Saturday, January 31, 2009

France Claims 17th Century Lake Michigan Shipwreck

The Griffon
Engraving of the Griffon

based on a news article in the Detroit Free Press, "France claims rights to Lake Michigan shipwreck," by John Flesher, Jan 30, 2009

Although divers of the Great Lakes Exploration LLC located what they believe to be the remains of a 17th Century vessel both Michigan and France want title.

The Griffin, or Griffon, was a barque, built in 1769 near Niagara Falls under the supervision of the explorer LaSalle. She began a journey ascending the Great Lakes and reached the Straits of Mackinac on August 27. She made Washington Island at the entrance to Green Bay (Wisconsin) and rode out a storm there. Taking on a cargo of 12,000 pounds of furs worth 50-60 thousand francs, she set sail to descend the lakes on September 18. LaSalle chose to remain in Wisconsin, and it may have been the lack of his leadership which caused the ensuing catastrophe. Another infamous autumn storm arose, and a few days later portions of the vessel were seen on a sand bar in northern Lake Michigan. The Griffon was the first shipwreck on the upper Great Lakes.

The lake has owned her for over 200 years, but the French government says it wants her back. They have filed a claim in US District Court. Whoever wins the claim will have the right to salvage artifacts from the vessel. Michigan says that federal law gives the state ownership of vessels embedded in Great Lakes bottomlands. Great Lakes Exploration is hoping to be appointed custodian until the court makes a decision concerning the rights.

France claims that its suit has merit because the ship was not a private vessel, but was sailing for the French Crown. State and Federal attorneys are studying the documents and the law.

Some people are not even certain that the find is that of the Griffon. The exact location is being kept private, but it is believed to be between Escanaba and the St. Martin Islands. Although very little of the ship’s timbers are visible to divers a sonar examination indicates the presence of artifacts. Another remote sensing expedition is planned for this summer to attempt to identify more of the artifacts.

See About the Great Lakes
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2008 Outdoor Sales Gain 5%

from a news release of the Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor sales for the entire year in all three core outdoor store channels (chain, internet, specialty)* totaled $5.2B, a 5% gain over 2007, according to the most recent edition of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report, produced for OIA by the Leisure Trends Group. For the entire year, internet stores and chain stores grew a healthy 18% and 7% respectively, while specialty stores were down 2% in dollars.

December Decline
Christmas was tough for retailers across the country, as retail sales fell by record amounts and retailers big and small shuttered doors coast to coast. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, total retail sales fell 2.7% in December, more than double the anticipated decline of 1.2%. Although the outdoor industry felt the effects of a tough Christmas season along with the rest of the country, results were better than most industries, a cause for cautious optimism heading into 2009.

Specialty Bright Spots
Although overall sales were down slightly for specialty in 2008, many categories emerged as clear winners in a tough year. Winter boots, fueled entirely by women’s styles, were up 11% in full-year dollar sales. Woman-specific sportswear categories such as dresses, skirts and sports bras were also good sellers. Other footwear and apparel categories with strong growth included softshell tops, casual shoes, trail running shoes and multisport shoes.

The hands-on hydration category, which consists mainly of water bottles, was on fire in 2008, refusing to slow down after huge growth in 2007. With environmental and health concerns continuing to shape the category and fuel product innovation, this growth is expected to continue in 2009.

A renewed interest in economical, close-to-home vacations helped fuel sales of camping-related items in specialty stores this year. Sales of items such as tents (+2%), sleeping bags (+3%), camp stoves(+4%) , climbing gear (+3%), water purification (+11%), mattresses (+2%) and miscellaneous camp accessories (tent accessories +28%, sleeping bag accessories +7%, pack accessories +4%) all benefitted, each outpacing 2007 dollar sales.

Online Skyrockets
Online sales totaled $973M in 2008, grew 18% and fueled a significant amount of buzz in the outdoor industry. Combining November and December together to include the entire holiday season, 2008 came out 7% ahead of 2007 in dollar sales. In December, Internet sales were up in all four major categories.

Chain Sales Strong
All Chain dollar sales were up 7% both in December and for the entire year while average retail prices saw nearly across-the-board declines for both periods. In December, retail prices for the entire channel declined 4% and nearly every category saw prices drop. Smaller and lower price-point items such as equipment accessories and apparel accessories saw especially strong growth, but every major category increased dollar sales in December as consumers took advantage of good deals and sales. Holiday sales and cold weather may well have been the catalysts for the growth in dollar sales in December.

See Outdoor Industry Sees Opportunities as Hiking Diversifies
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Grand Haven Winterfest Had Something for Everyone

snow angel
(photo by Grand Haven Tribune)
based on a news article in the Grand Haven Tribune, "Winterfest is Bigger and Better," by Peter Daining, Jan 26, 2009

Hundreds of people came out to the Grand Haven Winterfest last weekend. "It was the biggest and best ever," said Winterfest President Kevin Galbavi. The newest event was a 20-minute, timed snow angel competition. Angels could be decorated and there were classes from the toddler set to adults.

But there was plenty of action for those who were looking for more energetic activities. 125 cardboard sleds flew down the slopes this year. The run was very fast. Sled designs included a school bus, a helicopter, a giant package of McDonald's french fries, and one of the Winterfest luau tent!

Kids enjoyed face painting, a magic show, and a hamster/gerbil race. These were all held indoors to give families a break from the cold weather.

In races, dogs pulled kids on sleds, and then humans pulled humans on sleds. 23 teams were entered in that event.

The weekend ended with a Luau Extravaganza on Saturday night in a tent at the Municipal Marina. Other events included a euchre tournament, ice sculpting competition, and photography and poster contest. Organizers say that they are improving the mix of events that require good outdoor weather and other activities that can take place no matter what Mother Nature throws their way for the weekend. But for 2009, the weather was perfect and Grand Haven area folks had a great time.

See the original article for more pictures
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Mason-Lake Conservation Dinner to Feature Reed Photos

Mason-Lake Conservation District Logo
from the Mason-Lake Conservation District newsletter, January 2009

Todd and Brad Reed will be the featured speakers at the Annual Mason-Lake Conservation District Annual Meeting and Dinner. They will give a slide presentation of their beautiful photos from the area, including photos from their published works: Lake Michigan: Point to Point, and Ludington State Park: Queen of the North.

The dinner will be a pizza buffet catered by North Country Cafe, and will include salad and breadsticks. Short staff presentations and the 2008 Outstanding Conservationist Award will be given as part of the program. This is the 67th annual meeting for the Mason-Lake Conservation District.

The event is scheduled for February 26, 2009 at the Fin and Feather Clubhouse north of Scottville, Michigan. Tickets are $8.00 each, and are can be reserved by calling 231-757-3708 x 3.

See Todd & Brad Reed Photography
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Michigan's Winter Free Fishing Weekend Scheduled for Feb. 14-15

ice anglers
(photo from MI DNR)
a news release of the Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources invites everyone who is curious about ice fishing to take advantage of Winter Free Fishing Weekend, Feb. 14-15. The annual celebration of Michigan's ice fishing heritage allows everyone to fish without purchasing a license.

"Free Fishing Weekend gives families a chance to experience Michigan's winter wonderland while enjoying an outdoor activity that every family member can participate in," said DNR Fisheries Chief Kelley Smith.

The Winter Free Fishing Weekend, now in its 10th year, is modeled on the state's annual Free Fishing Weekend held every year in June. Because of winter ice on most of the state's lakes, anglers have access to areas that they could never reach without a boat during wet-water months.

Numerous ice fishing clinics, contests and festivals are held in conjunction with the weekend, including DNR-sponsored events at state parks and fish hatcheries. Most offer instruction on the basics of ice fishing, loaner fishing equipment and a quick program on ice safety. Programs are free, but participants at state park events require the purchase of a $6 daily or $24 annual 2009 Michigan State Park Motor Vehicle Permit.

In addition, numerous fishing clubs and service organizations sponsor events, many of them at little or no cost to participants. In many cases, equipment and bait are available at the events.

"Ice fishing is a fun and interesting way to introduce children to the sport of fishing," Smith said. "It's an opportunity for folks to experience the excitement of fishing without the added expense of a fishing license."

See Free Fishing Weekend
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grand Rapids Group Hoping for Rapids

Grand River downtown Grand Rapids
(photo from NOAA)
based on a news article of

Grand Action is thinking about summer and free-flowing rivers. Their thoughts turn to the Grand River. It is the largest river in Michigan- 260 miles long, and passing through eight counties before reaching Lake Michigan at Grand Haven.

But Grand Action hopes to take their kayaks no farther than downtown Grand Rapids for some extreme fun on the Grand River. But the rapids for which the city was named no longer exist, and not just during floods such as the one pictured here.

There are at least four reasonable options for restoring some white water to the Grand. One involves creating a channel parallel to the river. The City of South Bend did this by diverting water from the St. Joe River. The other three proposals involve changes to the 4th Street Dam.

Grand Action is a non-profit organization of 250 community leaders who have brought innovative ideas to Grand Rapids.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Exercise for Non-Pros Won't Damage Joints

two people's knees
a news release of Wiley-Blackwell

Non-elite level activity does not increase risk of osteoarthritis

There is no good evidence supporting a harmful effect of exercise on joints in the setting of normal joints and regular exercise, according to a review of studies published in this month's issue of the Journal of Anatomy.

Exercise is an extremely popular leisure-time activity in many countries throughout the Western world and has for many become part of the modern lifestyle. It is widely promoted in as being beneficial for weight control, disease management in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and for improving psychological well-being amongst an array of other benefits. In contrast, however, the lay press and community perception is also that exercise is potentially deleterious to one's joints, in particular those of the lower extremities.

Researchers from Boston, USA, and Ainring, Germany, reviewed existing studies on the relationship between regular exercise and osteoarthritis (OA) and concluded that in the absence of existing joint injury there is no increased risk of OA from exercise.

"We found that in elite athletes where there was more likelihood of obtaining sports injuries, there was an increased risk of OA in the damaged joints, but in most people vigorous, low-impact exercise is beneficial for both it's physical and mental benefits," said lead researcher David Hunter MD PhD, New England Baptist Hospital. "The largest modifiable risk factor for knee OA is body weight, such that each additional kilogram of body mass increases the compressive load over the knee by roughly 4kg".

One might surmise therefore that exercise to reduce body-weight, where necessary, could in fact reduce the risk of OA, rather than increase it.

The knee is the joint most commonly affected by the symptoms of osteoarthritis. More than 10 million Americans suffer from knee osteoarthritis, the most common cause of disability in the United States and women are more commonly affected than men.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Dunes

ice dunes
ice dunes on Lake Michigan (photo by J Young)
based on a news article in the Erie (Pennsylvania) Times News, "Inside Ice Dunes," by Cody Switzer, Jan 24, 2009

Frozen edges are a feature seen on almost every shoreline of the Great Lakes. The waves known as "ice dunes," "ice ridges," or "the ice foot" form where the waves of the lake meet the frozen water's edge and clumps of snow. Dan Powell, a ranger at Presque Isle, Pennsylvania, State Park said, "They can form overnight."

A study by M. Leonard Bryan and Melvin G. Marcus of the University of Michigan has published a report on the phenomenon titled "Physical Characteristics of Near-Shore Ice Ridges." When snow falls into the water it does not melt instantly. Some of the flakes attach to ice floating in the water, and some snowflakes are joined together by wave action. The ice is washed toward shore and builds up in layers. Two important requisites of icefoot development are sub-freezing atmospheric temperatures, and open water bodies that, because of their large size, remain ice free well into the season of sub-freezing air temperatures.

Add to that wave spray, which quickly freezes and another layer is added. Add more snowfall and the layers continue to build. Ice dunes of 6 feet or higher are relatively common where there are waves. But where there is little wave action, the ice dunes can remain relatively flat.

The smaller Great Lakes, like Erie and Ontario may freeze more completely than the larger ones. The result is more flat ice dunes. "That's because you don't have the wave action," said Kathleen Ryan, environmental education specialist at the Presque Isle.

ice at water's edge
ice at the lake edge (photo by J Young)
The dunes buffer the shore from battering by winds and storms, and help hold sand in place. But ice dunes can also be dangerous. They can be hollow or riddles with caves because of the way they are formed. Even when they look stable, or even quite thick, a high ice dune could have a thin crust. If one broke through they could fall directly into freezing water at the bottom of a sheer "well." It would be impossible to get out without help.

But they can be beautiful to look at. Ryan encourages people to observe the winter shoreline from safe distances. "I think a lot of people think of sand and sun," she said. "But now it's like you are looking at the Arctic, and it's such an interesting environment."

See "Physical Characteristics of Near-Shore Ice Ridges"
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Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

winter robin
robin (photo by J.D.McClellan)
a news release of National Audubon Society

Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of everyday bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009.

A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

"Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity," said Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.

Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.

"The GBBC has become a vital link in the arsenal of continent wide bird-monitoring projects," said Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick. "With more than a decade of data now in hand, the GBBC has documented striking changes in late-winter bird distributions."

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year's winners are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged "GBBC." Some of them will be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, and feeders.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by support from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or visit Audubon or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Ski Nordic in Traverse City

skiers at Shanty Creek
Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
from a news release of Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau

“If anyone ever wanted to take up Nordic skiing, this winter would be the time to do it,” says Missy Luyk.

Missy works for TART Trails, the nonprofit group that builds and maintains the elaborate system of hiking, cycling and skiing trails in and around this Michigan coastal resort. After nearly a decade of disappointing winters, she’s ecstatic at the amount of snow that’s fallen on the trail system this year. TART’s two year-round trails — the 15.5-mile Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay and the 16.7-mile Vasa Pathway — have been groomed more than 20 times already this winter.

And the skiers have certainly responded. With literally hundreds of miles of trails, the coastal woodlands around Grand Traverse Bay are rarely crowded in winter. But this year it’s been hard to find a trailhead in the area whose parking lot isn’t bustling on a weekend morning.

Traverse City has long been a favorite destination for Nordic ski enthusiasts, better known in these parts simply as “cross-country skiers.” Each February for the past 33 years, the area has hosted two of the Midwest’s premiere ski races, the North American Vasa and the White Pine Stampede, and the Vasa Pathway with its 3, 5, 10 and 25K loops was created to accommodate fast-paced freestyle skiers throughout the season. But there are also uncountable miles of trails where less competitive skiers can dawdle and enjoy the incomparable scenery.

And it’s worth dawdling for, because few places are as enchanting as an Up North forest in midwinter. To look up in a stand of tall pines and watch how their needles break the sunlight into a million points of gold and green, or to glide silently through an open stand of hardwoods in the moonlight, with the new snow glittering like diamond dust as it drifts down from the branches, is to experience a rare and secret beauty.

Some of the area’s most appealing (and free) trails can be found just minutes from downtown Traverse City. In addition to the Vasa Pathway, there’s the Grand Traverse County Natural Education Reserve, a 420-acre tract with nearly 7 miles of improved trails along the Boardman River with boardwalks, bridges and scenic overlooks. And the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area, on the site of the former Northern Michigan Asylum, includes over 300 acres of trails that can easily be accessed from six different trailheads.

One of the area’s most scenic inland trail systems can be found farther up the Boardman Valley at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area, a 1,310-acre nature study area perched on high bluffs above a pond on the river, 11 miles southeast of town. There are trails to the north and south of the pond, with boardwalks and wildlife overlooks where it’s common to spot bald eagles and red-shouldered hawks in winter. Just 1.5 miles upstream is the Muncie Lakes Pathway, whose 11.5 miles of trails wander past small lakes and skirt the river’s edge, with overlooks of the valley from five loops ranging in length from 1 to 5 miles.

The nearby Timber Ridge RV Resort & Campground maintains its own 5K groomed trail system – it’s lighted at night, which is a nice plus. (There’s a fee for using it.) What’s more, the Timber Ridge trails link up to the 60 kilometers of Vasa Pathway trails in the nearby Pere Marquette State Forest.

Farther east is one of the area’s most popular Nordic ski areas, the Sand Lakes Quiet Area, a 2,800-acre nature reserve that’s off-limits to motorized vehicles of any kind, with 11 miles of trails that meander through beautiful oak-pine forest and around five small jewel-like lakes. The trails provide a great opportunity for viewing deer, turkeys, squirrels, woodland songbirds and other wildlife.

Located between Alden and Bellaire on Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes, the Grass River Natural Area includes 1,325 acres with 7.5 miles of trails winding through upland forests and along raised boardwalks above floating sedges, and is a favorite haunt for winter birds and mammals. A few miles beyond is the 4,500-acre Shanty Creek Resort, which maintains 21 kilometers of trails through forests of snow-laden hardwoods and pines that connect its two ski villages, Schuss Mountain and The Summit. (There’s a fee for using the trails.)

North of Traverse City, the Old Mission Peninsula forms a narrow 18-mile ridge in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. At its tip, the charming little Old Mission Lighthouse stands above a vast rocky shoal, surrounded by a 513-acre park crisscrossed by 7.5 miles of trails through forests and upland meadows. The trails can be accessed at several points, but the most scenic trailhead is at the lighthouse itself. Near Bowers Harbor, the 140-acre Pyatt Lake Nature Preserve features a mile-long loop of trail through a unique wooded dune ridge area that’s home to winter wrens, woodpeckers, and owls.

To the west, the most spectacular Nordic skiing can be found in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where one of the nation’s most beautiful landscapes becomes even lovelier in winter. The park’s 13 trails range from 1.5 miles to 14.7 miles in length, and offer opportunities for hikers of all ability levels – including several (Empire Bluff, Pyramid Point and Alligator Hill) with overlooks that rise hundreds of feet above the blue of Lake Michigan.

Closer to Traverse City, the Lake Ann Pathway is a popular trail system near the village of the same name and is divided into two distinctly different loops. The 3.5 mile western loop is a roller-coaster trail that passes two small inland lakes and a short section of the Platte River. The 1.8-mile eastern portion meanders gently along the Platte and the shoreline of Lake Ann. Nearby, the Lost Lake Pathway is a gentle 6.3-mile trail in the Pere Marquette State Forest near Interlochen that follows the bed of an old timber-era railroad, passing a small forest lake and scenic blueberry bogs and traversing a rare stand of old-growth red pine.

For detailed information and directions, as well as details about other winter adventures, activities and attractions in the Traverse City area, visit the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.

See Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two Hikers Rescued from Saugatuck Dunes Earlier this Month

rescue ATV
Graafschap Fire and Rescue responders (photo by Steve Ralph)
based on a news article in the Holland Sentinel, "Hikers rescued from dunes," by Steve Ralph, Jan 3, 2009

Two hikers from Saugatuck became disoriented and lost their way in woods they were familiar with, providing a lesson on planning for possible emergencies. They began their hike at the Felt Mansion at about 4:30 pm, and realized about two hours later that they were unable to find their way back. The incident occurred January 3 in Laketown Township of Allegan County.

Albert Gibson and Daniel Hansen (aged 43 and 54) had a cell phone with them, and called for help. The Graafschap Fire and Rescue and Michigan State Police responded at 6:30 pm, after dark on that date.

A search and rescue operation base was set up at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The rescue team used ATVs to search for the men, and located them before 8 pm on the beach near 144th Avenue and 66th Street. They were transported out on a trailer pulled by the ATV.

Despite freezing temperatures the hikers suffered no physical ill effects. However, they declined to be interviewed, saying, “It’s just too humiliating.”

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wolf Status- Update

from a news release of Environment News Service, "Obama Freezes Pending Federal Rules, Wolves May Benefit," Jan 21, 2009

In one of his first presidential acts, President Barack Obama has ordered federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them. The freeze halts publication of federal regulations planned under the Bush administration but not yet published in the Federal Register.

Wildlife conservationists say the freeze will delay and possibly prevent the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list in Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and also in portions of Washington, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

"Wolves have recovered in the Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains because of the hard work, cooperation and flexibility shown by States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett. "We can all be proud of our various roles in saving this icon of the American wilderness."

wildlife conservationists disagree. Gray wolves are gone from over 95 percent of their historic range, including on millions of acres of national forests, national parks and Bureau of Land Management public lands whose ecological health has suffered in the absence of wolves, conservationists contend.

See Great Lakes Gray Wolves Removed from Endangered Species List
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DNR Grant Writing Workshops

from Lisa McTiernan

The Grants Management office of the DNR will be holding a series of Grant Workshops throughout the state beginning February 19th, 2009. The workshops will focus on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) program, including the application process and selection criteria. New in 2009 will be a revised set of criteria and application process. The workshops will provide an in-depth explanation of what the new criteria and application process will be. For more information about the grant workshops contact Lisa McTiernan.


February 19 – Niles
Bell Building, 305 N. 3rd Street, Niles, MI 49120 269-684-5140

February 20 – Ludington
Ramada – Conference Center, 4079 W. US Highway 10, Ludington, MI 49431 231-845-7311

February 23 – Gaylord
Marsh Ridge Resort, 4815 Old US 27 S., Gaylord, MI 49735 989-732-5552

February 24 – Munising
Holiday Inn Express, E8998 Highway M-28, Munising, MI 49862 906-387-4800

February 26 – Allen Park
Best Western Greenfield Inn, 3000 Enterprise Drive, Allen Park, MI 48101 313-271-1600

February 27 – Frankenmuth
Bavarian Inn, 713 S. Main Street, Frankenmuth, MI 48734 1-888-775-6343

March 3 – Lansing
Michigan Library and Historical Center – Forum, 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, MI 48915

See Michgan DNR / Grants
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EPA Predicts Even More Species Invasions

monkey goby
monkey goby (photo from
based on the US EPA National Center for Environmental Assessment report Predicting Future Introductions of Nonindigenous Species to the Great Lakes, Jan 5, 2009

At least 185 exotic species have been identified as already present in the Great Lakes. Thirteen have done extensive harm to the environment and the economy. We've all heard of the Zebra Mussels, and are worried about Asian Carp. You might recall the Bloody Red Shrimp found in Muskegon Lake, but how about potential newcomers like the Blueback Herring, Monkey and Round Goby, and Fishhook Waterflea?

fishhook waterflea predicted invasion
from the EPA report
Ballast water from commercial shipping is the primary means by which NIS have entered the Great Lakes. Although the subject has been much debated, there is no ballast water treatment standard for transoceanic vessels. The EPA study identifies 30 potential invaders with a moderate to high risk of success, and 28 others that already have a foothold in the Great Lakes. In the 77-page report, plus appendices, the most likely invaders are described in detail, and a map of Great Lakes areas where they are likely to succeed is shown. Lakes Ontario and Erie, being shallower are at greater risk, but none of the lakes is exempt from some invasions.

In light of the recent information concerning the deepwater population of Quagga Mussels in Lake Michigan it is interesting that the report does not predict that it would spread beyond shallow zones. Invaders are often very adaptable.

"It is likely that nonindigenous species will continue to arrive in the Great Lakes. These findings support the need for detection and monitoring efforts at those ports believed to be at greatest risk," the report said.

Links to the reports can be found at Predicting Future Introductions of Nonindigenous Species to the Great Lakes
See 330 Trillion Quagga Mussels Can't Be Right
Skip the Local Sushi- A New Tapeworm in the Great Lakes
Biological Pesticide Found for Zebra Mussels
Bloody Red Shrimp Invades Great Lakes
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Karner Blue Butterfly Survey Opportunity

Karner Blue Butterfly
from Heather Keogh, District Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service, Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District

The Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District, located in western lower Michigan, is looking for volunteers to assist in monitoring the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly within the Manistee National Forest in 2009. The District is conducting various surveys between May and August in order to assess the status of Karner blue butterfly populations, develop a habitat suitability model, identify high priority areas to target management, and evaluate the effectiveness of different treatments at restoring Karner blue butterfly habitat. A more detailed description of our Karner blue butterfly monitoring program can be found in the attached outreach notices.

Last summer, volunteers contributed a total of 158 volunteer days, which allowed us to monitor over 800 acres! We need volunteers again this year to achieve our monitoring goals for 2009. There are opportunities for individuals of all skill levels to participate. Training will be provided. Interested parties can volunteer during weekdays, for a few days or for a week or more. Reimbursement for mileage and housing (on a first-come/first-serve basis) is available. Paid internships also are available. If you are interested in participating in the 2009 field season, please contact me. Also, please distribute the attached notices to anyone you think might be interested in volunteering. Thank you.

See Likely Habitat of Karner Blue to be Mapped, Oct 2005
See USFWS Recovery Plan - Karner Blue Butterfly, Oct 2003
See Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly, Sep 2001
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Sleeping Bear Cruise Could Be Offered this Summer

Sleeping Bear
Sleeping Bear Dunes- Lake Michigan (photo by Carol Spears, Wikimedia, public domain)
based on a news release of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Frankfort to Sleeping Bear cruise proposed," by Melissa Domsic, Jan 20, 2009

It’s possible that one might be able to see the mighty Sleeping Bear from the lake side this summer even if you don’t own a boat. John Madigan, part owner of the Pictured Rocks Cruises, is in talks with Frankfort City officials. Dock space needs to be secured, and a building to lease for a ticket booth.

If those details can be worked out there may be three tours a day leaving from Frankfort, each lasting about three hours. The boats would cruise past Point Betsie Lighthouse, follow the edge of Platte Bay and continue to Sleeping Bear where they would turn around and return to Frankfort. The tours would be narrated, and the price would be affordable for families.

John Mills, Frankfort city superintendent, is supportive, but says that more of the details need to be ironed out before any promises are made.

Dusty Shulz, superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, sounded excited when asked what he thought. “It’s a great visual effect of the blueness of the water compared to the dunes.”

Madigan says that he wants to offer another tourist opportunity to help Michigan’s economy. It would be a positive experience for the west Michigan area, with potential for job creation.

See Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailway
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comet Lulin Should Put on a Good Show

comet Lulin
comet Lulin (photo by Gregg Ruppel)
based on a news release of Universe Today

A new comet is swinging around the sun, it may be visible with the naked eye, certainly with binoculars or a small telescope. Comet Lulin is rather unusual with an orbit that moves in the opposite direction of the orbits of the planets. This makes it appear to move relatively quickly.

It may appear to move about 5 degrees a day across the sky. When viewed through lenses of any type it may actually appear to move against the background stars. On January 14, it was at perihelion, the closest to the sun. It will be at its closest to earth on February 24. In rural areas it should be visible with the naked eye, and will be observable low in the sky in an east-southeast direction before dawn.

Another unusual feature of Lulin is that it has both a tail and an anti-tail, which means that it will look like there is a line going all the way across the body of the comet.

See more pictures at Spaceweather
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Dandelion that Doesn’t Play ‘Possum

opossum at door
by Joan H. Young

About two weeks ago I spotted a small opossum waddling across the snow-covered yard. She (?) headed for a clump of pine trees and I was unable to find her cozy den under the thick branches. “She knows a good hiding place when she finds one,” I thought.

A week later I looked out the front and saw the little furball lumbering across our porch! This time I grabbed the camera in time. But I needn’t have hurried. She found a sheltered spot between the snowblower and a door we seldom use. There she sat, staring at the entry, with a plaintive look. Always a sucker for winsome animals, I immediately named her Dandelion.

Was the door warmer than the surrounding space? Why on earth would a wild ‘possum act this way? The answer is obvious to other suckers for animal antics. She knew that she had a friend who lives here.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. I broke off a hunk of carrot and headed out to make her acquaintance. Opossums don’t really hibernate, but their metabolism slows in the winter so that they aren’t as quick as usual, plus they are normally nocturnal. Since the only way most people ever see them is flat on the road, one could make a case for the species as a whole not being quick enough.

Dandelion opened her mouth and hissed at me, but I ran my fingers along the long, rough gray fur, and she did not flinch. She took the piece of carrot, but didn’t eat it. We chatted a bit about the weather and I left her to enjoy the day. A few hours later she was gone.

Next chapter... about four days later her tracks were all over our cement terrace. They led to a corner under a bench that was draped with a tarp that hadn’t been folded properly. Sure enough, Dandelion was hunkered down in the hidey-hole corner. This time, she stayed a few days, and nibbled some dog food that I left for her. (This is not appropriate long-term food for a ‘possum, but I thought one snack wouldn’t hurt.)

Opossums are the only North American marsupial. The first one I ever saw as a child was a mother, dead in the road of course, with all her babies clinging hopelessly to her tail. It was a sad sight, but I was enchanted by the fantastic information my dad told me about how the mother had carried those babies in a pouch on her tummy, and I even got to see that. Their tiny pink feet and tails fascinated me.

Although they are the butt of many jokes about stupidity, ‘possums are actually quite bright. They score better than dogs on some learning and discrimination tests. They are native to the southern and northeastern United States, although they were unknown this far north until about 1900.

I haven’t seen my Dandelion in the last few days, but now I’m hoping that she’ll survive long enough to smell the yellow dandelions of spring.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Great Lakes Gray Wolves Removed from Endangered Species List

gray wolf
Gray wolf Credit: Gary Kramer / USFWS
from a news release of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett announced, on January 14, the removal of the western Great Lakes population and portions of the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The success of gray wolf recovery efforts in these areas has contributed to expanding populations of wolves that no longer require the protection of the Act. However, gray wolves found within the borders of Wyoming will continue to be protected by the Act due to a lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms ensuring their protection under state law.

"Wolves have recovered in the Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains because of the hard work, cooperation and flexibility shown by States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions," said Scarlett. "We can all be proud of our various roles in saving this icon of the American wilderness."

The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to take effect 30 days after the publication of two separate rules, one for each population, in the Federal Register. The two rules address concerns raised during two separate federal court actions last summer requiring the Service to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for the two populations. The western Great Lakes population was originally removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants in March 2007, while the northern Rocky Mountain population was first delisted in February 2008.

Gray wolves were previously listed as endangered in the lower 48 states, except in Minnesota where they were listed as threatened. The Service oversees three separate recovery programs for the gray wolf; each has its own recovery plan and recovery goals based on the unique characteristics of wolf populations in each geographic area. Wolves in other parts of the 48 states, including the Southwest wolf population, remain endangered and are not affected by the actions taken today.

The area included in the DPS boundary includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The DPS includes all the areas currently occupied by wolf packs in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as nearby areas in these states in which wolf packs may become established in the future. The DPS also includes surrounding areas into which wolves may disperse but are not likely to establish packs.

Rebounding from a few hundred wolves in Minnesota in the 1970s when listed as endangered, the region's gray wolf population now numbers about 4,000 and occupies large portions of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Wolf numbers in the three states have exceeded the numerical recovery criteria established in the species' recovery plan for several years. In Minnesota, the population is estimated at 2,922. The estimated wolf population in Wisconsin is a minimum of 537, and about 520 wolves are believed to inhabit Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources have developed plans to guide wolf management actions in the future. The Service has determined that these plans establish a sufficient basis for long-term wolf management. They address issues such as protective regulations, control of problem animals, possible hunting and trapping seasons, and the long-term health of the wolf population, and will be governed by the appropriate state or tribe.

"The Service is committed to ensuring wolves thrive in the Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountains and will continue to work with the states to ensure this successful recovery is maintained," said Gould.

The Service will monitor the delisted wolf populations for a minimum of five years to ensure that they continue to sustain their recovery. At the end of the monitoring period, the Service will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending Service monitoring is appropriate.
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Black Bear Management in Lower Michigan

black bear
black bear (photo from free desktop wallpapers)
based on a news article in the Grand Rapids Press, "DNR plans to deal with growing bear population," by Howard Meyerson, Jan 17, 2009
and a news release of the Michigan DNR, "DNR Invites Public to Comment on Draft Bear Management Plan," Jan 14, 2009

The Michigan DNR is taking notice of the increasing black bear population in Lower Michigan. Over the next few weeks the DNR will be holding open houses around the state.

"These open houses are the perfect opportunity to present the draft bear management plan and have a one-on-one conversation about the plan with the public," said Adam Bump, DNR bear specialist. "The citizen-based Bear Consultation Team, DNR staff and others involved with the recommendations for this plan have worked diligently to create this draft document."

Most of the proposals have to do with hunting regulations, which is the primary means of controlling bear populations. The six primary goals of the plan are:
  1. Maintain a viable bear population within habitats suitable for the species where socially acceptable.
  2. Maintain bear abundance at levels compatible with land use, recreational opportunities, and the public's acceptance capacity for bear.
  3. Manage black bear habitat to provide for the long-term viability of the species.
  4. Use hunting as the primary tool to help achieve population goals.
  5. In addition to hunting, provide bear-related recreational opportunities which recognize the aesthetic value of bear.
  6. Promote education about bear, bear-related recreational activities, and how to minimize negative human-bear interactions.

Bump explained that Michigan has about 18,000 black bears. The population has doubled in the past decade, putting Michigan's black bears on a collision course with humans.

Bears are being involved in collisions with automobiles. A bear crossing sign was installed near Cadillac last year. They have begun moving into southern Michigan, the region south of a line from Saginaw to Muskegon, and may even be breeding there. The number of bear sighting reports coming into the DNR from the southern half of the state has quadrupled from 6 to between 20-30 calls a year. People need to learn how to live with bears.

"Education is an important tool," said Bill Krepps, of Ravenna, the president of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Krepps was a member of the state bear consultation team. "People need to get aquatinted with the fact that there are bear here and that there will be more and more in northern Michigan."

The open house in west Michigan will be Tuesday, Feb. 3, 6-8 p.m.: Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center, East M-115, Cadillac

See Warning! Bear Crossing
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bike Races Lose Sponsorship

cyclist in Grand Classic race
Grand Classic 2007 (photo by trekguy)
compiled from several sources

The Grand Rapids Classic, Ann Arbor Classic, and Tour de Leelanau bicycle races have lost their primary sponsor, Priority Health. At least the Grand Rapids Classic will be canceled.

Last September's Grand Rapids event had 400 participants and 6000 spectators. The course wound through downtown Grand Rapids and was timed to coincide with the Celebration on the Grand. Both pro and amateur riders competed for $30,000 in prize money.

It is unclear whether the Ann Arbor and northern Michigan events will be canceled.

Priority Health Vice President of Communications, Rob Pocock said, "As we looked at our mission of providing access to affordable and excellent health care, we just realized this year would not be a year to continue our commitment to those three races. And the real issue is that it's not just the out of pocket expense. But we had a huge investment in terms of staff time."

A Kentwood bike shop owner commented that the event brought riders from all over the country, and will be sorely missed.

See Grand Rapids Press
See WZZM 13
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Everybody’s Gulls, Everybody’s Problem

everybody's gulls everybody's problem
from a news article in the Racine, Wisconsin Journal Times, "Everybody’s gulls, everybody’s problem," by David Steinkraus, Jan 14, 2009

Geese and gulls, they are hard to escape. No one likes walking where the geese have taken over a lawn or beach, but now there is proof that the gulls might actually be more unsanitary.

Studies in Wisconsin have shown that bacteria counts which can close beaches are linked to gulls. After DNA analysis, and a lot of further study the conclusion is that gulls not only carry germs that are specific to themselves, but also germs that can cause disease in humans.

The December issue of the Canadian Journal of Microbiology reports that from 2004-2006, there were 724 samples of gull feces collected from Racine, and 226 samples from Milwaukee. They examined the samples and found the bacteria which cause salmonella, campylobacter and pleisiomonas. All of these cause fever, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Cryptosporidium and giardia were not found.

The Health Department has reported no increase in intestinal diseases where the samples were collected, but there is no question that the gull feces increases the bacteria count in shallow waters. When water quality is tested under the US EPA standards the tests do not discriminate between bacteria which can infect humans and those which can only infect birds. This standard, set in 1986 is set to be replaced by a new rule in 2012. The distinction between different bacteria is being considered for the new standard.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a different number of organisms which must be ingested by a human for different diseases to cause an infection. Salmonella can be contracted with a dose of as few as 15-20 bacteria. For Pleisiomonas over a million organisms must be ingested to create a problem.

Ring-billed gulls are the most common on the Great Lakes. Single birds can range for hundreds of miles. Gulls from Chicago were found 130 miles north in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in southern Illinois, and even in New York state. Great Lakes Gulls do tend to be a regional population, but their movement within that region shows that no one can say that a problem with gull-carried bacteria in one county will remain in that county.

Cook County (Chicago) estimates that they have 35,000 gull nests, and believes that the estimate is low. Just to the north, Lake County was plagued with beach closings, with 5000 gulls that “hang out on the beach,” said a biologist for the Health Department. When the gulls were convinced to move elsewhere the closings decreased.

Reducing the number of open trash containers, and encouraging people to not feed the gulls have helped. Another technique is to change the way the beach is groomed so that the sun can reach more interstices between sand grains to kill bacteria. One beach hired a dog handler to bring in a border collie to harass the birds. The dogs patrols made the greatest difference, reducing closings by 91% in one case.

One official said that without some kind of regional initiative the problem will not be brought under control.

Check the E. coli count at any monitored beach at the DEQ web site
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Why try Telemarking

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 Josh Baker

We stood atop Smooth Sailing, an excellent Blue run at Nub's Nob in Harbor Springs, my student and I, our tele tips poised on the edge. An excellent alpine skier and snowboarder is he, yet we were waiting, seeking out the best looking line. We hemmed, we hawed, we talked about weighting the skis and staying low in the tele turn all the way through; then, after much fidgeting, we plunged.

Telemarking is about two things, in my simple mind...

finish the story at, used with permission

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

330 Trillion Quagga Mussels Can't be Right

quagga mussel
quagga mussel (photo Wikimedia public domain from USGS)
based on a news article in the Muskegon Chronicle, "Foreign mollusks could sink fishing in Big Lake," by Jeff Alexander, Jan 12, 2009

At the NOAA Lake Michigan Field Station in Muskegon, senior ecologist Gary Fahnenstiel reports that an estimated 330 trillion quagga mussels are sucking the life out of the aquatic system.

Quagga mussels are larger and actually more disruptive than the zebra mussels, also an invader of the great lakes. Quaggas are filter feeders and their presence has been linked to everything from algae blooms to the botulism outbreaks that have killed 70,000 birds, and countless fish in the past decade.

Both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are falling prey to the mussels, who hitchhiked into the Great Lakes in the 1980's on ocean freighters. The quaggas eat vast quantities of plankton and other small organisms at the base of the food chain. A penny-sized mussel can filter up to a liter of water a day.

Instead of the normal flow of food energy, now many critical nutrients are being tied up in quagga shells or just sunk in the lake bottom. A looming biological crises is being suggested. Small shrimp like creatures critical to feeding native fish have decreased by 96% since 1995. The total weight of all the small fish in the lake on which whitefish, salmon, and trout feed, has dropped 94% since 1989, leading to smaller sizes of the fish near the top of the food chain.

There are, by volume and weight, four times more quagga in Lake Michigan than all of the prey fish species together. NOAA's sampling showed the quagga mussel population has leveled off in waters less than 100 feet deep but continues to multiply in deeper waters. At a monitoring site offshore of Muskegon, in water 300 feet deep, quagga mussel densities reached 3,500 mollusks per square meter last year.

Not everyone agrees that the quagga are disastrous for the lake ecosystem. Yet the circumstantial evidence for changes seems to continue to mount.

See related articles Biological Pesticide Found for Zebra Mussels
A Sad Farewell for Loon C-3
Type E Botulism Confirmed in Waterfowl Deaths
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saugatuck May Purchase South Denison Dunes

Denison Dunes
Denison Dunes(Photo by kmh1967. The author or licensor of this image does not endorse me or my work and their image is protected under an attribution license)
from a news release of the Grand Rapids Press, "Saugatuck agrees to apply for state grant to help buy southern portion of Denison duneland," by Dave Muller, Jan 12, 2009 and other sources

Following a public meeting on January 12, the city of Saugatuck has agreed to attempt to raise $25 million to purchase 160 acres of the property commonly known as the Denison Dunes.

Billionaire Aubrey McClendon agreed in July 2008 to sell the southern portion of the parcel to the city. Previous negotiations had either ended unproductively or with McClendon offering to lease the land to the city.

Now, the city plans to apply for $15 million from the Natural Resources Trust Fund. The approval for that plus an additional $10 million need to be acquired before March 2, when the offer expires. The Nature Conservancy and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan are helping with the negotiations.

The parcel of land in question includes the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, and is considered one of the last great undeveloped treasures in west Michigan.

also see Billionaire may be willing to part with 160 acres of ex-Denison dune land, Grand Rapids Press, Jul 31, 2008
Deal Would Let Saugatuck Lease Part of Dunes Land
Sides Step Back from Denison Dunes Confrontation
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White Pine Stampede - Feb 7

alt text
(photo from White Pine Stampede)
a news release of White Pine Stampede

Two warm spells and a little rain have compacted our enormous snowfall into a solid base, and more snow is falling today! The new groomer has arrived. NEW, PLEASE NOTE: The Friday night registration and bag pick-up has been moved to the main lodge at Shanty Creek's Summit Village (Mancelona, MI), from 3:00pm to 9:00pm. We are sorry to leave the quaintness of Jack's office, but pleased to center more of our activities at Shanty Creek. Saturday morning registration opens at 7:30 am, Mancelona High School.

ALSO NEW: This year we invite our skiers to join the volunteers in our evening Volunteer Party in the Parlour Rooms at the Summit Center, Shanty Creek. $20.00 for soup, salad and subs, from 5:00 to 7:00pm. Entertainment music and dancing 7:-11:00pm. 25 cent beers, dollar a pitcher. RSVP by Friday evening February 6th while registering or by phone to the race office, 231-587-8812. Limited numbers accepted Saturday. Register now, see you in a month.

Read a letter from race director Jack McKaig
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Holland Bird Count Down, But Some Surprises

from a news article in the Grand Rapids Press, "Annual Holland-area Christmas Bird Count brings a few surprises," by Aaron Og, Jan 3, 2009

"I want to see it -- not just hear it," said Stephen Bosch, whose passion for birding spans more than 30 years. "Sight is definitely confirmation." Bosch was one of 23 birders participating in the Holland-area Christmas Bird Count, coordinated by DeGraaf Nature Center.

First-time counter Ben Venner, 9, of South Haven, caught a glimpse of a Snowy Owl next to a fence. Young people have been participating in greater numbers in recent years.

An estimated 50 species were spotted in the 88 square mile area covered by the Holland Bird Count. This included bald eagles, trumpeter swans (with black bills), and a white-winged crossbill. The crossbill is rare in West Michigan.

Species sightings were down from 77 last year, but a cold breeze kept many feathered creatures huddled out of sight.

The Holland bird count is part of the national effort by the National Audubon Society which compiles that data from enthusiasts across the country. Audubon's Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in the world.

See National Audubon Society
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Sledding Accident Raises Personal Safety Questions

sledders on car hood
sledders using a car hood - not the ones involved in the accident (photo by Universal Stopping Point)
commentary by Joan H. Young

Five people were injured on Sunday sledding downhill using a car hood. A favorite childhood activity, sledding has inherent risks. And as children grow they often like to increase the risk, just for the thrill.

Yet, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that there were 74,000 sledding, snow tubing and tobogganing-related injuries in 2004. These are just the ones serious enough to be treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics. Head injuries are common and serious. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates the yearly cost of these injuries at $1.89 million.

The Sunday incident occurred at Frederick, near Gaylord (Michigan), at the former Mount Frederick ski resort. The hill is now used by many sledders. The five people riding the car hood down the slope were thrown from the hood at the bottom of the hill. The one adult was injured seriously and was airlifted to Saginaw with back injuries. The four teenagers were treated at Grayling Mercy Hospital and released.

Television programs such as America's Funniest Videos glorify tremendously dangerous stunts. The program claims that it will not air footage where people are actually injured, but it seems like sheer luck in many cases that a serious injury did not occur. This encourages people to try highly risky behaviors.

When I was a kid the village sledding hill ended at a creek, which we diligently tried to jump with our sleds. I can't tell you how many times I thwacked my sled and my body into the far bank of that creek and ended sprawled on the ice. Ditto a couple dozen other youngsters. It all seemed worth it for the few times that I actually made it to the other side. But this is a seriously dangerous configuration for a sledding slope. The incident at Frederick yesterday was partly due to the sled hitting a ditch at the bottom of the hill.

Doctors would love to see some basic safety rules followed.
  • Number one, #1, top of the list: wear a helmet. You only have one head
  • Sled only on hills free of obstructions
  • Supervise children
  • Use sleds which can be steered
  • Never sled face first
  • Do not use thin materials such as plastic or cardboard as sleds, as they can be pierced
  • Do not sled at night

Of course, we all look at that list and who among us hasn't broken several, if not all of those "rules." For anyone who enjoys outdoor thrills the risks must always be weighed against the rewards. Five people this weekend are probably wishing they had taken more precautions.

Based on Five hurt in Crawford County Sledding Accident
University of Michigan Health Systems
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mosquito Love Song in Two Part Harmony

mosquitoes in Petri dish
Graduate student and co-first author Lauren Cator records mosquito sound to study how mosquitoes that carry yellow and dengue fevers use sound in mating
from a news release of Cornell University, "Mosquitoes create harmonic love song before mating, a Cornell study finds," by Susan Lang, Jan 8, 2009

That pesky buzz of a nearby mosquito is the sound of love, scientists have known for some time. But a new Cornell study reports that males and females flap their wings and change their tune to create a harmonic duet just before mating.

Cornell entomologists have discovered that male and female mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti), which can spread such diseases as yellow and dengue fevers, "interact acoustically with each other when the two are within earshot -- a few centimeters of each other," said Ron Hoy, professor of neurobiology and behavior.

The study is available online today (Jan. 8) and will be published in a February issue of Science, said Cornell associate professor of entomology and mosquito expert Laura Harrington, a co-senior author on the study with Hoy.

"The frequency at which males and females converge is a harmonic or multiple of their wing-beat frequencies, which is approximately 400 hertz [vibrations per second] for the female and 600 hertz for the male," said Hoy.

The mating duet, generated just before the couple mates on the fly, settles at around 1,200 hertz -- roughly an octave and a half above concert A (the pitch to which instruments are tuned -- the A that has a frequency of 440 hertz and is above middle C). "That is significantly higher than what was previously thought to be mosquitoes' upper hearing limit," he added.

Interestingly, the mosquitoes adjust the harmonic resonance of their thoracic box to produce a harmonic frequency that converges at a frequency that is the female's third harmonic (three times her fundamental frequency) and the male's second harmonic (two times his fundamental frequency). The study also is the first to definitively show that contrary to previous thought, female mosquitoes are not deaf.

To study mosquito mating calls, the researchers tethered mosquitoes and flew them past each other while recording the flight tones with a special microphone. Co-first author Benjamin Arthur, a postdoctoral researcher in Hoy's laboratory, placed electrodes in the mosquitoes' auditory organ in their antennae during playback to measure physiological responses of the mosquitoes to the sounds of potential mates.

The researchers hope that their work will provide new ways to better control of mosquito populations in places where yellow and dengue fevers are significant problems.

Click the picture to see and hear the video
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GTRLC Winter Preservation Celebrations - Feb 7

Winter Preservation ad
a news release of Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy will host its Winter Preservation Celebration on February 7, 2009. The event offers free activities to encourage people to enjoy some of the Conservancy’s 30,000+ acres of protected land with guided snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, interpretive hikes, special events for children, and much more.

Events will occur between 9:00am and noon at Hickory Meadows in Grand Traverse County, Pyatt Nature Preserve on Old Mission Peninsula, Elberta Dunes in Benzie County, Seven Bridges Natural Area in Kalkaska County, Maple Bay Natural Area near Elk Rapids, and Cosner Nature Preserve in Antrim County.

Following the events, participants are invited to attend a reception at CafĂ© Habana in Traverse City’s Old Town from 12:30-2:30 to enjoy live music performed by Angelo Meli, hot cocoa, and light appetizers.

All of the day’s activities are free and open to the public, but the Conservancy asks that those interested in attending please register on their website, The site also provides further information about the Winter Preservation Celebration, including details of the activities at each preserve and directions.

The Winter Preservation Celebration provides an opportunity for friends and supporters of the Regional Land Conservancy and others who value the natural, scenic and farm lands of our area to gather with Conservancy staff to celebrate the ongoing successes of preserving land forever. The Conservancy serves Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Manistee counties and has protected 77 miles of shoreline and over 31,000 acres of land.

The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s mission is to protect significant natural, scenic, and farm lands – now and for all future generations. The Conservancy works in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Manistee counties and has protected 77 miles of lake, river, and stream shoreline and over 31,000 acres of land. The Conservancy also owns and maintains nature preserves that are open to the public. For more information, please visit Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Volunteer Hosts Needed at Michigan State Parks and State Forest Campgrounds

a news release of Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources is offering free camping this summer for outdoor lovers who volunteer as campground hosts at Michigan state parks or state forest campgrounds. The Campground Host Program, established by the Department of Natural Resources, allows individuals to camp in a state park or state forest campground at no charge in return for providing visitor assistance in the campground.

"Being a campground host combines the fun of camping, with the satisfaction of helping fellow campers," said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. "Hosts stay as our guests and, in return, help welcome other campers to our beautiful state parks, recreation areas and state forest campgrounds."

Hosts direct visitors to their campsites, answer questions about the park or state forest, arrange campground activities and perform light maintenance and other services, depending on the host's talents and interests. Retired couples, teachers and students, as well as families, are just some of the people who have enjoyed volunteering as campground hosts.

Campground hosts can be individuals or teams. Hosts must be at least 18 years old, provide services five days/30 hours per week (including weekends and holidays), serve a minimum of four consecutive weeks and furnish their own camping unit, equipment and personal items. State park hosts must attend a training session on May 6-7 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon. This training is not required of state forest campground hosts.

Campground hosts are chosen by park and forest managers who may require an interview or request additional information. Selection is based on the individual's familiarity with the state park or state forest system, their camping experience, special skills, availability, knowledge of the area and the needs of the specific park or forest campground.

Hosts especially are needed during the busy camping season, which can begin as early as April in state parks located in southern Michigan. Many of last year's campground hosts will be returning this year; however, vacancies still exist at park and forest campground locations throughout Michigan.

Many rustic campgrounds found throughout Michigan's six state forests located in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula are also in need of hosts

See information and applications
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Winter: How to Thrive not Just Survive

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 Jeff Smith

It’s not uncommon for someone to say to me something to the effect of, “Dude, how do you get through winter up here?” The comment might come from people who have recently relocated here, deceived into thinking it’s Fourth of July weekend 52 weeks a year. Or it might come from people who have lived here for years.

I understand the question, but I also understand the solution, and lucky for you, I’m going to share it in a metaphor. This is a metaphor that I made up myself and whenever I begin to say it at home, my family pretty much in unison tells me to shut up. But I like it, so here goes.

Winter is like a powerful river. When you are in it, if you try to fight the current...

finish the story at, used with permission

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Indiana Girl Dies in Ski Accident at Treetops

Amanda Vignere
Amanda Vignere (courtesy photo)
from a news release of 9 & 10 News

Sixteen-year-old Amanda Vignere died in a ski accident Thursday at Treetops Resort, Gaylord, Michigan. She was skiing with friends from a church youth group of Cedar Lake, Indiana.

Police say that the novice skier was attempting an advanced-level slope. She lost control and struck her head on a tree as she slid into a wooden barrier. Amanda was not wearing a helmet. Michigan does not require their use.

Helmets can help in situations like this, but they are not a guarantee of safety. Skiing is an inherently dangerous sport, and it is the responsibility of the skier to make good decisions which will minimize risk.

The Michigan State Police were called to the scene. Vegnere was transported to the hospital where she died. An autopsy was performed Friday.

Treetops General Manager Mike Fernandez said, "Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to the family of this young lady involved last night."

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