The $35,000 grant goes toward a recycling project aimed to recover resources, and decrease landfill usage.
A small cherry farmer in Northern Michigan is at odds with market regulations because he says they force him to dump as much as 40-thousand pounds of tart cherries and allow for international cherry producers to slowly take over the market.
But regulators say the rules are an important part of keeping cherry prices stable – and allowing growers to earn a livable income.
Last week, the Kalamazoo Nature Center released 18 rare butterfly caterpillars. The Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly – “satyr” like the mythical creature – is a nationally endangered species. There are only 11 groups of the butterfly left in the entire United States.
Like some endangered species, the Mitchell’s Satyr has the disadvantage of not being very attractive.
“It’s really easy for people to love those big yellow swallowtails or the monarch.”
That’s Ashley Wick. She’s leading the Mitchell’s Satyr program at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.
“You know, it’s little, it’s brown. Some cute little eyespots on it and it likes sedges which most people think are grasses. And so to me it’s just the underdog.”
The Mitchell’s Satyr might not be very flashy, but no butterfly says “Southwest Michigan” more than this one. Almost all of them live in the southernmost counties of Michigan – a few are in northern Indiana. Why here? It’s because they live in a rare habitat. Mitchell’s Satyr butterflies live in fens – a unique type of wetland.
“We’re standing here at the Kalamazoo Nature Center looking at our fen. So a fen is a high quality wetland. It’s different from a swamp or a bog.”
“And it’s fed not by water coming from the surface around us but it’s fed through springs and groundwater.”
Wick says underground the water comes in contact with things like limestone, which makes it rich in minerals. It’s also makes the water and soil less acidic.
“In these wetlands we just get a huge variety of plants and insects and just you can see the super cool, clean water.”
According to the U.S Department of Natural Resources, Michigan is one of only four states in the country where fens make up more than one percent of the landscape. Fens may be pristine habitats for wildlife, but they’re also very sensitive. Wick says something happening to the groundwater miles away can affect a fen. That’s part of the reason why they’re few fens around anymore.
“Digging a farm pond, constructing a road, really leveling large amounts of areas, digging up wetlands. And so that is one main reason that may be particular to these types of ecosystems.”
Wick says the Nature Center originally intended to release the Mitchell’s Satyrs as butterflies – not caterpillars. But the Nature Center’s timing was a little off. You see, it takes four months for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to approve a permit to raise an endangered species in captivity. But Wick says the Nature Center submitted its paperwork early.
“So that put us in a little bit of a difficult situation – which means that our permit only gives us permission to keep them through caterpillar hood, not through adulthood.”
Thus – caterpillars. Wick says maybe the Nature Center jumped the gun a little. But the Mitchell’s Satyr species is in such a dire situation that Wick says it didn’t want to wait. Unfortunately, Wick says caterpillars are less likely to survive than adult butterflies.
“As a caterpillar you’re good bird food or a parasitic wasp or lots of other parasites may lay their eggs inside or on top and the eggs will hatch and the other insects will eat your caterpillars.”
With this in mind, Wick’s team didn’t take any chances. With the help of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, they spread out the caterpillars, putting them in locations that were hard for humans – and some animals – to reach. Aside from Wick’s team, the Land Conservancy, and the Fish and Wildlife Service no one is allowed to know where these caterpillars were placed. Wick says they can’t risk the caterpillars getting squashed.
“We do want people to get excited about the butterfly and want to help protect these wetlands, but at the same time we have to be careful with those areas.”
Wick says her team hopes to release more than 50 caterpillars total this year. She says some may be ready by this week. Wick also says that the team should be able to release adult butterflies next year.
Wick says it’s important to keep an eye on sensitive species like the Mitchell’s Satyr and why they’re declining.
“Having really resilient ecosystems means that we have to have all of these species present – because every time you lose one, you’re probably losing some others because they’re so interconnected.”
The Land Conservancy recently restored a fen habitat at Sarrett Nature Center in Benton Harbor. Since then Land Conservancy officials say the butterfly has come back in numbers they haven’t seen in 15 years.
The objective of the survey is threefold; to forecast whether fish numbers are growing or shrinking, to understand how predator fish numbers may be effected, and to prepare fishing markets for potential changes in fish populations. Continue reading
The project put more than 600 tons of rock on the reef. Experts say the hope is to rebuild a popular spawning point for native fish.
Now researchers will test a new product that could hold the key to taking the ecosystem back.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has spent two (m) million dollars so far on the criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis.
A report released this week found an estimated 275 deaths in Michigan each year are related to air pollution.
This according to a new study conducted for the American Thoracic Society.
The report took data from 2011 to 2013. Continue reading
Heidi Grether says her top priorities are restoring employee morale and public confidence in the DEQ after the Flint water crisis.
Grether says she’s not surprised by criticism of her appointment because she worked as an oil industry lobbyist. She says that experience gives her some perspective.
“But that doesn’t mean I necessarily think a certain way.”
Her work for BP included helping with the response to the Gulf oil spill.
Grether is still undecided on whether an Enbridge energy pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac needs to be shut down. She says her oil industry background won’t bias her on the question.
They say they have found a way to engineer films of microbes and bioelectrodes that convert waste into electricity.
The Office of the Great Lakes awarded just over $927,000 to 15 organizations for coastal projects.
If you live in northern lower Michigan and you’ve noticed smoke off to the west, it may be an island, that’s been burning since June. Firefighters are on the uninhabited island, working to protect a historic lighthouse.
A report recently released by Alma College explores the science behind long-term exposure.
The state has opened a public comment period on the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.
Earlier this month, the company was ordered to install more supports under the pipeline. Some of the current supports are farther apart than the 75-feet, required by Michigan law. Continue reading
An effort to ban fracking in Michigan has hit another roadblock.
Crop educators said dry weather is taking a toll on a number of crops in Central and Northern Michigan.
The state gave the company a 90 day period to install more supports to avoid having its easement revoked.
Officials say one bat was found in Antrim County and the other in Alpena County.