Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missauke Nature Festival- May 2

Missauke Conservation District logo
from the Missauke Conservation District

An open house is planned for May 2 at the Missauke County recycling center in Lake City. Everyone is welcome to visit and check out the new feature. The building is complete.

A Nature Festival will take place right next door to the recycling center at the Missaukee County Offices. Many activities are planned on or near the Nature Trail at 6180 W Sanborn Road, Lake City, on Saturday, from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm.

Band Blasting Workouts
     Fun, low impact exercises that you can do at home, all you need is a resistance band.

Build Your Own Terrarium
     Build your very own terrarium to take home with you.

Build a Bagel Birdfeeder
     Take home a tasty morsel for your feathered friends to enjoy.

Alphabet Hike
     Walk the trail and find letters of the alphabet grown in nature.

Scavenger Hunt
     The purpose of this activity is to teach participants to be observant and respectful of nature.

Girl Scout Cookies
     If you missed your chance to purchase girl scout cookies, Girl Scouts will be selling their wares.

     Always a favorite. Hotdogs and a drink will be served on the trail.

Recycling Displays
     View practical ideas to reuse or recycle everyday items.

Missaukee District Library
     A display of “reusable” books, magazines and movies available. Visit your local library for nature, recycling and earth information. Need a library card? Come and fill out an application.

Seedlings for Sale
     Missed the seedling sale? No problem, come browse our seedling offering; products remaining from tree sale taking place April 24-25 will be available.

See Missauke Nature Festival
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Frogwatch USA

Frogwatch USA logo
from the Frogwatch USA web site

FrogWatch USA is a Citizen Science Monitoring Program that gives YOU the opportunity to help scientists conserve amphibians! Being a FrogWatch volunteer gives you the opportunity to gather information that will help increase awareness of nationwide amphibian declines that can ultimately lead to practical and workable ways to help conserve these important species – all while helping you learn more about the wetlands in your community and the calls of frogs and toads in your community!

FrogWatch USA has been managed by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) since 1998, however the management of this long-term amphibian study is currently in a year-long process of transitioning to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

At the web site you can find such resources as:
  • Learn the eight easy steps of how to observe and report on frogs
  • Eight things you can do to help amphibians
  • Learn how to choose the best site for frogwatching
  • Learn how to help frogs and toads to overwinter
  • FrogWatch reports from previous years
  • and more....

See Frogwatch USA
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reed City Community Trail Mixer

Community Trail Mixer logo
a news release of Spectrum Health

Looking for a healthy activity for you and your family? Join us on the Pere Marquette Trail for the second annual Community Trail Mixer on Sunday, May 3, 2009.

The Trail Mixer is a community outreach activity sponsored by Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital that partners with the communities of Evart, Reed City and Hersey for this family-friendly event on the Pere Marquette Trail. Last year, over 400 people walked, ran or bicycled their way from various entry points along the trail between Evart and Reed City meeting in the "middle" at Hersey's Blodgett Landing for an afternoon of food, music and fellowship.

In addition, the event is designed to help fill the shelves of local food pantries by encouraging all participants to bring donations of non-perishable food items. Bring non-perishable food items to one of six marked entries along the Pere Marquette Trail between Evart and Reed City.

2 p.m. to 3 p.m. – Trail open and food donations accepted
3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Blodgett Landing activities and food donations accepted

See Community Trail Mixer Brochure and map
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Monday, April 27, 2009

NOAA Brings Great Lakes to Google Earth

Google Earth snapshot Great Lakes
Screen shot from NOAA's Google Earth tour
a news release of NOAA

NOAA is helping Americans peer beneath the surfaces of the five Great Lakes by providing Google Earth with data that now includes detailed three-dimensional mapping of Lakes Huron, Ontario, Erie, Superior and Michigan.

"NOAA’s data opens up the fascinating world underneath the planet’s largest fresh water system," said Richard W. Spinrad, NOAA assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research and a member of Google's Ocean Advisory Council. "As an oceanographer, I find this an exciting use of scientific data to serve society."

Visitors to the new Great Lakes feature can explore the canyons and sandbars in eastern Lake Superior, the Lake Michigan mid-lake reef complex, and the old river channel – now underwater – that once connected Lakes Michigan and Huron at the Straits of Mackinac.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) in Ann Arbor, Mich., teamed up with the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder, Colo., to roduce the Google Earth tour to highlight some of the interesting coastal and subsurface features

"We were pleased to work with our partners to create this exciting first tour,” said Marie Colton, GLERL acting director. “I expect that others will see the potential of this tool and create their own Great Lakes tours and expand the possibilities."

The original Great Lakes bathymetric data were compiled by a NOAA NGDC-GLERL and Canadian Hydrographic Service team from archival U.S. and Canadian soundings spanning more than 75 years. David Schwab, a physical oceanographer at GLERL, generated a map of lake depths from the joint project and provided it to Google to form the basis for the Great Lakes topography.

The Great Lakes are the largest system of fresh surface water on Earth, containing roughly 18 percent of the world supply. The lakes contain enough water to cover the entire surface of the continental United States to a depth of nine feet. The Great Lakes span more than 750 miles from west to east and their shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the globe. Michigan's Great Lakes coastline alone is over 3,200 miles long, which is more coastline than any state but Alaska.

To highlight some of the interesting coastal and subsurface features of the Great Lakes, the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory has assembled a narrated Google Earth tour.

See the narrated Google Earth tour
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State Parks to Get No Money from 2009 General Fund

tent camping at a park
tent camping (photo from
based on a news article at, "Michigan lawmakers weigh options for funding state park system after years of cuts," by Peter Luke, April 26, 2009

Michigan State Parks will not receive any money at all in the 2009 general fund budget. Yet, the parks host 22 million visitors each year and generate $600 million in economic activity. It's hard to see how this level of use will be able to continue without funding. The parks also report a current backlog of maintenance to the tune of $341 million.

Department of Natural Resources director, Rebecca Humphries, told a Senate committee that without more money, some parks will have to close next year.

This brings lawmakers to the continuing debate on how to fund the parks. A proposed plan would switch from a window sticker to an optional license plate surcharge is at the center of the debate.

Comments on the article range from complete disgust that the state won't maintain infrastructure for its huge tourism industry, to disbelief that the entrance fees are insufficient to support the parks.

See State Park Funding Proposal Would Require No Special Sticker
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pheromones May Aid in Controlling Sea Lamprey

sea lamprey mouth
sea lamprey mouth (photo by JHY)
based on a news article in the County Press, "Pheromones in river traps attract sea lampreys," by Jack Johnson, April 22, 2009

At Michigan State University field tests have begun to trick sea lampreys to enter traps. The sea lamprey is one of the most devastating parasitic fish to have entered the Great Lakes. They were first found here in the 1920s, entering through locks that bypassed Niagara Falls.

But a study by Weiming Li, an MSU fisheries and wildlife professor, revealed that male lampreys release a pheromone that attracts females. They analyzed the structure and were able to imitate the chemical. Now they are using it to manipulate the lampreys bahavior.

sea lamprey
a lamprey attempts to attach to a handler at the AFFEW Earth Day event on April 18 (photo by JHY)

Initial tests on the Ocqueoc River between Rogers City and Cheboygan show that traps with the pheromones are twice as effective as those without it.

The lampreys eat away at Lake Trout, eventually killing the larger fish. Over a lifetime one lamprey can eat about 40 pounds of fish, and in the 1950s there were 3 million lamprey in the Great Lakes. However, the discovery of TFM, a lampricide has reduced the population to about 450,000. It is used by treating the streams where lamprey larvae grow. TFM has little effect on the rest of the ecosystem, and it’s discovery was a joint US/Canadian effort that tested over 6000 chemicals. Currently the US spends about $10 million a year on lamprey control, and Canada, $8 million.

But there are still too many lamprey. This summer, ten Michigan streams will be fitted with the pheromone-laced traps, four tributaries of Lake Superior, four of Lake Michigan and two of Lake Huron.

Lake Michigan rivers will be the Manistee, Little Manistee, and Betsie rivers and the Carp Lake Outlet. The rivers leading to Lake Superior will be the Misery, Rock, Miners and Betsy rivers. On the Huron side, the East Branch of the Au Gres and the St. Marys rivers will have traps.

Canada will test the traps in 2010 but after the first summer researchers expect to have a good idea of how effective the pheromone traps are. “They're a resilient beast and they know how to survive. They're older than the dinosaurs, and they haven't changed much since then," commented Marc Gaden, of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

See Great Lakes Fisheries Commission
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AuSable Outdoor Recreation Expo this Weekend

ausable expo picture
from AuSable Outdoor Recreation Expo

The AuSable Outdoor Recreation Expo already got underway Friday evening with a "Trout Opener," but there are plenty of activities left for the weekend. The events are being held in Grayling, centered at the conference rooms at Ramada Inn.

Saturday April 25th: Expo hours 9 am – 6 pm

Mike Ridley, a folk/country singer from Indian River, Michigan

10:15 am – 10:45 am: An Introduction to GeoCaching - how you can use your GPS unit to enjoy this outdoor treasure hunting activity.

11:00 am – 11:30 am: An Introduction to Adventure Racing - learn about this non-stop, multi-hour, multi-sport, team or solo event.

11:30 am -12:15 pm Wild Game/Fish Preparation Demonstration Courtesy of Grayling Country Club

12:30 am – 1:15 pm The Historic Lumber Legacy of the AuSable River - a historical perspective on the area

1:15 pm – 2:00 pm Wild Game/Fish Preparation Demonstration Courtesy of Grayling Country Club

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Nature Photography: Images of Northern Michigan by Photographer Thomas Haxby - The session will also include a “how to improve your photography” presentation.

3:15 pm – 3:30 pm Evening Music Concert Preview of modern folk singers Breathe Owl Breathe and opening band SYZYGY

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Black Bear - Can they live in our world? Can we live in theirs? -

4:30 – 5:30 pm: Presentation by John Dietsch, author of “Shadowcasting” and fly fishing consultant on the movie “A River Runs Through It”.

6:30 – 8:30 pm: Music concert by Breathe Owl Breathe with pre-show performance by Syzygy

Sunday April 26th: Expo Hours 10 am – 4 pm

10:30 am – 11:00 am: Invasive Species Impacts on Northeastern Michigan Resources

11:00 am – 11:30 am: Aquatic Entomology for Fishermen - learn how insects are related to water quality and the success of fly fishing

11:30 – 12:30 p.m. GeoCache Event Finale Lunch

11:30 am – 12:30 pm Presentation by John Dietsch, author of “Shadowcasting” and fly fishing consultant on the movie “A River Runs Through It”.

12:30 – 2:00 pm Lunch with the Legends - Join us for lunch and a fireside chat with some of the legendary residents and fishermen from along the AuSable River.

2:15 pm – 3:00 pm Bird Watching in Crawford County -

3:00 pm – 3:45 pm Landscaping and Managing Your Property for Wildlife - an introduction on how to make your private property more wildlife friendly.

Throughout the Expo: Children’s Activity Table

See AuSable Outdoor Recreation Expo
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

State Parks and Forest Campgrounds Seeking Hosts for Summer 2009

a news release of Michigan DNR

Michigan state parks, recreation areas and forest management campgrounds are seeking volunteer campground hosts for this spring, summer and fall seasons. A host can sign up for a minimum of four weeks or more of free camping in one of Michigan's beautiful natural and/or historic areas.

"The schedules of our volunteer hosts allow ample time to enjoy recreational activities with friends and family members while providing volunteer services within a Michigan state park or state forest campground," said Ron Olson, chief of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division. "Hosts have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and perhaps develop new friendships. Campground hosts can be individuals or teams such as a wife and husband; must be 18 years of age or older and have their own camping gear."

Campground hosts provide services five days each week, including weekends and holidays, totaling approximately 30 hours per occupant.

Our volunteer campground hosts assist in some of the following:
  • Weekly Host Camper Coffee Hour (supplies provided)
  • Provide or assist with a weekly activity
  • Loan equipment such as rakes, shovels (provided by the park)
  • Construct and/or maintain an information bulletin board
  • Create and/or update local attractions directory
  • Attend Host Training (State Park Hosts only)

Volunteer campground hosts are selected by state park and state forest managers. Managers may require an interview or request additional information on prospective volunteers. Selection is based on familiarity with the Michigan campground system, camping experience, special skills, availability, knowledge of the surrounding area and needs of the park. The current schedule of campground host openings can be found on

Please contact the individual state park, recreation area, or forest management unit to learn more about the specifics of an individual location or call Jill Yehl at (517) 241-6655 if you have a question about becoming a state park or recreation area host; or Ada Takacs at (989) 275-5151, ext. 2049, if you are interested in the opportunity to host at a Michigan state forest campground.

See Michigan State Parks
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cache In Trash Out

Cache In Trash Out Logo
information from

Cache In Trash Out is an ongoing environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Since 2002, geocachers have been dedicated to cleaning up parks and other cache-friendly places around the world. Through these volunteer efforts, we help preserve the natural beauty of our outdoor resources!

Annually, we celebrate International Cache In Trash Out events where geocachers have an opportunity to participate in coordinated worldwide clean-up efforts. Geocachers host clean-up events in their local area on the same day or weekend as other geocachers around the world. Together, we make an enormous positive impact. Did we mention that we also have a bit of fun while we are at it?

The 7th Annual Cache In Trash Out Events are on various dates in April and May, 2009. In Michigan, on April 25 a Flash CITO event will be held west of Jenison. May 2, at Duck Lake State Park near White Lake, clean-up activities will occur from 9:00am on Saturday through noon. A hotdog and hamburg lunch will be provided from noon-1:00 at the parks pavillion. And May 9, three Ann Arbor parks will be cleaned by geocachers.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Okemos Scout Troop Takes Early Spring Hike at Nordhouse

trees blown down in Nordhouse Dunes
blown down trees at Nordhouse Dunes (photo from Troop 125)
submitted by Mike Fila, Assistant Scoutmaster

Troop 125, from Okemos Michigan, took their first trip to the Nordhouse Dunes. They have already decided that it won't be their last.

It was also the first hike of the season for the Scouts. They headed north to the Dunes Friday afternoon, and although they made good time they still had to set up in the dark. Since they had a bunch of new Scouts they decided to stay in the Lake Michigan Recreation Area campground and have a nice day hike the next morning. It was clear and chilly but a wonderful night for star gazing.

After a quick breakfast the group headed out. They planned to hike the coast, cut across to Nordhouse Lake, have some lunch and loop back. All went well until they came across a large blow down area. It was a huge tangle of downed trees that was impassable. They could see it from the ridge trail but they were hoping that the trail back would be farther inland. They tried a few different routes to no avail.

The group turned around and re-traced their original route. It was a perfect day for hiking and all had a great time. When it started raining at around 5:00 A.M. they decided to head home.

The boys really enjoyed it. The troop has about 30 boys who love to backpack and canoe. Recent trips include the Boundary Waters, Isle Royale and Algonquin. This summer they plant to head to Pictured Rocks to walk from Munising to Grand Marias. Polar Bears in Manistee for another Scout outing

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Stuck at the Computer? - Take a Virtual Peaceful Walk

Lake Michigan beach
peaceful Lake Michigan Beach Walk (photo by Randall Thorne)
a news release of Peaceful Walks

If you could use a relaxing break from your daily routine, but don’t have the time or money for a vacation, a new website may have the answer.

Peaceful Walks provides just what its name implies, an escape into a stress-reducing world of pristine nature scenery and sounds. Randall Thorne, website creator and nature videographer, says he developed the new website with the goal of making the beauty and peace of our natural world accessible to anyone, at anytime, and in a way that fits into today’s busy schedules.

"Studies have shown, and most of us know from personal experience, that a peaceful walk in a natural setting is a very effective stress-reducer," Thorne said. "The problem is, not many of us can just drop what we’re doing and go for a hike in the great outdoors whenever we feel the need to unwind."

This is precisely the problem the Peaceful Walks website aims to resolve. With its library of dozens of streaming video mini-programs, you are just a mouse-click away from some of the most beautiful and relaxing nature scenery and sounds in North America. Sparkling mountain streams, flower-filled prairies and imposing desert canyons are but a few of the locations you can choose to visit. Thorne noted that all the video was personally filmed by him for exclusive use on the website.

Thorne has recently added a walk on a Lake Michigan beach to the repertoire, making Peaceful Walks even more appropriate for this web site. One can also visit mountains and other famous landscapes in the Walks.

A special feature of the website gives you the ability to personalize your experience. Several programs may be sequenced together to form walks of varying lengths.

If climbing mountains doesn’t fit into your schedule, a visit to the Peaceful Walks website may just be the next best thing.

See Peaceful Walks
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

County ORV Ordinances

compiled from several sources

Michigan Counties are being given the option to adopt ORV ordinances before July 17, 2009. If a county-wide ordinance is not established by that date, each township may create their own ordinance. Enforcing separate township rules would be a headache for law-enforcement agencies.

At the forefront of the controversy is that the ordinances can make it legal for ORV's to be operated on the shoulder or extreme right-hand edge of roads, at speeds up to 25 mph. This would not include Interstate Highways or Forest Service roads within the National Forest.

Some believe that allowing such use would bring more business to counties, while opponents have a list of concerns. One is that ORVs are not licensed, and there is no way reliable to identify lawbreakers. Increased ORVs would make road shoulders less safe for pedestrians and bicyclist. The increased noise and intrusion into forests is undesirable.

Some West Michigan Counties have already made decisions. On April 17, by a five to four vote, the Wexford County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that allows the use of ORV's on all their roads.

Mason County will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 22 to receive public information on the issue. The meeting will be at 7 pm at the Mason County Central High School, Scottville

See ORV ordinance issue tabled, from the Ludington Daily News, April 15, 2009
See Michigan Public Act 240 of 2008
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Holland Outdoor Discovery Center Lures Kids Outside

kids playing in water at Holland Discovery Center
kids touch the water at the Holland Discover Center (photo from WZZM TV 13)
based on a a news article at WZZM TV 13, "Weekend Adventure: Outdoor Discovery Center," April 17, 2009

"The Outdoor Discovery Center's basic goal is to get people outdoors and teach them about the natural beauty of Michigan," said Jamie Krupka, program director for Holland's Outdoor Discovery Center. Kids are spending less and less time outdoors and more time with video games and computers.

A class of five-year-olds from Zeeland Quincy Elementary School was about to embark on a day of discovery. Jamie wants the kids to leave understanding a little bit more about the natural world. "You can't appreciate something you don't know," she explained. And if you don't appreciate it, you won't respect or preserve it.

At the Discovery Center there are lots of things for kids to see and touch. It's very hands on. Whether feeling a snake skin or meeting a live Rocky Mountain Elk, the class will not be substituting virtual experiences for real ones.

The 120-acre nature preserve is home to many species of birds, and also cares for 14 large birds which were injured and healed, but cannot return to the wild. These include hawks, owls, eagles, and turkey vultures.

Kids are obviously fascinated, and adults aren't far behind. The Center is open every day of the year, during daylight hours. There is a video at the news link.

See Holland Outdoor Discovery Center
See Weekend Adventure: Outdoor Discovery Center
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Galien River Park, Water Trail Will Be Big Change

pony truss bridge, Galien River, MI
the last remaining Pony Truss Bridge spans the Galien River in Berrien County (photo from the MI DOT)
based on a news article in the South Bend Tribune, "New park a win for Galien River," April 17, 2009

"The proposed Galien River County Park in New Buffalo is the waterway's best news in perhaps a century." Over time, millions of dollars in EPA money has gone for clean up of the damage to the river, known for having the highest E. coli counts in the state of Michigan.

Now an $8 million development along the Galien River in New Buffalo Township will include a lodge, interpretative center, walking trails and observation decks. The park encompasses 86 acres.

The National Parks Service and Chikaming Open Lands are partnering to create the nearby Galien Marsh Water Trail. This phase will likely take two years to develop, but will include a canoe livery and interpretive signage. The marsh is the largest remaining in southwest Michigan, and is a sanctuary for migrating birds. It also contains a diverse collection of native plants and wildlife.

The park land was purchased with money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust, Pokagon Fund, the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust and federal stimulus funds.
Galien River Watershed, MI
map of the Galien River watershed (from the MI DEQ)
The river is the historic home of the Potawatomi Indians who fished and hunted these woods and waters. Peg Kohring, a Sawyer botanist and Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, says that good water quality is critical to the current projects. Suspected septic failures in Three Oaks and Weesaw Township are the next pollution problems to be solved along the river.

Volunteers occasionally help with a river cleanup day. Broad-based support from people in the New Buffalo area will be important for this park and increased recreational use of the Galien River to succeed.

See Pony Truss Bridge
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Blooms in the Dunes - May 2, Muskegon

woodland phlox
woodland phlox (photo from the Gillette Nature Association)
a news release of the Michigan DNR

The Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park will host its annual "Spring Blooms in the Dunes" event on Saturday, May 2, to celebrate the arrival of spring. The event will feature a wildflower sale, and a day full of nature-related activities at the visitor center.

From 9 a.m .to 2 p.m., there will be a Native Plant Sale at the visitor center. Responsibly propagated white trillium and other spring woodland wildflowers will be available for sale. The sale will also feature a limited supply of ferns and other large perennials. It is best to come early, as plants have sold out quickly in the past. The sale is sponsored by the Gillette Nature Association, and all proceeds benefit the visitor center and its programs.

Also from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., children can fish for trout at the visitor center trout pond, sponsored by the Michigan Anglers Association and the Muskegon Sportfishing Association. Children will receive a free Michigan Youth Angler license courtesy of the Muskegon Sportfishing Association.

Other programs that day include:
  • Explore Pond Life. From 10 to 11 a.m., there will be a hands-on session to view all forms of pond life. Children who participate will receive a free Department of Natural Resources habitat poster.
  • A Fish Story. From 11 a.m. to noon, this program will explore the many hazards that fish have to overcome to survive in Michigan lakes and rivers.
  • Lunch With the Bluebirds. At noon, take a hike with Don Petersen, a seasonal naturalist at the visitor center, to view the park's resident bluebirds. Participants should bring a sack lunch and binoculars.
  • Native Plant Gardening. At 1 p.m., Master Gardener Jenelle Tokarczyk will lead a session on how to successfully garden with native wildflowers and other plants.
  • Spring Blooms Hike. At 2 p.m., Don Petersen will lead a hike in search of spring blooms and other features of the park's dune landscape.

All programs at the Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center are free. The visitor center is located at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park at 6585 Lake Harbor Rd. in Muskegon.

See Gillette Nature Association
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Transportation Enhancements for West Michigan

from a news release of the State of Michigan

Lieutenant Governor John D. Cherry, Jr. has announced that 27 Michigan counties will receive a total of $47.3 million in transportation enhancement (TE) funding. 22 of the projects are funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). Included in the projects are 176 miles of bicycle paths, lighting, landscaping, crosswalks and more. The projects should create or retain 1300 jobs over the 2009-2010 seasons.

West Michigan projects are:
  • Allegan County: The city of Wayland will streetscape West Superior Street from US-131 to Church Street.
  • Antrim County: The village of Mancelona will streetscape US-131 from 220 feet north of Dale Avenue to 225 feet south of Division Street.
  • Calhoun County: MDOT will install native plantings at the I-94/I-69 interchange along the roadside, in the interchange and next to Bear Creek.
  • Cheboygan County: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will make improvements to 5 miles of trail surface and construct a trailhead in Mackinaw City.
  • Eaton County: MDOT will streetscape M-50/M-99 (Main Street) from State Street to Canal Street in Eaton Rapids.
  • Kalamazoo County (two projects): The city of Portage will construct 10-foot shared-use non-motorized extensions to the Northwest Portage Bikeway to connect to both the Millenium and the Portage Creek Bicentennial trails. AND The Kalamazoo County Road Commission, in partnership with the city of Kalamazoo, will construct five miles of bike path from the Riverview Drive/Mosel Avenue intersection to the north along the Kalamazoo River and Westnedge Avenue, ending on D Avenue 200 feet east of the Kalamazoo River. This project is the next phase of a planned continuation of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.
  • Kent County (four projects): The city of Grand Rapids will make streetscape improvements in the Southtown neighborhood of southeast Grand Rapids. AND In conjunction with the M-21 bridge replacement over the Grand River in Ada Township, MDOT will expand the bridge deck 14 feet to accommodate a bicycle and pedestrian path. AND The village of Sparta will streetscape the Central Business District to promote slower traffic, generate a friendlier downtown atmosphere, and allow for safe, non-motorized travel. AND The Kent County Road Commission will partner with the cities of Grand Rapids, Walker, Grandville, Wyoming and Byron Township to reconstruct 6.2 miles of the Kent Trail network.
  • Van Buren and Kalamazoo Counties: The Van Buren County Road Commission, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will resurface 18 miles of the Kal-Haven State Trail using recycled materials
  • Wexford County: MDOT, in cooperation with the city of Cadillac, will provide streetscape improvements including streetlights, trees and planters along the US-131 Business Route (Mitchell Street) in the downtown area.

See Breakdown of stimulus projects
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mark Fenton to Keynote Planning for Tomorrow’s Transportation Needs

MTPA logo
from the Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study

Mark Fenton is one of the nation's foremost experts on walking. He is a former editor of Walking Magazine, and currently hosts a PBS series, "America's Walking." He will be the keynote speaker at the 2009 Michigan Transportation Planning Association Conference, July 14 – 17, 2009 downtown Kalamazoo.

This year’s conference “Planning for Tomorrow’s Transportation Needs” is being held in conjunction with the Michigan Association of Regions and covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from freight planning to healthy communities to transit planning for metropolitan areas.

The “Planning for Tomorrow’s Transportation Needs” conference is also for those people interested in non-motorized transportation planning. We are excited to have Mark Fenton, a dynamic speaker and former PBS Television Host, on Thursday, July 16th to discuss the health impacts of walking and how to create a walkable community. He will also lead us in a discussion on working with the media, as well as a walking excursion in downtown Kalamazoo, highlighting the importance of Walkable communities.

See Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study for more information and registration materials.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Regional Youth to Work at Sleeping Bear and Film Experiences

Sleeping Bear beach
Sleeping Bear beach (photo by Todd VerBeek)
based on a news article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, "Youth corps to get to work at Sleeping Bear," by Lindsay VanHulle, April 9, 2009

Students from Forest Area, Suttons Bay, Benzie Central, Frankfort, Brethren and Bear Lake high schools, Northside Alternative High School in Kalkaska and Casman Academy in Manistee may have a chance to be the first workers with the regional Northwest Michigan Youth Conservation Corps.

Their assignments will be environmental projects at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And the young people will be filming their experiences for a series of video diaries.

Bill Watson is the project manager, and he developed the program after leading a similar effort for several years at Traverse City High School. Local funding has been provided through SEEDS, in excess of $20,000, and a federal grant is pending. SEEDS is a non-profit research, design and educational institution whose mission is to seek the development of socially and ecologically sustainable environments. They favor projects that are participatory in nature and holistic in perspective.

The video project will document students' experiences as they work at the Lakeshore throughout the spring and summer. A group of students from Detroit will visit for a week and be part of the films. The diaries are planned to be shown this fall at the State Theatre in Traverse City and the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay, Watson said.

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North Bank Trail on Track in Sping Lake Township

based on a news article in the Muskegon News, "Paved path on course for upgrade, " by Terry Judd, April 11, 2009

Since 2007, the Friends of the North Bank Greenway Trail have been working hard to make use of the old Grand Trunk rail line between Grand Haven and Coopersville. It looks like that dream may soon begin to be realized.

The Ottawa County Planning Commission approved a resolution in October 2007 to look into trail plans. Last month, Spring Lake Township officials applied for a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to build the first 1.5 miles of the trail. Eventually the North Bank Trail would be 18 miles long and would link the existing Spring Lake Village Lakeside Trail with the Musketawa Trail (which connects Marne and Muskegon).

The first mile would run from Fruitport Road east to 144th Avenue. Although short the section would be attractive, with a raised berm above a wetland. Negotiations with property owners will be required to continue the next section. A side path would connect Lloyd's Bayou Drive to the North Bank Trail allowing access to Lloyd's Bayou Senior Apartments, Orchard Market and Burger King.

In 1976 the Grand Trunk Railroad shut down the Coopersville-Grand Haven line and removed the tracks. The townships of Spring Lake, Crockery and Polkton still own much of the right of way, but portions have been sold. Still, some people have hoped to see it used as a trail since the beginning, and three years ago the Friends of the North Bank Greenway Trail officially formed.

The West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition is handling donations to the project.

See West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Public Lands Corps May Expand Volunteer Opportunities

from the Outdoor Industry Association

Congress is considering a major expansion of the Public Lands Corps program to expand volunteer and paid opportunities for work on federal lands and to recruit a new generation of public land managers.

The bill (H.R. 1612) would rename the corps the "Public Lands Service Corps." The new corps would have the potential to receive greater funding and it would give the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Commerce broader authority to recruit new members with a focus on attracting participants from under-represented communities.

The mission of the existing Public Lands Corps would also be broadened to address the new environmental challenges posed by climate change as well as continuing its original mission of addressing a severe backlog in maintenance and infrastructure projects on public lands.

Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, was one of several witnesses who testified before a House committee in support of the bill last week.

On March 19, the bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committees on Agriculture, and Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Follow the bill at, enter HR 1612 in the search bar.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Mt. Clemens Falcon Cam Views Nest

Hathor, a Peregrine Falcon
Hathor, a Peregrine Falcon (photo from Metromode)
based on a news article on Metromode, "Peregrine falcons web cam returns to downtown Mt. Clemens," April 9, 2009

A Peregrine Falcon named Hathor has set up her nest in one corner of the 11th floor of the Macomb County building for several years. She has actually tried out all of the corners. The 11th floor of the historic building is not occupied, so it makes a perfect nesting area for the falcons. The species is endangered and likes an undisturbed space to nest and breed.

Phil Frame, a spokesman for Macomb County, has set up a web cam just inside of the window, a few feet from the nest.

Hathor has been nesting in Mt. Clemens since 2005. Her first chick survived to learn how to fly, but died when it flew into a car. By the same mate, Hathor nested the next two years but there were no chicks.

In 2008, Hathor chose a younger male and they produced three new hatchlings named Clair for the lake, Clementine for Mt Clemens and Lenny for a recently retired Macomb County Commissioner. This male is named Nick and they are now nesting on the northwest corner of the building. Follow the link below for the web cam.

See theFalcon Cam - natural light, you won't see anything when it's dark out.
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Take In The Outdoors Bike Rides for National Trails Day

take in the outdoors logo
from Top of Michigan Trails Council

National Trails Day is celebrated all over the country on the first Saturday of June which is June 6, 2009.

The National Trails Day Ride, "Take in the Outdoors," starts and ends in Wolverine, Cheboygan County, Michigan. Ride in any direction from Wolverine. Sample round trip distances are
  • Vanderbilt 21.8 miles
  • Gaylord 37.0 miles
  • Rondo Road 7.4 miles
  • Indian River 19.2 miles
  • Topinabee 30.4 miles
  • Cheboygan 54.2 miles

All bikes are welcome, SAG wagons provided, vendor area, prizes, delicious lunch available at Wolverine for only $5. Registration is $25 or $30 after May 15, tee shirts included in price for pre-registered riders only (please register children in approved bike carrier at no charge). Registration and packet pickup begins at 8:30 am at Lumberman's Park located on the Sturgeon River in Wolverine near the junction of Main Street and the Straits Highway.

See brochure and registration for Take In The Outdoors (A pdf)
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Loreen Niewenhuis Walking Around Lake Michigan

Loreen Niewenhuis contemplates Lake Michigan
Loreen Niewenhuis' son Ben contemplates Lake Michigan (from her blog- see link below)
based in part on a news article on WZZM- TV, Battle Creek woman walking around Lake Michigan, April 8, 2009

Loreen Niewenhuis says she was looking for a challenge and inspiration for a future book. She's also passionate about Lake Michigan, about protecting it. And like most writers she is always looking for a good story. She's chosen the title for her next book, A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach.

Now she just has to do the walk! She's divided the shoreline of Lake Michigan into 10 segments, and began walking around the lake in Chicago on March 17, 2009.

She's wants to increase awareness of environmental pressures facing Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes. She believes in stronger regulations on the dumping of ballast waters from freighters - a problem that lead to the introduction of numerous invasive species.

Of the section below South Haven she says, "This segment covered a lovely section of the lake. The shoreline was quite varied. It ranged from high, treed bluffs, to sandy stretches, to eroding cliffs of clay and sand, to high dunes. Small towns stud this stretch and two nuclear power plants hold their ground on the lakeshore, too."

Niewenhuis hopes to finish her walk in September by returning to Chicago.

See Lake Trek, Loreen's blog
See Beachwalkers: Michigan and Ohio Hold Opposing Views
See EPA Predicts Even More Species Invasions for the most recent article about invasive species.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Book - Prairies and Savannas in Michigan

Prairies and Savannas in Michigan
a news release of Michigan DNR

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) and Michigan State University Press are pleased to announce the publication of a new book entitled "Prairies and Savannas in Michigan: Rediscovering Our Natural Heritage." Highly readable and beautifully illustrated with more than 100 photographs, it will be of great interest to naturalists, private landowners, and field biologists.

"Few people realize that Michigan once contained significant expanses of prairies and savannas, and was not entirely forested," said Brian Klatt, director of MNFI. "Based on field research, scientific publications, and historical accounts, the book is the culmination of years of research. It brings together information from a wide variety of sources to paint a picture of these once extensive natural communities."

"Prairies and savannas are critical habitat for a wide variety of wildlife ranging from game species to rare and declining species," said Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason.

Mason said that the book and the ongoing restoration of prairie and savanna habitat represent a strong partnership between MNFI, the DNR, and other agencies. In particular, the book will be a new educational tool for the DNR's Landowner Incentive Program, which helps private landowners manage their land for rare and declining species in prairie, savanna, and open wetlands through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Like MNFI's recently published Atlas of Early Michigan's Forests, Grasslands, and Wetlands, the new book will be very useful to conservation organizations and individuals alike," explained Tom Coon, director of MSU Extension. "Especially useful is a section on what private landowners can do on their own property."

The MNFI is a part of MSU Extension. Their mission is to deliver the highest quality information that contributes to the conservation of biodiversity, especially rare and declining plants and animals and the diversity of ecosystems native to Michigan.

The MNFI maintains the statewide database of rare species occurrences and conducts surveys, research, planning efforts, and educational workshops to enhance the conservation of biodiversity.

See Michigan Natural Features Inventory to purchase the book for $24.95
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Heating Bats' Winter Homes May Stop White-Nose Syndrome

alt text
little brown bats with white nose syndrome in NY (photo NY DEC)
based on an AP news story, "Heaters might stave off doom for bats," by Michael Hill, Mar 5, 2009

Over half a million bats have died in the past three years, from New England to Virginia, of a fungus known as "white-nose syndrome." The fungus has spread from two caves in upstate New York to at least 55 caves in several states. The fungus threatens to completely wipe out the already endangered Indiana Bat.

But it has been found that placing heated boxes in the bat's hibernation caves help the bats make it through the winter. With warmer caves, the bats do not have to burn as much fat to stay warm.

The fungus itself does not kill the bats. It apparently disrupts their sleep pattern, causing them to wake up often, use more energy than normal, and subsequently starve to death.

The heaters will not cure the disease, but it would be a stop-gap measure until more is known about the fungus. David Blehert, who first identified white-nose syndrome, said that the fungus is not spread from bat to bat in the summer because it needs cold to thrive. Blehert is a researcher with the US Geological Survey Wildlife Health Center.

No one knows if the heaters will make a significant difference, but a pilot study is being funded with a $28,000 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The test will be conducted in a cave in Manitoba, Canada.

Blehert said that the problem is so critical that it makes sense to at least test the hypothesis.

See Indiana Bats Dying from Mysterious Mold
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Beer Foam and BIrd Feathers

bluebird and spongy texture of feathers
Prum and Dufresne discovered that the nanostructures that produce some birds’ brightly colored plumage, such as the blue feathers of the male Eastern Bluebird, have a sponge-like structure. (Photo: Ken Thomas)
a news release of Yale University

Some of the brightest colors in nature are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge, according to Yale University researchers.

Most colors in nature— from the color of our skin to the green of trees— are produced by pigments. But the bright blue feathers found in many birds, such as Bluebirds and Blue Jays, are instead produced by nanostructures. Under an electron microscope, these structures look like sponges with air bubbles.

Now an interdisciplinary team of Yale engineers, physicists and evolutionary biologists has taken a step toward uncovering how these structures form. They compared the nanostructures to examples of materials undergoing phase separation, in which mixtures of different substances become unstable and separate from one another, such as the carbon-dioxide bubbles that form when the top is popped off a bubbly drink. They found that the color-producing structures in feathers appear to self-assemble in much the same manner. Bubbles of water form in a protein-rich soup inside the living cell and are replaced with air as the feather grows.

The research, which appears online in the journal Soft Matter, provides new insight into how organisms use self-assembly to produce color, and has important implications for the role color plays in birds’ plumage, as the color produced depends entirely on the precise size and shape of these nanostructures.

“Many biologists think that plumage color can encode information about quality – basically, that a bluer male is a better mate,” said Richard Prum, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and one of the paper’s authors. “Such information would have to be encoded in the feather as the bubbles grow. I think our hypothesis that phase separation is involved provides less opportunity for encoding information about quality than most biologists thought. At the same time, it’s exciting to think about other ways birds might be using phase separation.”

Eric Dufresne, lead author of the paper, is also interested in the potential technological applications of the finding. “We have found that nature elegantly self assembles intricate optical structures in bird feathers. We are now mimicking this approach to make a new generation of optical materials in the lab,” said Dufresne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and physics.

Prum believes it was the interdisciplinary approach the team took that led to their success – a result he plans on celebrating “with another practical application of phase separation: champagne!”

Other authors of the paper include Heeso Noh, Vinodkumar Saranathan, Simon Mochrie Hui Cao (all of Yale University).

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Grand Rapids to Get New Mountain Bike Track

young BMX riders
(photo Grand Rapids press)
based on a news article in the Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Rapids mountain bike trial, skills area to be built this summer around BMX park," by Howard Myerson, Apr 4, 2009

A mountain bike trail and skills area are planned for the former southwest Little League site in Grand Rapids, at 580 Kirtland. This is already the location of a BMX bike track operated by Helmet-On.

Michigan Mountain Bikers and Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation department have been working toward this day for three years. The trail is slated to become a reality in May. The park will explore new territory for Grand Rapids in more ways than one. The trail will be maintained by the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association (MMBA), in a cooperative agreement between the city and volunteers.

MMBA President,Nate Phelps, the former president of the West Michigan chapter of Michigan Mountain Bikers Association, said it will be a win-win situation for cyclists and the city. "We're going to build a little skill section with things like a log pile and rock garden that riders can bypass, a short trail, maybe a mile-and-half long and double lane pump track." The new trail will be built around an existing BMX trail creating an multi-purpose bicycle park.

$15,000 of in-kind support will come from the International Mountain Biking Association which offers assistance for projects it calls "Gateway Trails," or trails built in urban settings.

"The Midwest Mountain Biking Summit will be held in Grand Rapids on May 28-31," Phelps said. "We want the pump track to be done by that time."

See Grand Rapids Biking Map
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Tell Us A Horse Story

Club Equestrian logo
from Club Equestrian

Club Equestrian, with High Line Outfitters is sponsoring a video contest. Horse lovers may submit one or two videos. Each must be no longer than two (2) minutes in length and the video file size must not exceed 50 MB.

The prizes include a $100 High Line Outfitters gift certificate, and a prize package from the United States Equestrian Federation.

Winners will be determined by vote of the on-line members of Club Equestrian. Entries may be submitted till midnight, EDT, April 20, 2009. USEF will select finalists from the entries. Voting on these finalists will begin on April 22, 2009, and conclude at 5:00:00 p.m. EDT on April 30.

See Club Equestrian for complete details.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

DNR Frog Survey Begins Its 14th Year

gray tree from
gray tree frog (photo from Michigan DNR)
a news release of Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources announces the start of the 14th annual statewide frog and toad survey coordinated each year by the department's Wildlife Division.

Declining populations of frog, toads and other amphibians have been documented worldwide since the 1980s. Studies suggest amphibians are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, disease, and collection.

Michigan's annual survey efforts help biologists keep tabs on frog and toad abundance and distribution in the state.

"We have collected a large, valuable data set to help us evaluate the condition of Michigan's frog and toad populations," said Lori Sargent, the DNR's survey coordinator.

The surveys are conducted by volunteer observers along a statewide system of permanent survey routes, each consisting of ten wetland sites. These sites are visited three times during spring when frogs and toads are actively breeding. Observers listen for calling frogs and toads at each site, identify the species present, and make an estimate of abundance.

"There are more than 400 routes statewide, running through every Michigan county. We add routes every year but we lose a few every year as well. The continued success of the program is dependent on strong volunteer support," said Sargent.

See Michigan Frog and Toad Survey
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A Really Good Reason to Shower Before Hopping in the Pool

kids in a swimming pool
(photo by John Watson)
based on a news article from Environment News Service, "Disinfectants Turn Swimming Pools Into Toxic Brews," Mar 31, 2009

Chemicals used to treat both drinking water and swimming pool water reacts with organic material to form disinfection by-products (DBPs). Ho-hum... why should we care, right?

We should care because when you add swimmers to a pool you have just added lots of organic material. A new study by the University of Illinois shows that of the hundreds of compounds created, some are toxic, some cause birth defects, some cause cancer and others are genotoxic, which means that they damage DNA.

It has long been known that professional and athletic swimmers have a higher rate of both asthma and bladder cancer than the regular population. They have more exposure to these chemicals, which may either be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Michael Plewa, the team’s leading geneticist, says that swimming pools and hot tubs are DBP reactors. "You've got all of this organic material called people - and people sweat and use sunscreen and wear cosmetics that come off in the water. People may urinate in a public pool. Hair falls into the water and then this water is chlorinated. But the water is recycled again and again so the levels of DBPs can be ten-fold higher than what you have in drinking water.”

This is why people are asked to bathe or shower before entering a public pool. "It's the organic material that gets in the pool that is disinfected and then recirculated over and over again. That's why we call swimming pools disinfectant by-product reactors," said Plewa. "But by public education, by personal behavior, there should be ways that we can reduce the levels of the dissolved organic material that should reduce the level of DBPs."

The study found that DBPs containing nitrogen are much more toxic than those that do not. They also found the same result for DBPs with iodine. Plewa added, “we've made two fundamental discoveries that hopefully will aid the U.S. EPA in their regulatory decisions." Neither nitrogen nor iodine in DBPs is currently regulated.

Public pools are highly chlorinated to keep bacteria and pathogens down but very little research has been done before now to evaluate levels of the disinfection by-products generated.

Plewa and his team of scientists received a Science and Technology award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their paper, "Occurrence, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of regulated and emerging disinfection by-products in drinking water: A review and roadmap for research." It was published in the scientific journal "Mutation Research."

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