Mich Enviro Report: Slow Down for Eagles, More Warblers & MDOT Praise

1.

While you’re out on the roads this holiday season, watch out for bald eagles. Really.

State and federal wildlife officials say bald eagle deaths from motor vehicles are on the rise in Michigan.

Vehicle accidents accounted for 29 percent of recorded eagle deaths between 1987 and 2008, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A total of 222 birds are known to have died from auto accidents during that period.

Eagles have been hit when they’re feeding on road kill.  Scavenging behavior tends to increase during the winter months when ice develops on lakes and rivers, making foraging for fish more difficult.

So slow down if you see a dead animal alongside the road. A bald eagle may be nearby.

In Michigan, bald eagle populations have increased from 52 breeding pairs in 1961 to 630 breeding pairs in 2010. The bird was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, but is still protected by law.

http://www.fws.gov/midwest/eastlansing/eagleform.htm
http://www.michigan.gov/som/0,1607,7-192-29938-248523–,00.html

2.

Speaking of birds, the Kirtland’s Warbler is still on the endangered species list. But populations are exceeding recovery goals.

The latest annual survey of the birds in Michigan shows that the state’s population remains steady. A total of 1,733 singing males were recorded this year by biologists and researchers. The numbers have been steady for the last three years.

This year, singing males were found in 11 northern Michigan counties, including, Clare, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Roscommon counties.

The Kirtland’s Warbler is still listed as endangered, but forest management programs have helped stabilize their habitat, officials say.

The recovery goal for the birds is 1,000 singing males. Now, with the population at almost twice that number, state and federal officials are working to remove the species from the endangered species list, so funds and efforts can be focused on other species more in need of recovery efforts.

http://www.michigan.gov/dnre/0,1607,7-269–248408–,00.html

3.

Environmental groups are praising the reappointment of Kirk Steudle as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Steudle, a former Essexville city commissioner, has been reappointed to the position by incoming Governor Rick Snyder.

The Michigan Environmental Council says MDOT is a key player in transportation policy in Michigan, and Steudle has done a good job with limited resources since taking over the department in 2006.

Steudle also has supported important initiatives in the areas of passenger rail service and making towns and cities safer and more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and others, the environmental group says.

Steudle, who now lives in South Lyon, was formerly an MDOT engineer for the bay region.

http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-9623_10724-61418–,00.html

— Photo Credit: Alan Vernon

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Michigan Enviro Report: Christmas Bird Count, Solar in Bay City, Asian Carp Comments

From the Dec. 17, 2010, Friday Edition Environment Report on Delta College Q-90.1 FM:

1.

Photo Credit: Steve Ryan, Flickr

Citizen scientists are out and about in Michigan for the annual Christmas Bird Count.

The count began this week and lasts until Jan. 5.

According to Michigan Audubon, data gathered by volunteers during the count is used to assess the health of bird populations, and to guide conservation action.

This year’s count will be held in spots including Oscoda, Bay City, Higgins and Houghton lakes, Huron County and Tawas City.

Some history: In the 1980’s Christmas Bird Count data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck. After that, conservation measures were put in place to reduce hunting pressure on this species.

Last year, the count was instrumental in documenting range shifts of birds due to climate change.

Anyone from experienced birders to parents and kids can participate in the count. For more information, see michiganaudubon.org.

2.

A new solar array is gathering energy from the sun at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality office in Bay City.

State officials say the 10-kilowatt array will help make the office more energy efficient.

The array includes a total of 44 panels, which sit atop a structure at the north end of the property.

The building already generates power from 50-kilowatt wind turbine, visible from the Independence Bridge.

The latest improvements may earn a building an upgraded Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, under a program known as LEED. The solar panels will not only gather energy from the sun, but also pull power from parking lot lighting at night, officials say.

The solar array was funded by federal stimulus money. It came from a vendor in Novi and was installed by a contractor from Flint.

3.

If you’re concerned about Asian carp in the Great Lakes, listen up.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking comments until March 31 on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study.

In other words, the Corps is studying ways to prevent invasive species like Asian carp from swimming between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

That includes exploring a physical separation of the two basins.

Public meetings on the study are planned for Jan. 27 in Traverse City and Feb. 3 in Ann Arbor.

But you also can make comments online.

Enviro Report: Clean Energy States, Lead Christmas Lights & Water Pollution Near You

As heard on Delta College Q-90.1 FM‘s Friday Edition (Dec. 10, 2010):
1.

How does Michigan stack up against the country when it comes to clean energy?

Our state isn’t in the Top Ten, as ranked by Clean Edge, a research and consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. But Michigan is included in the company’s newly released Clean Energy Leadership Index.

According to the Index, the Top Three states are California, Oregon and Massachusetts when it comes to clean energy technology, policy, and capital.

Washington, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey round out the top 10. Indicators include total electricity produced by clean-energy sources, hybrid vehicles on the road, and clean-energy venture and patent activity.

As for Michigan, we’re ranked as the No. 1 state for clean energy patents. That’s due to our recent focus on electric vehicle and automotive battery technologies.

2.

In holiday news … have you hung up your Christmas lights? You may want to wash your hands, and keep the kids away.

Holiday lights are rife with lead, according to a study by the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. In a recent test, the center found that 54 percent of holiday lights had more lead than regulators permit in children’s products. Some strands contained more than 30 times what’s considered safe.

The U.S. standard for lead in children’s products is 300 parts per million. The limit is due to decrease next year to 100 parts per million.

Federal officials tell Bloomberg News that children should not be allowed to handle Christmas lights due to the levels of lead found by the Ecology Center.

The lead is used to stabilize cord casings and make sure they’re heat resistant.

You can find the Ann Arbor testing data online at healthystuff.org.

3.

Who’s polluting the water in your area?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a tool that anyone can use to find out.

The Internet-based tool is still in the testing stages. It’s called the Discharge Monitoring Report Pollutant Loading Tool. It provides year 2007 wastewater discharge amounts for more than 20,000 industrial and municipal facilities with Clean Water Act licenses.

An EZ Search for Bay County brings up 11 facilities, with 5 major discharges.

The EPA is taking comments on the tool until February, after which the agency plans to add additional data.

— Photo via George Deputee, Flickr.

Another Mr. Great Lakes

A post by the Mott Foundation on Cameron Davis, the so-called Great Lakes czar, makes mention of a familiar nickname:

“Even before his federal appointment in June 2009, his colleagues say, Davis was known as ‘Mr. Great Lakes’ because of the ways in which he championed the value of the five Lakes.”

Read the rest of the story. It’s a good interview, and makes mention of a $500,000 grant from the foundation.

Michigan Enviro Report: MichENN, Green Mosquito Control & Ballast Water

Stories featured in this week’s Friday Edition on Delta College Q-90.1 FM

1.

They call energy efficiency ‘the low-hanging fruit’ because it costs less to save electricity than it does to create it.

One way to get started is to join the Michigan Energy Efficiency Network. The network was created by the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates major utilities in the state, including Consumers Energy and DTE Energy.

The network is an online community aimed at helping local governments, schools, businesses and other groups to save energy. The goal is to link people who need energy advice with services and government officials who can provide it.

The site includes information about securing grants for energy efficiency improvements, along with ways to find out about successful projects and cost-cutting measures around the country.

The network is online at MichEEN.org. You can use an existing Facebook or Twitter account to sign in.

Others involved in creating the community include the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; INgage Networks and Michigan State University.

The address again is MichEEN.org

2.

Controlling mosquitoes is getting greener in Bay County.

Officials say the county’s Mosquito Control agency has been involved in two field trials for a new, organic water treatment project called Natular.

So far, the new larvicide has proven successful in controlling the bugs.

The product has a lower toxicity rate than other mosquito control products, and not as much has to be applied.

The Natular trials conducted in Bay County helped earn the product a green chemistry award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Natular, made by an environmental products and services company called Clarke, is the fifth pesticide to ever receive the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

Bay County was one of only a few mosquito control districts in the U.S. to run the field trials.

3.

It’s hard to talk about invasive species in the Great Lakes without talking about ballast water.

Ocean-going vessels have been blamed for introducing numerous invasives to the Great Lakes, including the zebra mussel and its cousin, the quagga mussel.

But environmental groups and others say there’s still a need for comprehensive federal rules to stem the flow of foreign creatures to the lakes.

Michigan has standards for ballast water, which require ships coming from the Atlantic Ocean to use treatment techniques when they discharge ballast water at ports.

Supporters, including the Lake Carriers Association, say federal standards would be easier to meet, instead of having to follow state-by-state standards.

But there are still concerns over how a federal standard would be regulated, and that federal standards would apply to freshwater vessels under a court ruling. The issue is being discussed by an EPA advisory board.

The Michigan ballast water standard took effect eight years ago, in 2002.

— Photo via noricum, Flickr

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