USDA, NASS, Michigan Field Office.

The estimate of equine in Michigan on June 1, 2007, was 155,000. That compared with 130,000 on June 1, 1996, the last time an inventory of equine was done in Michigan. The four most numerous breeds, in order, were American Quarter Horse, American Paint, Arabian, and Standardbred. They accounted for over half the total inventory.

Locally, Mason County has a listed horse count of 750. Manistee shows 600, Lake 550 and Oceana County with 1500 horses.

There were 35,000 equine operations in 2007, up from 28,700 in 1991. Almost two-thirds of the inventory was located on places with fewer than 10 equine. About 63 percent of the equine operations were on land zoned agricultural; the remainder was in areas zoned residential or other. Equine were more geographically dispersed than other livestock breeds; they were located in significant numbers in virtually every county.

Since most equine were on small or medium-sized operations, most equine-related labor was performed on an unpaid basis by 79,000 operators, partners, and family members. Nevertheless, equine operators spent $25 million on 4,300 hired workers in 2006. That was a fraction of the large number of workers who were supported by the equine industry but were not employed directly by equine operations: veterinarians, farriers, tack store operators, trainers, jockeys, etc.

Excluding wages and salaries to hired workers, operators and owners incurred $805 million of equine-related expenditures in 2006. These included costs for feed, fuel, health care, transportation, equipment, tack, boarding, bedding, breeding, show and race entry fees, and taxes. This amounted to a substantial contribution to the economy of the State.

from the USDA, "2007 Equine Survey Summary," Jan 15, 2008
also see an article in the Romeo Observer, "2007 Equine Survey Shows Biggest Use is Recreation", Jan 30, 2008
also see an article from the Lansing State Journal, "Equine aficionados enjoy surge in horse population", Jan 10, 2008
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Renewed Hopes for Skiing at Sugar Loaf

Sugar Loaf Resort has had no skiing since March 2000. And now the facility is closed because of a loss of sewer services to the building.

Now there are hopes for a new owner, and plans for a re-opening. Brad Lutz of Omena has signed an option to purchase Sugar Loaf Resort from Kate Wickstrom.

In recent years the property has changed hands several times, and been owned by some potentially shady customers. One past owner ended up in prison for tax evasion. Wickstrom, the most recent owner, was not able to overcome all the obstacles to bring the facility into compliance with health codes.

Lutz admits that it will be quite a challenge to reopen the resort. He has said, however, that bringing skiing back will be one of his primary goals. But don't expect to see anything open for this ski season.

Lutz says that he's local with lots of enthusiasm to make the whole project work. But he's also realistic about the obstacles that must be faced.

Sugar Loaf Resort is located in Cleveland Township’s "recreation district." Last year, the Township Planning Commission worked on a zoning ordinance amendment, at Wickstrom's request, that was to make it easier to bring the facility back on line. Lutz may now be able to benefit from that bit of advance work.

The county has felt the impact of Sugar Loaf being closed. It's ski runs have been considered some of the best in the state, and the economic impact of their inactivity was described by a Commissioner as "crushing."

Everyone wishes the best for Lutz and his Sugar Loaf dreams.

read the full article at Leelanau Enterprise, "Sugar Loaf Deal Reached", Jan 30, 2008
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Hartwick Pines to Host Snowshoe Hikes

snowshoers at Hartwick Pines
Snowshoers pause in the forest
to listen to their guides,
historian Rob Burg and
park interpreter Craig Kasme
Snowshoeing is a growing popular winter activity. Whether you are a novice or an experienced shoer, join us for a hike through the Lower Peninsula's largest stand of old-growth white pines. Saturday, February 2, 2008 and February 16, 2008, 1 to 3 p.m. Please call ahead for snow conditions.

Don't own a pair of snowshoes? Some snowshoes are available to use for free - check for availability when you register.

Your afternoon begins at the Michigan Forest Visitor Center with:
     -an orientation and introduction to Hartwick Pines and
     -a short talk on winter survival and equipment.

Then, you will head into the woods, guided by either a park interpreter or a historian. Each one-mile hike, limited to 20 participants, features:
     -a discussion of the forest in winter and how winter was important to Michigan's 19th-century logging industry.
     -stops at deer beds and
     -looking for signs of porcupines and other animals that use the forest in the winter.

The hikes end at the logging museum, where participants can:
     -warm up around the "camboose," the museum's elevated fire pit
     -enjoy a cup of hot cider and
     -hear stories about "shantyboys" enduring a winter in the woods.

Participants may return to the visitor center on their own or explore other trails in the park.

This event is free of charge; however, registration is required. Please telephone the Hartwick Pines visitor center at (989) 348-2537, or TDD (517) 373-1592.

Guided snowshoe hikes also are offered on January 19 and on March 1, 2008. Cross-country ski by lantern light at Hartwick Pines on January 12 and 26, and on February 9 and 23, 2008.

Hartwick Pines Logging Museum-part of the Michigan Historical Museum System-is located eight miles northeast of Grayling, in Hartwick Pines State Park; a Michigan State Parks motor-vehicle permit is required for park entry. Here's more information about how to find Hartwick Pines.

a news release of the Michigan DNR, Jan 29, 2008
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Cub Scouts Slide in Traverse City

Hundreds of Cub Scouts, with brightly painted cardboard sleds swooped down the hills at East Silver Lake Park last weekend for an event known as Winter Wonderland. Snow sculpting, sled racing, snowmobile rides, and dog sled rides kept the kids busy. Hot dogs, chili and hot drinks fueled the fun.

Rockets and outhouses, fire engines, canoes, and even Sponge Bob carreened down the slopes, often ending in great pileups which the boys seemed to enjoy as much as the sledding.

Most of the cardboard sleds were built by teams of boys. One parent pointed out what a great life skill this was for them to learn- to have to work together.

The event is the largest all-volunteer event that the Cub Scouts have in northern Michigan. It takes fifty voluteers, and over a thousand man-hours to make the event happen. This is always a challenge for groups whose constituency grows through the program in just a few years.

Winter Wonderland was launched by one scout dad, Lee Cobb, three years ago. Cobb has three boys, so he expects to be around, volunteering, for a while yet.

"There's not a lot of stuff for Cub Scouts to do in the winter and this kind of fills in," Cobb noted.

from Grand Traverse Herald, "Scouts pack Winter Wonderland", Jan 30, 2008
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Winter Outdoor Programs Planned for Women

The Department of Natural Resources Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program has the cure for any woman who has a case of "cabin fever" and is longing to get outdoors -- two weekend BOW programs planned for February. The first is Feb. 22-24 at Bay Cliff Health Center at Big Bay in the Upper Peninsula, and the second is Feb. 29-March 2 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Center at Higgins Lake.

"Both programs are offering traditional winter outdoor skills for women 18 years and older," said Lynn Marla, BOW program coordinator. "Classes are offered in more than a dozen activities, including snowshoeing, river rafting, cast iron cooking, ice fishing and a full range of firearms and archery classes."

Complete details and registration forms for each three-day program are available on the DNR Web site at Click on Education and Outreach to locate the BOW page.

"Registrations are filling quickly, but we still have room for a few more adventurous women who are looking to learn new outdoor activities and enjoy the company of the other women who would rather be outdoors having fun than sitting inside and waiting for spring," Marla said.

Enrollment for both programs is limited, so register as soon as possible. For more information, visit the DNR Web site or contact Lynn Marla at or (517) 241-2225.

a news release of the Michigan DNR, Jan 29, 2008-
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wexford County to Receive 23% of Michigan "Safe Routes to School Funds"

Lincoln Elementary School, one of Michigan's pilot schools, is collaborating with the Cadillac Area Public School District and the city of Cadillac, Michigan. It will make sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, add bike lane signage, pavement markings and connector path construction on Ayer and Baker streets and the school property, and provide education and encouragement items such as pamphlets, brochures, maps and coordinate Safe Routes events with law enforcement officers. The project budget is $384,332.

Although this project is the only one of seven around the state located in west Michigan, it is receiving a hefty 23% of this cycle's funds.

The Safe Routes to Schools program was established with passage of the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in August of 2005. Michigan is receiving about $3 million a year for five years. The program is administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of Economic Development.

The programs purposes are to enable and encourage all children to walk and bike to school, to make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing alternative modes of transportation, and to develop projects and encourage activities that will improve student health and safety while reducing traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

Schools K-8 may be eligible. Visit the web site for more information.

from a news release of the State of Michigan, "Michigan announces "Safe Routes to School" recipients", Jan 28, 2008
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My Mother's Footsteps

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its charm if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Adam McCulloch

"BEFORE my mother died of a long illness, she scheduled her funeral so it wouldn't clash with either of her walking groups' weekly hikes. The Goannas hiked on Wednesdays and the Skyline Walkers on Saturdays. My mum, Patricia McCulloch, died on September 6, 2007. The day after her funeral, my father, two brothers, oldest nephew and I joined the Skyline Walkers for their Saturday sojourn.

"It's just a hike," my father said, but with the entire family following in mum's footsteps, the symbolism was obvious.

"This was one of your mother's favourite walks," dad explained as we drove through the Adelaide Hills towards Warren Conservation Park, the designated meeting place. It was just what I wanted to hear... "

finish the story at The Australian - see FAIR USE notice.
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Where Trails Lead: Our Heritage

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its value if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Stewart Udall (former Secretary of the Interior)

"Eighty years ago, when I was a boy growing up on a ranch near St. Johns, Ariz., trails formed the contours of my world. I'd take a trail to get to a neighbor's house or follow one along the river if I were looking for stray cattle. Trails were the most practical way of getting around in those days. But they were also irresistible to me. I'd walk a trail just to see where it led.

As we near the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, I look out on a footpath that leads past my house into the mountains and think about the age-old pull of America's trails— the ones that led through the Cumberland Gap and over the Continental Divide, across the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.

One of the greatest overland migrations in history followed a trail.... "

finish the story at the ABQ Journal - see FAIR USE notice.
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Coast to Coast Bike Trek to Stop in Grand Haven

The "Sea to Sea" fundraising bike riders will spend one night in Grand Haven this August. The 100-plus cyclists have been given permission to camp on the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds on Lakeshore Drive in Grand Haven, Michigan. The riders will spend the night in tents on the conference's athletic field and use facilities in three buildings.

The cross-country bicyling tour begins in Seattle, WA on June 28 with riders reaching the Atlantic at Jersey City, NJ on August 30. The Christian Reformed Church has organized the event to raise money for poverty programs. They expect to bring in about $1.5 million.

Some local residents are pleased at the decision of the Township Board to allow this special use for the extra one-time traffic at the site. Peter Weirsma of Zeeland plans to participate in the ride, and requested that the township approve the use. Other people are concerned about the reactions of the nearby residents.

Despite concerns that the conference grounds will be well over its capacity for that one night, the permit was approved. One board member acknowledged that they would probably have complaints from neighbors, but since the use was for only one night they approved the request.

Chairwoman of "Sea to Sea," Claire Elgersma expressed her enthusiasm, "This is an answer to our prayers, [Grand Haven} is a great place to be."

from the Grand Haven Tribune, "Church-organized bike tour to make stop in GHT this summer", by Kyle Moroney, Jan 29, 2008
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Sturgis has New Parks and Rec Director

Sturgis has a new parks and recreation director and it didn't take a nationwide search to find him.

Mike Liston is the new director of Parks and Recration in Sturgis, Michigan. Although he was one of the original 54 applicants for the job, the was the third person to be offered the position. The first choice candidate withdrew his name, and the second person called did not pass background checks.

Liston was already a Sturgis city employee as a Parks Department crew leader. He is a Central Michigan University graduate, and has a wife and two children. He began his new job Tuesday.

"It certainly has been an up and down process with its share of surprises," Hughes said in the city's weekly eWire newsletter. "We are ready to move forward and obviously with Mike's knowledge of the Doyle, ready to bring it to that next level."

from the Sturgis Journal, "Former crew leader fills parks & rec slot", by Terry Katz, Jan 29, 2008
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Afternoon as an Iditarod Trainer

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its charm if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Kim Schneider
dog sled
by Kim Schneider
"It's the perfect athletic training event for me: you help the "runners" train by riding along, cozy, in a sled. Your job's simply be dead weight, and to enjoy the scenery along the way.

For the past three years, Nature's Kennel from the Newberry area of the UP has brought its top 24 dogs to Boyne Highlands every weekend. They offer guests (and visitors) the dog sled ride...

"It's a lot of mental work, starting, stopping, and doing a lot shorter runs than they're used to, packing on some muscle... "

finish the story at the Jan 25, 2008
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The Sad Farewell for Loon C-3

loon C-3 found dead
Biologist Joe Kaplan examines the body of "C-3" male loon while surveying bird carnage on the north shore of Lake Michigan.
One of the most studied loons in Michigan, "C-3" carried four colored tags. He had been tracked since 1993 according to Damon McCormick, a wildlife biologist.

But C-3 and thousands of other birds succombed to a the deadly Type E botulism on Lake Michigan last autumn. Gulls, mergansers, and loons were among the casualties whose bodies washed up on the shore near Cross Village.

Such massive bird die-offs are not as rare as you might think, but they are never very positive events to witness. Some ecologists believe that the blame lies with invasive species such as zebra mussels and round gobies.

One theory is that mussels, including zebra mussels, filter the botulism toxin from the water in a natural process. But gobies eat the mussels, and birds eat the gobies. Thus the botulism is concentrated and being passed up the food chain.

In 1999, 311 birds in Lake Erie died from the botulism. The next year it was 8,000, and it has remained in the thousands in the Great Lakes every year since. And the problem has spread through the lakes. Lake Michigan was particularly hard hit last year.

Over 50 species of birds are involved, from cormorants who may not be so welcome, to the endangered piping plover. Toxins are not selective killers.

But the loons got the attention of those who see it as a symbol of northern wilderness.

"The die-off also sparked preparations for a sprawling and macabre bird count in 2008 that will involve volunteers combing hundreds of miles of Lake Michigan beaches over the summer and fall — to add up, bury and haul off what are expected to be thousands more poisoned birds and fish."

"We wish we weren’t dealing with this," said Mark Breederland of Michigan Sea Grant.

read the full story at the Buffalo News, "Why Great Lakes birds are dying", by James Janega, Jan 27, 2008
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Sit Around and You May Age Faster Than You Thought

Individuals who are physically active during their leisure time appear to be biologically younger than those with sedentary lifestyles, according to a report in the January 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Regular exercisers have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis, according to background information in the article. "A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related disease and premature death," the authors write. "Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself."

Lynn F. Cherkas, Ph.D., of King’s College London, and colleagues studied 2,401 white twins, administering questionnaires on physical activity level, smoking habits and socioeconomic status. The participants also provided a blood sample from which DNA was extracted. The researchers examined the length of telomeres—repeated sequences at the end of chromosomes—in the twins’ white blood cells (leukocytes). Leukocyte telomeres progressively shorten over time and may serve as a marker of biological age.

Telomere length decreased with age, with an average loss of 21 nucleotides (structural units) per year. Men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres than those who were more active. "Such a relationship between leukocyte telomere length and physical activity level remained significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work," the authors write. "The mean difference in leukocyte telomere length between the most active [who performed an average of 199 minutes of physical activity per week] and least active [16 minutes of physical activity per week] subjects was 200 nucleotides, which means that the most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger, on average." A sub-analysis comparing pairs in which twins had different levels of physical activity showed similar results.

Oxidative stress—damage caused to cells by exposure to oxygen—and inflammation are likely mechanisms by which sedentary lifestyles shorten telomeres, the authors suggest. In addition, perceived stress levels have been linked to telomere length. Physical activity may reduce psychological stress, thus mitigating its effect on telomeres and the aging process.

"The U.S. guidelines recommend that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week can have significant health benefits," the authors write. "Our results underscore the vital importance of these guidelines. They show that adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals. This conclusion provides a powerful message that could be used by clinicians to promote the potential anti-aging effect of regular exercise."

from a news release of JAMA and Archives Journals, "Sedentary lifestyles associated with accelerated aging process", Jan 28, 2008
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Of Vikings, Bumble Bees, and Loafers

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its charm if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Darby Prater
cardboard sled race
Doug Keller slides down the hill
in an intricately made shoe.
by Amber Suedmeyer for the Enquirer
"Whether spinning, tumbling, sliding or flying, all the sleds and riders made it down the hill somehow at Sunday's 17th Annual Cardboard Classic Sled Race at Victory Park.

Eighty-two entrants ages 3 through 77 took to the slopes to see what their cardboard creations could do.

While everyone was in it for a good time, at least one group of sledding enthusiasts took the competition very seriously. A group from Community Inclusive Recreation (CIR) of Battle Creek entered two sleds into the contest: "Nordic Sled," complete with two Viking riders; and "Bumble Bee," designed after the yellow robot hero in the Transformers movie.

It took 40 hours for eight people to design, construct and paint the Nordic Sled. It featured colorful dragon designs on a compact white frame... "

finish the story at the Battle Creek Enquirer - see FAIR USE notice.
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Traveling Coach: Beulah Offers Scenic Skiing

view from Champion Hill
view on Champion Hill trails's Traveling Coach, Kim Schneider says that nothing motivates her to get out and go skiing like a destination, maybe a scenic view to look forward to.

She reports that Champion Hill in Beulah offers great views and services at their new Nordic Ski area. The golf course is a standard, but the resort has improved and added to their ski trail system this year.

Their web site reports: "new for winter 2007-2008 we have extended the "breakneck" trail, refined several areas on the "scenic" trail and have a new, easier "intermediate" trail that comes off the hill on the return to the nordic center."

The offer cross country skiing with over 25km of groomed trails for beginners to advanced skiers. Open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Cost: $9.

Schneider says,"the variety of terrain and rare sunny afternoon kept us out skiing for the whole afternoon."

from, by Kim Schneider, "Discovery: Nordic Skiing with a View", Jan 28, 2008
and Champion Hill
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Monday, January 28, 2008

Little Traverse Wheelway Section Drawings Complete

Danna Widmar, executive director of HARBOR, Inc. reported that the drawings for the next section of the Little Traverse Wheelway should be in the hands of MDOT soon.

HARBOR, Inc. has led the way in a renewed effort to complete the trail into Harbor Springs from the intersection of Pleasantview Road and M-119. The trail will run along the north side of the highway.

Surveys were completed last fall. MDOT says that work could begin in the fall of 2008, but Widmar believes that 2009 is more realistic.

from Harbor Light News, "Drawings for M-119 trail route expected soon", Jan 25, 2008
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Take the Poll!

Nine people responded to the first poll conducted by this site. Not such a great response! Nevertheless, surprisingly, five of those people had experienced having something stolen while on an outdoor trip of some kind. Three of the five said that something had been taken from their car at a trailhead.

Of course the sample was too small to be meaningful. And let's hope there's not that much thievery going on in the woods!

Why not participate in the poll that's running right now? Just pick your favorite way to exercise in the winter. The poll is located in the column to the right.

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California Outdoor Education Programs- Benefits All Around

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted an evaluation to measure the impacts of week-long residential outdoor education programs for at-risk sixth graders in California as called for by California Assembly Bill (AB) 1330, Chapter 663.

This study focused on 255 sixth-grade students from four elementary schools who attended three outdoor education programs (Tulare County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County) between September and November of 2004. Highlights of the findings of the study include:
  • Children who attended outdoor school significantly raised their science scores by 27 percent as measured by a pre- and post survey administered upon their return to school
  • The increase in science knowledge was maintained six to ten weeks following program participation.
  • Six to ten weeks after the experience at the outdoor school, children who attended the program showed gains in cooperation and conflict resolution that were significantly higher than the control group.
  • According to teacher ratings of each student, those children who attended outdoor science school showed statistically significantly positive gains on all eight constructs on which they were rated. In contrast, the control group showed losses on seven of the eight constructs. These gains were observed in self-esteem, conflict resolution, relationship with peers, problem solving, motivation to learn, and behavior in class.
  • According to parent reports, students who participated in the program had significantly larger gains in environmental behaviors, compared to children who did not attend the program.
  • 58 percent of the students studied were identified by teachers as English Learner (EL) students. According to teacher reports, among those students who attended the program, EL students demonstrated gains in cooperation, leadership, relationship with peers, and motivation to learn that were significantly larger than the gains shown by non-EL students for those constructs.
  • 56 percent of the treatment group reported that the outdoor school represented the first time they had spent time in a natural setting.
Complete study is available through the California Department of Education (CDE) Environmental Education Program by calling 916-322-9503.

from American Institutes for Research, "Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California", Jan 22, 2008- as reported by American Trails
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EPA Offers SunWise Curriculum

The SunWise School Program is an environmental and health education program that aims to teach children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun. Through the use of classroom-, school-, and community-based components, SunWise seeks to develop sustained sun-safe behaviors in schoolchildren.

SunWise Partner Schools receive materials that facilitate cross-curricular classroom learning. The program also encourages schools to provide a sun-safe infrastructure, including shade structures (e.g., canopies, trees) and policies (e.g., using hats, sunscreen, sunglasses) that promote sun protection in a school setting. Though based in schools, SunWise also supports community partnerships, such as inviting guest speakers to school assemblies, to enhance sun safety efforts.

Recognizing the many issues schools are asked to address daily, SunWise was developed with the needs of schools and educators in mind. The program was designed to provide maximum flexibility elements and can be used as stand-alone teaching tools or to complement existing school curricula. The time commitment necessary to implement SunWise is minimal, while the potential payoff in lower skin cancer rates - and other health benefits in the future - is high.

The SunWise School Program was pilot tested in 130 schools in 38 states during the 1999-2000 school year. National implementation began in the 2000-2001 school year. The components of the SunWise Program are available to Partner Schools free of charge.

from the Environmental Protection Agency
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Photo Feature - Robin

robin in snow
A robin who forgot to head south for the winter hunkers down in the cold and snow.

by Jason McClellan, photo taken in Mason County, Michigan
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New Hope to Beat Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium parvum is a tiny yet insidious waterborne parasite that wreaks havoc worldwide. This parasite is a major cause of diarrhea and malnutrition in small children in developing countries, and causes severe disease in AIDS and other immune compromised patients in the developed world.

Cryptosporidium is resistant to water chlorination. Hikers concerned about safe water stick with filters and boiling, since "Crypto" is unaffected by iodine tablets and other chemical treatments. The parasite has caused massive outbreaks in the U.S. There are neither vaccines nor effective drugs available to respond to these multiple threats to human health.

But this week, researchers at Brandeis University and the University of Georgia report they have identified lead compounds that inhibit Cryptosporidium's parasitic punch, paving the way for an effective antibiotic treatment. Scientists identified four new compounds which are better at fighting Cryptosporidium than the antibiotic paromomycin, the current gold standard for evaluating anticryptosporidial activity.

It has been very difficult to find drugs against pathogens like Cryptosporidium because the proteins of these parasites are actually very similar to those of their human host. Scientists have been further thwarted because little was known about Cryptosporidium metabolism. This situation recently changed dramatically when genome sequencing provided a genetic blueprint of Cryptosporidium.

The team then set out to find compounds that bind to the part of the parasite's protein that is most different from human protein. They tested 40,000 compounds and identified ten that inhibited the parasite protein. Four of these compounds are effective in stopping Cryptosporidium infection in the laboratory.

The lead researcher commented, "We are still a long way from an actual anticryptosporidial drug, but we are very encouraged by these results."

from a news release of Brandeis University, "Breakthrough research turns the tide on water-borne pathogen", Jan 25, 2008
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Quest to Find Murphy Reaches One Year

The following is an excerpt from a story which we believe is worthy of reading, but would lose too much of its charm if it were re-written for presentation on this blog. Please link through for the rest of the story, but hurry back! ... Editor

by Susan Harrison Wolffis
Murphey poster
"People with lost pets often spend days searching for their missing friend. And while they hold out hope their pet will return, most abandon the search after a few weeks.

Not Molly McMillen Miles of Grand Haven.

For a year, she's searched. She's waited. She's wept.

For 12 long months, Miles has looked for her lost dog, a magnificent 3 1/2-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Murphy, a cherished pet she unabashedly calls her "sweet boy" and even "my four-legged child."

"He's my family," she says.

Since her dog disappeared on Jan. 21, 2007, while she was cross-country skiing in Mason County, Miles has single-handedly posted hundreds of fliers on lamp posts... "

finish the story at the Muskegon Chronicle - see FAIR USE notice.
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Sturgis Plans Bike Paths, Park Upgrades

Sturgis, Michigan, city commissioners have developed a list of five-year goals which include a community park, new children's playground equipment, biking and walking trails, a disc golf course, a new softball complex, a regional rails to trails program, and even a dog park.

Although this is a long term plan the city manager says that any progress that can be made toward the goal is good.

More than $50,000 could be spent in 2008 to develop a citywide sidewalk-bikepath master plan, to develop a master plan for Oaklawn Terrace Park improvements, and for Oaklawn Terrace Park Phase 1 parking improvements and roller hockey renovation.

Grants and land will need to be sought to bring all the ideas to reality.

from the Sturgis Journal, "Plan includes bike paths, park upgrades", by Terry Katz, Jan 24, 2008
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Little Traverse Conservancy Has Record Year

Tom Bailey
Tom Bailey, Director Little Traverse Conservancy
photo Harbor Light
Little Traverse Conservancy's executive director, Tom Bailey, says he always tries to have one foot out the door. "Be it heading to a trail, taking in a Lake Michigan sunset, or simply breathing in the scent of soil mixed with pine, Bailey said the heart of his professional– and personal– life is always found outdoors."

The Conservancy protected more acres of land in 2007 than in any previous year– some 5,792 acres. In addition, 11.6 miles of water frontage were protected.

The Little Traverse Conservancy was founded in 1972, just a few years after the first Earth Day celebration. While land trust organizations are no longer a rare asset in communities around the country, the foresight and eye on the future from which the Conservancy was born is still at the center of its mission, Bailey said.

"The whole business of land conservation in northern Michigan not only appeals to private landowners and residents because of the attachment we have to the environment. It also comes because of a growing awareness of the importance of natural resources in terms of our state economy. To have a healthy tourism sector, we must preserve our scenic roadways, trail systems, and access to undeveloped lands."

Bailey points out that people are changing the way they want to experience the natural world. People want outdoor activities for young people, safe places to walk, and connections to the environment

"Land conservation has really evolved in the public consciousness from a sort of niche special interest to an issue with broad implications that offers a broad array of benefits to our community and to people who value our quality of life."

It is this understanding– and the deepened appreciation for conservation it brings– that Bailey said he hopes continues to propel land protection projects in the future.

read the complete article at Harbor Light, "Another Good Year for Conservation", by Kate Bassett, Jan 26, 2008- see FAIR USE notice.
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Executive Director Sought for West Michgan Trails and Greenway Coalition

The Board of West Michigan Trails and Greenway Coalition is conducting a search for an Executive Director to fill the current vacancy.

Founded in 2000, the West Michigan Trails and Greenway Coalition has been instrumental in the coordination and development of non-motorized trails throughout the area. The Coalition's crowning achievement was realized in 2006 with the completion of Phase 1 of our fundraising program and $6.4 million in contributions to fuel the next several years of trail development. For more information please visit our website at

The West Michigan Trails and Greenway Coalition is a 501-3C non-profit organization and an equal opportunity employer. Please send a resume with references and letters of recommendation to:

Dennis Kneibel
P.O. Box 325
Comstock Park, MI 49321

If you have any questions call Dennis Kneibel at 616-791-2260.
    Tentative Timetable:
  • Resumes must be received by February 20, 2008.
  • Board will review applicants March 12, 2008.
  • First interviews begin the week of March 17, 2008.
  • Second interviews begin the week of March 24, 2008.
  • Executive Director selected on or about April 1, 2008.
  • Executive Director start date is May 1, 2008.

a news release of the West Michgan Trails and Greenway Coalition
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Fix-It Project for East Grand Rapids Lake

In 1991, the city of East Grand Rapids was awarded Michigan DNR's largest grant ever,$800,000, to buy the property which includes Reeds Lake. But the damage done to the shore by developers over the years may be irreversible.

City officials are working against an April 1 grant deadline for funds from the Natural Resources Trust Fund to revitalize Gilmore Waterfront Park. The plan includes reclaimation of wetlands filled in by a would-be condominium developer a quarter-century ago.

The area may once have been wetlands, but now a survey of the plant life there has revealed a score of 1 of a possible 10 points for the quality of the vegetation. What that means to the average person is lots of noxious weeds, and invasive plants. Right now, this is not an area where you would consider taking a wildflower walk.

Some believe it's too late to save the area. Jim Muller has monitored the lake for 40 years. "I think they're dreaming, if they think they're going to make a wetlands out of it. It's too late. They can create a wonderful park, but it won't be natural," he commented.

The section the city hopes to reclaim was choked years ago with fill dirt from construction projects. The environmental consulting company says that the fill dirt will need to be removed to release dormant wetland seeds, and also native plants will need to be added.

The East Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Board will hold its final public forum at 6 p.m. Monday before sending the recommendation to the City Commission for Feb. 4. Local residents have expressed their wishes that the park be restored and preserved for bird-watching, fishing and hiking.

from the Muskegon Chronicle, "Reed lake turning into swamp", Jan 26, 2008
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baldwin to be Commemorated as Site of First German Brown Trout

Pere Marquette rail trail bridge
Pere Marquette rail trail bridge
The Dwight Liddel Chapter of the Izaak Walton League is working with the MDNR to develop and place a interpretative panel along the Pere Marquette Trail at the Baldwin River by the old railroad bridge north of Baldwin.

It was there in 1884 that the first German Brown Trout fingerlings were planted in North America. From that planting the Brown Trout have become a mainstay of the trout fishing in Lower Michigan. Jim Biener is heading up this and the goal is to have it dedicated next summer.

In 1984 the Ike’s put a bronze plaque on the RR bridge to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the planting. This plaque was unfortunately vandalized. The Michigan Trout Stamp in 1984 featured the German Brown Trout from a painting by Michigan artist Heiner Hertling.

Plans are to have this picture be part of the interactive panel along with some excerpts from an extensive research article written by member John Luton for the centennial celebration. John’s research article entitled, 1884-1984 A Trout’s Tail was published in the March/April 1984 issue of the Michigan Natural Resources magazine.

from Dwight Liddel Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, newsletter, Jan 2008, used with permission
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Author Richard Louv Honored With the 50th Audubon Medal

Richard Louv
Richard Louv
photo by Robert Burroughs
The National Audubon Society today named author Richard Louv as the 50th recipient of the prestigious Audubon Medal for sounding the alarm about the health and societal costs of children's isolation from the natural world—and for sparking a growing movement to remedy the problem.

A former columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune and author of seven books, Louv gained wide attention through his acclaimed book, Last Child in the Woods. The book reveals a direct connection between the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired youth and its negative health and societal impacts, a phenomenon Louv terms "Nature-Deficit Disorder."

Louv lists the human costs of alienation from nature as including attention disorders, depression and obesity. He reveals that environmental education and direct experiences in nature have dramatic positive affects on the physical and emotional health of children, significantly improving test scores and grade point averages, and boosting skills in problem solving, critical thinking and decision making. He also shows that contact with nature can be a powerful therapy to reduce the symptoms of ADHD, negative stresses and depression. It is also well known to be an important inspiration for environmental stewardship.

Last Child in the Woods struck a chord with parents, educators and consumers alike. Louv has used this visibility to spark the development of a nationwide movement of regional grassroots campaigns in more than 40 regions. In concert with a national coalition of conservation, education and health organizations, he is also helping lead the drive for legislation in several states to support more outdoor experiences, as well as the federal No Child Left Inside Act -- that would create incentives for schools and states to establish or expand nature education programs. Louv is also the co-founder of the non-profit Children & Nature Network.

"Louv's success in building public awareness and action to address "Nature Deficit Disorder" represents a vital contribution to both the future of our environment and the health of our children," said Audubon President John Flicker. "It will fall on the shoulders of our next generation to address the huge environmental problems of today and the new challenges that lie ahead; so it is critical that we narrow the divide between young people and the natural world."

Louv is accepting the award at a showplace of Audubon's own commitment to linking children with nature, The Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Tiburon, California. Richardson Bay is one of dozens of Audubon Centers nationwide designed to allow people from all walks of life to experience, connect with, and learn how to protect the natural world. Rooted in Audubon's 103-year history of nature engagement and education, Richardson Bay advances a special Audubon commitment to giving urban dwellers the same opportunities to experience and understand nature that are available to suburban and rural counterparts. Similar centers in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle and other communities coast to coast offer a proven remedy for Nature-Deficit Disorder.

"It is gratifying to receive this honor from an organization like Audubon that has made such a major commitment to connecting future generations to the natural world," said Louv. "I'm deeply moved by the presentation of the Audubon Medal especially for what it says about the emerging movement and the work that has been done for decades -- long before my book came along -- by countless volunteers, professionals, and organizations, including Audubon itself."

Established in 1947, the Audubon Medal has been bestowed on a wide array of influential environmentalists in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of conservation and environmental protection. This distinguished environmental honor recognizes either a single, extraordinary feat or a record of significant contributions. Past recipients include Presidents (Jimmy Carter), Authors (Rachel Carson), Scientists (E.O. Wilson) and Philanthropists (The Rockefeller Family).

a news release of the National Audubon Society, Jan 24, 2008
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Friday, January 25, 2008

Baucus and Crapo Introduce Recreation Fee Repeal Bill

New recreation fees on public lands would be a thing of the past under a bill likely to receive much attention as Congress returns to Washington.

The bill, known as the "Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act," would revoke the authority of federal agencies, with the exception of the National Park Service, to institute new fees or increase existing fees at campgrounds, trailheads, and other public areas.

The bill would specifically repeal the Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act, passed in 2004, and reinstate legislation dating back to 1965 that limits the use of fees on public lands. In addition, the bill would reinstate the National Parks Pass which was replaced by a more expensive, all-encompassing federal lands pass earlier this year.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID). It was introduced in the Senate on December 10, 2007. The bill was read and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

"Americans already pay to use their public lands on April 15," Baucus said. "We shouldn't be taxed twice to go fishing, hiking, or camping on our public lands."

from the Outdoor Industry Association weekly newsletter, Jan 25, 2008
and from the text of bill S. 2438. Go to Thomas and enter "Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act" in the search phrase.
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Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant Applications Now Available

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that communities interested in applying for grants through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to support outdoor recreation development have until April 1, 2008 to submit their applications. There will be an Aug. 1 secondary deadline for land acquisition applications only.

The MNRTF provides funding assistance for state and local outdoor recreation needs, including land acquisition and development of outdoor recreation facilities. This assistance is directed at creating and improving outdoor recreation opportunities and providing protection to valuable natural resources. Both local government and the DNR may compete for MNRTF assistance.

MNRTF-assisted land acquisitions preserve unique natural features and provide public access to natural resources. Development projects eligible under the MNRTF include waterfront parks, non-motorized trails and riverwalks, fishing and boating access sites, shooting ranges and other facilities. The MNRTF is supported by revenues from the development of state-owned mineral resources, in particular oil and gas. Between $25 and $35 million in MNRTF assistance is available annually.

Grant application materials can be obtained from the DNR Web site at; click on Grant Programs and then Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Interested individuals also can call Grants Management at (517) 373-9125 or write to the Department of Natural Resources, Grants Management, P.O. Box 30425, Lansing, MI 48909-7925.

a news release of the Michigan DNR, Jan 24, 2008
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Bloody-red Shrimp Invades Great Lakes

bloody red shrimp
Bloody Red Shrimp
Bloody red shrimp (Hemimysis anomala) are native to the Ponto-Caspian region of Eastern Europe. They were first reported in the Great Lakes by NOAA from samples collected in Muskegon, Michigan in November 2006 in waters connected to Lake Michigan. They have also been found in Lake Ontario near Oswego, New York.

This omnivore eats a variety of smaller animals and algae. The long-term impacts on the Great Lakes are yet unknown, but it is considered a high risk for invasion of inland lakes in the Great Lakes region. The shrimp jas a huge appetite for zooplankton, the tiny organisms that small fish eat. It eats so rapidly that it could reduce the growth and abundance of fish, affecting commercial fishing. Some adult fish species will eat the shrimp, but the benefit will be erased since the shrimp can out-eat the young fish.

"They're more widespread than we'd originally thought," Marten Koops, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada research scientist, said this week. They've caused great damage in Europe, and they pose a great risk of hurting fish populations and promoting algae blooms. The invaders have now been discovered in about 20 spots in lakes Erie, Michigan and Ontario.

The NOAA National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species (NCRAIS), in Ann Arbor, is coordinating a national rapid research response to define the range, distribution, and impact of the bloody red shrimp in the Great Lakes. It prefers habitats associated with hard structures or rocky bottoms and actively avoids direct sunlight. It has a unique swarming behavior unlikely to be confused with anything else in the Great Lakes. During daylight hours, especially in late summer, it may be observed forming reddish swarms in the shadows of piers, boats, or breakwalls. Swarms disperse at night, but in clear calm waters, the bloody red shrimp may be detected at night by shining a bright light on the water—the shrimp will rapidly swim away from the light.

Help is needed to document and prevent the spread of this species! We are asking the public’s help in documenting other locations around the Great Lakes basin where this species has spread. Look for swarms in shadowed areas along the shoreline, especialy near breakwalls, docks, channel edges, and near boats.

If you see what you believe to be a swarm, please report your observations to the Hemimysis Survey and Monitoring Network at:

from the Windsor Star, "Bloody-red shrimp invades Great Lakes", by Sharon Hill, Jan 24, 2008
and from the NOAA Fact Sheet, "Bloody Red Shrimp (Hemimysis anomala)"
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DNR Public Meeting on Eco-Management Areas in Northern Michigan

The Department of Natural Resources will host an informational meeting on Thursday, Jan. 31, to provide information and receive public comment on boundaries for proposed management areas in the Northern Lower Peninsula Eco-region. The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. at the DNR Gaylord Operations Services Center located at 1732 W. M-32 in Gaylord.

Management area planning will be incorporated into the Regional State Forest Management Plans and will help the DNR to provide landscape-level analyses and direction to guide operational decisions made at each Forest Management Unit through the existing compartment review process. In the compartment review process, small portions of state forestland are reviewed for treatment measures, such as thinning or clear-cutting. Management areas will group compartments of state forestland that have similar attributes, such as vegetation types, proximity to key user markets or ownership patterns.

Draft management area maps and other information are available on the DNR's Web site at A link is provided to the information on the DNR's front page.

Persons not able to attend the meeting or wishing to respond in writing may send correspondence by Feb. 15, by email to, or by postal mail to: NLP Eco-team, DNR Gaylord OSC, 1732 W. M-32, Gaylord, MI 49735.

"These management areas will provide a framework upon which a Northern Lower Peninsula Regional State Forest Management Plan will be based for the next 10-year period," said David Graham, chairman of the DNR Northern Lower Peninsula Ecoteam. "Future public meetings will provide detailed information on the management direction for the management areas. Public input will be part of the planning process during the entire planning period."

a news release of the Michigan DNR, Jan 25, 2008
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Know How to Make an Emergency Winter Shelter

It is important to consider what a shelter provides: it protects us from the wind, the cold, and the wet. It does not necessarily provide comfort, convenience, aesthetics, or enjoyment. In its most basic form, it offers pure survival. Emergency conditions dictate a reasoned compromise between that survival and the extra time and energy consumed trying to make something spacious and comfortable.

Wind is one of the biggest factors in heat loss. A barrier to the wind is an important function of any emergency shelter. If you have ample snow, wind walls or even more elaborate shelters can be made to deflect the chilling gale. Always consider the wind's direction when choosing a location and orientation of your shelter; you want to be on the leeward side of any barrier you choose or make. Don't overlook simple natural protection like boulders, upturned trees, or any other natural barrier to the wind. Orient the entrance of a freestanding snow structure downwind.

Protection from moisture should be your next consideration. This may simply require a roof over your head but may also require a floor and walls that separate you from melting snow. Remember, you don't necessarily have to be comfortable to be safe. Even a couple of large garbage or lawn and leaf bags could be enough to get you through a long and otherwise wet night, A small tarp or a bivy sac would be better; both together would be luxury indeed. Again, don't overlook overhanging rock ledges, boulders, etc. Lacking everything else, I suspect most of us would forgive you for cutting enough boughs and branches to fashion some sort of primitive lean-to. This possible need is one reason that I try to always take some type of knife with me. A skeleton of branches covered with an opened lawn and leaf bag might make a very serviceable roof. The next consideration is insulation. In low-snow situations, consider grasses, evergreen boughs, leaves, moss, etc. as possible insulators. Snow when available is a wonderful material. It is the paradox of snow that this water crystal, a product of the cold, can effectively insulate us from the cold. I don't know its R-value, but I do know that a well-constructed snow cave or igloo can offer an environment above freezing when it is profoundly cold outside. In general you should have 12 or more inches of snow to have a reasonable amount of insulation. More is better since it will melt, compact, and lose what R-value it has. Deep snow pack makes life pretty easy; shallower snow means you have to work a little harder.

Snow Tree Pit

Snow shelters do not have to be elaborate to be effective. Often you can combine a natural feature with snow to help build your structure. A prime example of this is an evergreen tree. In deep snow conditions, skiers and snowshoers are well aware to be cautious of falling into a snow pit around a tree. Well, what a great natural snow shelter- one person's trap can be another's salvation. Living trees give off heat; the melted-out space around a tree trunk can be significantly warmer than the surrounding environment. The boughs overhead provide a natural roof. If you are lucky and have deep snow, you need to do nothing more than to tunnel down at the base of a big full spruce or fir tree and find yourself in a warm, dry, protected lodge for the night. If the snow is not deep enough to reach the bottom of the lower branches, you can either build a snow wall around the perimeter or cut some branches from other trees and stack them up around the pit leaning them in against your main tree. For insulation pile the snow against the matrix you have constructed.

Snow Trench

The next simplest shelter is a trench. You can dig a trench in the snow a little wider than your shoulders and a little longer than your height. Keep in mind that the smaller the space, the less body heat you will lose warming that space. Dig the trench deep enough so that when the sides compact, there will be enough height for you to crawl in and out. The snow you remove from the trench can be piled on the sides to build them up and compact them as well. Over the top of the trench you can place some supports to pile snow on top. These supports can be skis, snowshoes, boughs, or branches. If the snow is either wind packed (Styrofoam snow) or sticky enough, you can make blocks or snowballs to carefully place over the trench for a roof. A small tarp over the supports makes this a much easier project. One end of the trench will be left open for the entrance that can be closed with a snowball, snow block, or your pack. A single person can easily make this type of trench or pit shelter in a short period of time. It can be made in conditions of less snow cover by first piling the snow up from the surrounding area. One side of the trench can be the trunk of a downed tree or other natural wall. With this and any other shelter, seal it tightly to protect from drafts and to insulate, but then provide some sort of vent holes for oxygen. If you use a stove or candles, provide enough ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning! If you think a rescue party may be looking for you, make sure you somehow mark your well-camouflaged shelter with some type of flag. A red or orange bandana on your ski pole would be excellent.

Snow Cave
Next up the line from these simplest of snow shelters would be a snow cave or quinzhee shelter. If the snow cover is adequate, snow caves are wonderful and can be built in a reasonably short period of time. The ideal situation is a large drift on the leeward side of a bank or ridge where snow from the upwind territory has been dropped in the relative quiet of the downwind side of a ridge. Be very careful in big-mountain areas that you are not building your cave in the leading edge or run-out area of a would-be avalanche! (I don't believe we have to worry about that along the Finger Lakes Trail.) If you have something to probe with, you may want to investigate your prospective drift to make sure that it isn't covering a big tree stump, boulder, or clump of brush. You must plan your cave so that there will be at least one foot of snow overhead. "This provides enough structural strength and insulation. If you have the option, keep the entrance downwind and sheltered. Also, if the drift is big enough, start the entranceway below where you anticipate the floor of the cave to be. Warm air rises. Therefore, if the door is below you, the air heated with your body will be less likely to escape.

Dig into the cave and push the snow out behind you. A partner, if available, can help dispose of the removed snow. If possible, remove the snow in blocks or chunks and use them to build a snow wall around your entranceway. This will be very helpful if you have a small emergency cave with little room. The wind protected "porch" can be used to change clothing or for those more involved nature calls. Try to keep the ceiling of the cave dome-shaped and as smooth as possible. Any projections will form a point from which water drips as the snow melts. Remember, a good snow cave will get pretty warm. Try not to make the cave any larger than necessary; heal as little extra space as possible. If you have the snow, the time, and the energy, try to construct a shelf for sleeping so the colder air sinks below you. (I think this is more a consideration for fancy, planned caves than for emergency survival shelters.) One consideration we learned in our White Mountains experience: if you have the vertical space, carve out a little taller area where you can sit up or kneel. When you are digging your cave, you will work hard and sweat like a pig. Before beginning your dig, it is probably wise to remove as many of your insulating layers as possible and wear just your water-resistant shell top and pants. When you finally get in the cave, you will want to put your other layers back on. This is impossible if you do not have room to sit up or kneel. My son and I learned this in our two-person cave; we were warm enough but had to go into the very inhospitable outside elements to change our clothing and to pack for departure. We were fortunate that the wind died down overnight so that in the morning we could dress and pack outside the cave with only -30°F cold to worry about.

I should mention that if you have two or more people, your snow cave should be constructed such that if it collapses, one or more of you can get out and dig the other out. A Y-shaped cave is one design for this purpose. You can construct your cave with a single entranceway leading to a central foyer that then branches like a "Y" with each inhabitant keeping his or her head in the central location. This way the dome over each person can be narrower and therefore stronger. The central shared space can be relatively small and sturdy as well. Again, the entranceway can be plugged with blocks or snowballs or your packs. Don't forget to provide a small vent hole out the top. It is recommended that you keep your shovel inside with you in case of disaster!

In areas where there is less snow cover and/or no drifts or snow banks available, you can build a quinzhee shelter. This is basically a snow cave dug into a heap of snow that you pile up. You should start with a ski pole or branch stuck in the center of your planned structure. Pile snow at least 6 feet in diameter around the center pole. Pile it up 4 or more feet deep, tamp it down, and then let it settle an hour or more. As time goes on, depending on the conditions, snow crystals actually adhere to one another and become much more cohesive and strong. It might be good to pile snow eccentrically in one direction where you plan to make your entranceway. This will provide more opportunity to protect the opening from wind and snow. Now you can begin digging much as described for a snow cave. Plan your dig aiming for the center pole and fashion the main cavity centered on the pole. Again I remind you that in an emergency, survival is the goal, not comfort. You don't need a spacious room; you only need enough space to get in and curl up. Remember, if the space is small and you curl up, you will conserve heat and energy. If time, energy, and conditions allow, you can elaborate on these minimal survival requirements. Once the main chamber is complete, the pole can be lifted out of the roof of your new shelter to make a vent hole. If it is snowing hard, you may need to leave the pole poking through the roof of the shelter so that you can periodically wiggle it to keep the hole open and venting. For maximum efficiency, tie your bandana to the pole for visibility. There are other shelters you can build but these are the simplest and most expedient I know of. Igloos and more elaborate structures are great but too time and energy consuming for emergency use. Whatever your choice of structure is, try to insulate your body from the cold ground or snow it will be contacting. In FLT territory you should have plenty of options with both evergreen and deciduous trees, brush, leaves, etc. Above tree line you'll be out of luck unless you brought insulation with you. This brings me to my last section on emergency shelter.

Shelters are great and necessary but in deep winter conditions may not be possible to build or even enough to keep you alive if you are not personally prepared with necessary clothing and equipment. I suppose you can dig a snow cave without a shovel, but I wouldn't be eager to try. Any serious winter mountain travel really should mandate at least one or more shovels per group. In the tamer environs of the FLT, even a short afternoon's ski workout offers the possibility of injury and an unexpected night out. I'd be willing to bet your likelihood of being spotted by passersby on the FLT is significantly less than it is in the Adirondacks or Whites. For this reason I strongly advocate taking survival necessities with you. I rarely go out even for a short walk without the following extra gear:

  • One layer (top and bottom) of warm insulation. This may either be down or fleece. This layer may be re-placed by or augmented by a warmer but less versatile sleeping bag.
  • Outer waterproof layer (parka and pants or bibs). Gore-Tex is great but not necessary. Cheap waterproof nylon may be adequate and is often lighter if you plan to carry it just for emergencies.
  • A Mylar or similar space blanket or bag (4 oz.). One of each is even better. The bag can serve as a bivy sac and the blanket as a small tarp. If you don't have or want these, consider taking two or three large garbage bags. Lawn and leaf bags are the biggest and usually the toughest. They can be used as ponchos, tarps, bivy sacs, etc. They weigh nearly nothing. If weight is no object (or in fact desirable; see my last paragraphs) I take a bivy sac and/or a small tarp.
  • A decent multi-tool. I favor my Leatherman PST II. It has pliers, file, scissors, and knife and it weighs only five ounces.
  • A loud whistle.
  • A small flashlight or headlamp.
  • Fire starter and matches.
  • Two or three extra nutrition bars, fig newtons, etc.
  • Extra water or means to melt snow if water is not available. I always carry a bottle of iodine tabs with me, but I would not worry about a little Giardia as opposed to hypothermia. Remember, dehydration makes hypothermia much more likely and severe.
  • Nylon cord. You can use it to lash, drag, or suspend anything you want when creating your shelter.
  • Duct tape. It goes without saying!

I sometimes (when the risk is a little higher) carry a three-quarter-length Therm-a-Rest UltraLite mattress or cut down closed-cell foam pad. These can provide much needed insulation from the ground beneath you and can double as a splint if you need to hike out with an injured limb. A bigger pad is better if you don't mind carrying it.

Oh yeah, don't forget your pack to put all this stuff in! It can serve as a partial bivy sac, sleeping pad, door, roof, distress marker, or any other imaginative use. The pack frame can be used for splints too!

My buddies accuse me of being paranoid and ridicule me for taking all this stuff. For serious winter travel I think most would consider this equipment essential. For "little" day trips I like to carry it for two reasons: First, I don't want to be that person we occasionally read about who needs to be evacuated from a simple afternoon's walk in the woods. Second, I consider that any casual day trip is basically a training run and that the little weight involved with the above items just adds to the quality of my workout. I enjoy toting my pack knowing that I can master almost any adversity that I might encounter and that I'm getting stronger carrying it.

by John Fey, M.D.
reprinted with permission from the Winter 2000 issue of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference News.
See Finger Lakes Trail Conference
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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Legislation Introduced to Require Ski Helmets by Law

New legislation has been introduced by Rep. Bob Constan, a Wayne County democrat, that amends the ski area safety code to require helmets. House bill No. 5628 was introduced on January 17, 2008. The new provision of the law reads:

A skier shall wear a helmet on his or her head while on a ski slope. if the skier is a minor, the minor's parent shall ensure that the minor wears the helmet while on a ski slope. the helmet shall comply with the american society for testing and materials standard f2040-02, standard specification for helmets used for recreational snow sports.

A skier or, if the skier is a minor, the parent of a skier who violates section 21(3) is responsible for a state civil infraction and may be ordered to pay a civil fine of not more than $100.00.

Existing provisions of the law include:
  • A skier shall conduct 1 himself or herself within the limits of his or her individual ability and shall not act or ski in a manner that may contribute to his or her injury or to the injury of any other person. A skier shall be the sole judge of his or her ability to negotiate a track, trail, or slope.
  • While in a ski area, a skier or passenger shall not do any of the following:
    (a) Board a ski lift which THAT 1 has been designated as closed.
    (b) Wilfully WILLFULLY board or embark upon, or disembark from, a ski lift, except at an area designated for those purposes.
    (c) Intentionally drop, throw, or expel an object from a ski lift while riding on the lift.
    (d) Do any act which THAT interferes with the running or operation of a ski lift, such as INCLUDING, but not limited to, swinging or bouncing on an aerial lift, attempting to contact supporting towers, machinery, guides, or guards while riding on a ski lift; or skiing out of the designated ski track on a surface lift or tow.
    (e) Use a ski lift, unless the skier or passenger has the ability to use the lift safely without instruction on use of the lift by a ski area owner, manager, operator, or employee, or unless the skier or passenger requests and receives instruction before entering the boarding area of the ski lift
    (f) Use a ski lift or ski without properly engaging and using ski restraining devices, brakes, or restraining straps.

by Joan H. Young
see HOUSE BILL No. 5628
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Two Winterfest Events this Weekend

In Grand Haven, Michigan, folks have been gathering for winter fun since 1979. Indoor and outdoor events include a family ski night, a sled pull- dog powered, and a popular cardboard sled race. Added this year is a human dog sled race. Teams of two riders and four "dogs" (humans in harness), will show their stuff on Washington Avenue at 8 pm, Friday. The sleds will be actual dog sleds, purchased or borrowed from sled dog groups.
cardboard sled race entry
Grand Haven Coast Guard members walked
their boat sled up the hill
during the cardboard sled race
at Mulligan's Hollow as part of
Winterfest 2003 in Grand Haven.
Chronicle file photo/ Cory Morse
The cardboard sled race will be run at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mulligan's Hollow. It is long known for inspiring creativity. Participants use cardboard, tape and epoxy to create a one-time-use sled; no reinforced sleds allowed. Speed vs design becomes the challenge for competitors.

Adults enjoy the Luau in a heated tent at the marina. This party is for those 21 and older.

When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Various locations throughout Grand Haven
Admission: Free to $10; cost varies with activity. Free trolley downtown to the Community Center (Kids' Day) to Mulligan's Hollow and back.
More information: has a schedule of events, entry forms and more.

The Izaak Walton League is hosting its first Winterfest near Grand Rapids at the Cannonsburg Ike's (nickname for Izaak Walton League members) Conservation Center.

If there's enough snow ( and it sure looks like it outside my window!) there will be cross-country skiing, ice fishing, sledding, skating, snowshoeing, shelter-hut building, and "Fox and Geese."

No matter what the weather, these events are on the schedule: fly tying, archery, bird-feeding crafts, candle-making, flint and steel fire starting, a nature walk with tracking lessons, and ping pong.

There will be chili, German weiners, hot dogs, cocoa and dessert served.

When: Saturday, 11 am - 4 pm
Where: Izaak Walton Conservation Center, 5641 Myers Lake Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, north of Cannonsburg Road
Admission: Free
More information:

from the Muskegon Chronicle, "Winter events aimed at getting people outdoors", Jan 24, 2008
and the Izaak Walton League
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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