Category Archives: Natural Resources

Blue Ribbon group attempts to improve Michigan gaming

The Blue Ribbon Advisory Group is the newest regulatory body created by the DNR to protect and improve Michigan’s public gaming areas.

The group will examine hunting grounds and suggest ways to improve the habitat, and hunters’ overall experience.

Russ Mason is a spokesman for the DNR. He says the effort is more important than some people may realize

“And it’s important for people to recognize that these aren’t just acres that are sittin’ there. These are acres that are critical for the timber industry, the mining industry. These aren’t just a bunch of trees on public land. These are really valuable assets that we need to think about and care for in a very deliberate fashion, and move forward. Because they are, perhaps the catalyst for Michigan’s economic recovery.”

Mason says the group is going to have a lot to consider

“The U.P and the Northern Lower 40 acres of land per man, woman and child. Southern Michigan we’re essentially .04 acres. There are counties in Southern Michigan without a square inch of public hunting land. That needs to be different if we want Michiganders to care about the one thing that makes Michigan special in my view, and that’s their natural resources. ”

Mason says the Group is expected to wrap up its work within 18 months.

Michigan’s thumb gets rural energy funding boost

An 80 year old program that’s dedicated to funding rural energy cooperatives is sending 25 million dollars to Michigan’s Thumb.

Every year the USDA parcels out loans to energy cooperatives in order to strengthen rural infrastructure.

This year the USDA is giving out roughly $100 million. A quarter of that money is going to the Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan.

The Coop’s General Manager Dallas Braun says the money will help them implement a new monitoring system.

“Currently our members read their own meters every month, submit a reading to us and then we bill them based on the reading. So the AMI system or the Smart Grid system will allow us to become more efficient and save a lot of money.”

Braun says one of the big advantages of a coop is that the money they save goes back to their members.

Curbing CAFO antibiotic use

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO, create countless pounds of manure daily.

This refuse, or rather what’s in it, is becoming a hotly contested issue between scientists and CAFO supporters. Continue reading

Can CAFO’s keep up with regulations?

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification


Michigan’s lower peninsula is home to more than two-hundred CAFO’s – or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Opponents call them factory farms. They keep food prices down, but at what cost.

Matt Carey is the owner of Carey’s Pioneer Farms, the farmstead has been in Matt’s family for three generations and he said passing it on isn’t necessarily going to be easy.

“Like I said, it’s real important for us that we grow an operation that our kids might want to take over. It’s something you have to have a passion for though. You don’t just do it because your Dad wants you to or whatever. You have to have a passion to do it, ‘cus it’s a lot of work and sweat, and a lot of hours you don’t plan on workin’.”

Carey also said it’s a lot of money you don’t plan on spending. His farm is subject to regulations from the state and federal level. Many of the regulations are meant to keep byproducts of the farm away from clean water.

The byproducts could be anything from excess nutrient runoff, to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Carey's $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey’s $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey said the renovations to keep his farm up to regulation are costly, and they take a long time to yield positive results. Carey tried to justify a long time manure storage facility he said they needed just to stay open.

“That’s one of the most expensive projects I’ve ever spent in my life for somethin’ like that. There’s over 200-thousand in engineering costs and cement, just to store manure in. When you take that much money and put it into a manure storage what is the payback for that? There is a payback for that, but it’s not that much. Not compared to what was just thrown into it.”

Although costly for farmers, some believe the regulations in place are not enough to protect Michigan’s environment, or it’s residents.

Dr. Murray Borello is a scientist at Alma College, he said CAFO’s are not a sustainable future for Michigan agriculture.

“We’re not doing anything cutting edge. In fact, the scientific community is like ‘Yea okay we know this, it’s just one more piece of data, one more study that shows what hundreds of studies are already showing.’ The environment is impaired as a result of inadequacy of these regulations to protect the environment.”

In a study conducted by Borello in 2008, he found CAFO’s that operated within regulations still violated Michigan water quality laws. Therefore, he said, even if the farms were up to snuff, they were still a detriment to the environment.

Not everyone is convinced by Borello’s work however. Laura Campbell is the manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department at the Michigan Farm Bureau. She said more rigorous testing needs to be done before she buys into what Borello believes.

“I, yes, I have read his work. And have actually had several conversations with Mr. Borello. Uhm, having read his research I don’t think that his answers are definitive. Uhm, thats not to say that, ya know, I’m trying, that I would absolutely deny his findings. But I think that his findings are inconclusive from what he claims the result from them is.”

Borello said getting farms to take part in studies is extremely difficult. That makes the science behind the issue slow-going.

A group of cattle on Carey's  farm

A group of cattle on Carey’s farm

“I have tried to work with CAFO’s. I think we could get a great study on how to make these things more sustainable, I would love to work towards that. I’m not here to bash anybody, I wanna make the situation better. And you can’t do that when you’re fighting, you can only do it when you collaborate.”

As Borello says, the problem lies in the disconnect between farmer, and scientist.

Matt Carey attempted to get to the heart of the problem when he said,

“My whole problem is, I just wanna farm. Ya know, I don’t wanna have to do all this extra, we were doing all this extra stuff. We just weren’t documenting it before we were forced to document it. Ya know, we were doing, we’ve been doing soil testing since 1990, so it’s been a crucial part of our operation and the cash crop to be soil tested. Now they just say it’s gotta be done every three years which we already always done.”

Farmers like Carey want to create CAFO’s that are sustainable, and can be passed on to the next generation. In order to do that they have to comply with a litany of regulations.

Scientists like Borello want to ensure the regulations are stringent enough to protect Michigan’s waterways.

These goals are not mutually exclusive, and working together could shorten the journey to their solution.

Nuclear dump assessment results made public

Ontario Power Generation’s, or OPG’s, proposed nuclear dump has been declared safe enough to construct by a Canadian Joint Review Panel of scientists.

The panel submitted over 400 pages of analysis to the Minister. She now has 4 months to decide whether or not to grant OPG a permit to construct.

The panel recommended numerous plans of action that OPG will need to account for if they want to retain their accepted status.

It’s important to remember OPG is only requesting a permit to build the facility.

They will need to go through another assessment to earn a permit to use it.

Canadian joint review panel releases recomendations

After two years of hearings and arguments, a recommendation was released Wednesday, May 6th, on building a nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron.

A Canadian Panel was tasked with assessing the proposal for a nuclear dump which would be run by Ontario Power Generation – or OPG.

The Canadian Minister of the Environment will review the panel’s recommendations and issue a decision on whether or not to allow a nuclear dump within the Lake Huron watershed.

We’ll have a more detailed description of the panel’s recommendations once the documents are made public.

Arenac and Wexford county receive $3.4 sewer upgrades to address contaminated water

Old sewage systems have contaminated surface and groundwater in Arenac County for years, according to officials with the Michigan USDA.

This month the USDA announced more than $3 million in grants will be going to two towns in Arenac and Wexford counties to fix these systems. Continue reading

Another million for Michigan waters

The Michigan DNR has awarded one-and-a-quarter million dollars to 7 projects through its Aquatic Habitat Grant Program.

Friends of the Shiawassee received the single largest donation, $365-thousand, for their dam removal project.

Gary Burk is the Board Director for the Friends, he says the project is important for a number of reasons.

“We were actually approached by the State as to whether we could be a local agency to help direct grant dollars and project management for the removal of that dam. There’s a number of reasons for the removal. It’s a deteriorated structure, and we’d like to restore connectivity to the river. Plus, there have been some drownings at the dam.”

For a full list of the projects that were awarded grant money from the DNR visit their website here.

USDA grants $1.4 million to protect and restore wetland and agricultural lands

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is using a $1.4 million grant from the federal government for two land easement programs in the state.

The programs focus is on keeping wetlands and agricultural lands precisely that: wetlands and agricultural lands. Continue reading

Catch a walleye worth $100

The DNR is giving anglers a chance to help support the Michigan Walleye fishery and possibly win $100 in the process.

Soon Walleye will be making their way upstream to spawn in the Tittabawasee, and other rivers. During that time DNR fishery biologists will catch, tag and release as many adult Walleye as possible.
Continue reading

Wildfire season underway in 2015

Burn safelySeeing green grass as the snow melts this Spring is nice, but the DNR reminds us to watch out for the brown.

Dan Laux is a DNR fire prevention specialist. He says this time of year Michigan residents need to be extra careful when burning.

“Here in Michigan, ya know, usually ‘bout every 9 out of 10 fires is human caused. The bulk of what we respond to are folks who are out doing debris burning. They leave their pile unattended for a little bit while they go in the house for lunch, but people are the cause of most of them.”

Locks says the best way to protect your home is to keep yard waste raked up and always get a burn permit before setting a fire.

So far this year the DNR has responded to 13 wildfires that burned some 70 acres of land.

For a longer list of tips to keep your home flame free, visit the DNR here.

Straits raptor counters say they are seeing more birds of prey

Bald Eagle sighted in Charlevoix County. Courtesy photo.

Bald Eagle sighted in Charlevoix County. Courtesy photo.

Robins might be the traditional harbinger of spring in Michigan, but officials say birds of prey are also coming through the state right now.

Bird counters are keeping track of how many raptors are going through the Straits area. Continue reading