As spring brings warm weather and the snow has melted, creeks and rivers are flowing stronger and spring peepers are busy calling for a mate. Thinking of kayaking in this warm weather reminds me of the importance of keeping our waterways and water sources clean and pure. There are simple things we can do to make a difference - from properly disposing of medications (drop them off at the pharmacy or police station) to keeping our waterways clean (don't pour oil or chemicals down drains, sewers or on the ground. They will eventually end up in our water. These can either be taken to hazardous waste day (check your local government website) or take car oil or antifreeze to a car repair facility that can recycle it. Don't fertilize lake lawns but if you must, be sure to use low nitrogen lake-friendly fertilizer OR plant native plants to replace grass. Finally, nothing belongs in the toilet except toilet paper (septic friendly) and human waste. Let's all do our part to keep our water clean and safe! For more information, visit this website: https://www.basementguides.com/water-pollution/ Thanks to Tyler and The Green Teens Club for this important information!
REDUCE instead of just recycling plastic. Just because you put something in a recycling bin, doesn’t mean it gets recycled! 50% of items put in recycling bins doesn’t get recycled. Why? China is no longer accepting as much recycled material, so now it is going into landfills. As a result, our earth is swimming in plastic. It is estimated that 14 billion pounds of plastic per year ends up in our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers 1.6 million square kilometers — 617,000 square miles — according to a new report from The Ocean Cleanup foundation. Wow! We need to focus more on reducing or stopping our use of plastic. Plastic is choking our oceans, killing our whales, dolphins, turtles and sea life. There are huge patches of floating plastic in the ocean, some bigger than the state of New Jersey! All this started around 1950 and it keeps getting worse every year. Let’s stop the madness! I challenge you to purchase items not packed in plastic. Don’t use plastic bags, don’t drink water from plastic bottles, don’t use straws or plastic or Styrofoam drink cups. Take it a step further and don’t purchase clothing made with polyester, nylon, acrylic and synthetic fibers. Re-use old clothing for rags, woven rugs, or dog bedding. If you must purchase polyester, buy polyester cotton blends which shed less plastic in the wash than pure polyester or acrylic clothing. Bring a glass container to take home leftovers from the restaurant. Place a thin mesh bag on the end of the washing machine hose to capture fibers. Most of all, change your life style and live more mindfully.
Recently, my aunt told me she was planning to cut down trees on her Maine tree farm as part of her Forestry Plan. I was glad she is protecting the area of old growth forest on her beautiful farm. Everyone who visits her small patch of mature forest, falls in love with the ancient white pines that stand like sentinels watching over the fern lined, mossy forest as it slopes toward the nearby pond. Oddly enough, I also stumbled across an article in a scientific magazine reviewing the amazing work of Peter Wohlleben who wrote The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (public library). In it he explains how trees form supportive networks, “families” if you will, nurturing and helping other trees to survive in surprising ways. He discovered this when he found an ancient tree stump felled hundreds of years before that was still alive! Trees nearby were “feeding” it with nutrients and sugars through their roots as well as using an interesting fungal network. Again, I thought of clear cut forests and even woodlands where many, but not all, trees have been culled. Often the few remaining trees die because they have lost their supportive network, their protection from wind, heat and sun provided by nearby trees.
“There are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.”
Interesting to me was the discovery that “mother” or parent trees were supporting younger saplings that struggle to reach sunlight in the dense canopy and were unable to easily use photosynthesis to convert sugar into food. Here the older nearby trees helped by sending sugar through their network of roots to feed the younger trees. We need to recognize that forests are families…interconnected ecosystems…and treat them with respect as we consider our forestry plans.
[Photo by Bob Moul}
Monarchs in North America are amazing in that they cover vast distances of up to 3,000 miles during their migration (or rather, several generations of monarchs eventually help complete the journey). Key to their survival are milkweed plants, the caterpillars only source of food. The trouble is many open fields that had milkweed have become subdivisions. Also, farmers spray weedkiller on their fields killing the important milkweed plants - not good for our faithful and beautiful monarchs. Can we help? Certainly. Plant milkweed! Buy organic fruits and vegetables. Lobby for protection of the oyamel fir tree forests and preserves in Mexico. Small steps DO make a difference.
My neighbor thinks he is zapping all kinds of harmful biting insects with his non-stop all night long bug zapper. Sadly, mosquitoes and gnats are not attracted to the zapper, but far too many beneficial insects are! So bugs that eat gnats and mosquitoes such as dragon flies, are zapped when they are just what we need.to naturally eat thousands of the female mosquitos that bite us. Moths are important night time pollinators, important for our flowers and fruit trees. Studies have shown that the vast majority of insects that end up zapped are moths, beetles, fireflies, and other insects that are attracted to the ultra violet light with few being biting insets. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide we breathe out, NOT to the zappers. Put a strong fan out on the deck or just skip night-time on the deck. Best too not to use any bug zappers - they are not good for the environment!
While we wait for America and the rest of the world to stop burning fossil fuels, we can take small steps to do our own part to slow climate change. Really? Yes! Something as simple as planting trees and gardens or using your own compost goes a long way toward holding carbon in the soil. This in turn slows climate change. Eating homegrown vegetables and fruit also helps because this uses less fuel. Buying clothing in thrift stores or re-using items helps even more since there are so many steps in manufacturing clothing or furniture and then bringing them to market that use fossil fuels. It seems odd that such simple steps can leave a smaller carbon footprint, but each small change helps!
I think what is most disturbing to me about the current administration (and I will not go into politics here) are the changes to our environmental policies. Believe what you want, but there are real statistics available to us on how our animals, plants, trees, and oceans are being harmfully affected by what we humans have done in the past 200 plus years. First, if you haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth, watch it. If you have no idea what is happening to our climate, seek out vetted news, read and explore scientific information. If you are wealthy enough, visit the arctic circle and watch polar bears and penguins. Travel to Africa and observe poaching first hand. If you are not wealthy (like me) take the time to watch Nature or other shows about what is happening to our planet. I am deeply distressed that our country is not doing everything we can to make a difference for the animals and creatures of our planet. Climate change and things like the hole in the ozone layer (which we DID do something about) are not "fake news". I wish all this was fake news. It is not. Things like melting glaciers, loss of animal populations, and destruction of animals and animal habitat are measurable.
My husband sometimes kids me that I care more about animals than I do about people. Well, possibly... because animals do not have a voice! They can't do the things that need to be done to reverse this dangerous trend. Animals can only try to adjust, not an easy task when natural adaptation or finding a new habitat (if it is even possible) can take centuries... When I see the extensive bleaching of coral reefs, starving polar bears, monocultures devoid of healthy ecosystems, slash and burn farming in the rapidly disappearing rainforests, animal species going extinct - I am not proud to be a human. I am sad.
So of course, there are thousands of websites that offer constructive suggestions for how to make a difference. I suggest at a minimum you do this: Study the views of future candidates and vote accordingly. Teach your children how to care for all animals, how to plant a garden, how to cherish the earth's creatures, how to sit still and watch the wildlife around them, how to be empathetic, how to make a difference, how to live differently. Then do the same!
Invasive plants are a sad reality for Oakland County and all of Michigan. Yet there is good news! Highland Township is spearheading a unique opportunity to treat phragmites (see above photo) and other invasvies in our county. This must be done before the first frost, so Jim Lloyd and Lynn Hansford of the Highland Conservancy have been working with the Lisa Burkhart of Highland Township to GPS target areas for treatment. A contractor will be treating phragmites in the next few weeks throughout Highland Township, now that the paperwork has been completed.
In addition, each of us can educate ourselves on what to look for and how to remove invasives on our own property to help prevent their spread. Why does it matter? We have dandelions and worms and they were once invasive species right? Think of the Asian carp. This invasive fish has taken over a key spot in the food chain and wiped out a lot of other species as a result. Plants like Kudzu may be more familiar but here in Michigan, Phragmites, Garlic Mustard, Swallow-wort and Oriental bittersweet are just as harmful! With plants, we need to be alarmed when that plant turns a local field or forest into a monoculture, overwhelming and destroying that food web. A dandelion will happily live alongside the grass in your yard but doesn’t cause the grass to die out, or wipe out the local population of birds or insects. Not so with invasives such as Phragmites (frag-my-tees), a huge, towering, water-loving reed. It will take over a wetland area wiping out cattails and native reeds that birds and mammals rely on for a food source. This is when we need to step in and fight!
Be careful to do your research. Pulling up a plant like garlic mustard and throwing it on the compost pile or in a ditch can do more harm by spreading the seeds. Also, some plants such as oriental bittersweet or swallow-wort have root systems that need to be completely removed. Each species is different and has a different method of removal. Also, don’t plant invasives as ornamentals such as Purple Loosestrife or a food source for birds such as Autumn Olive or Oriental bittersweet (American Bittersweet is ok).
Finally, if you have Phragmites, contact Highland Township to join in on the latest effort to combat it. Currently there is a grant that will provide for a contractor to remove Phragmites from your yard free of charge, or in common areas in subdivisions, public spaces, and lake areas. Please call Lisa Burkhart at Highland Township immediately (248-887-3791) to arrange to be part of this important initiative!
An excellent guide to terrestrial invasives and how to handle them:
For a good visual with photos of invasive Michigan plants, click on this link:
This is a link to the Michigan Invasive Species Initiative of which the Highland Conservancy is a member:
Here is the Oakland County chapter of this network:
For more information, contact: Emily Duthinh
OC CISMA Chair
Join in on the fun with the Six Rivers Adventure League! Some events include: paddling scenic stretches of rivers, exploring rugged trails in local recreation areas, and biking through some of Michigan’s best trail networks. Check the schedule for upcoming events and bring the family for some great outdoor adventures!
Sadly, oak wilt is a new disease spreading like wildfire throughout Michigan and our country. Once infected with this fungus, oak trees die within a few months. When trees are pruned anytime from March 1st to December 1st (the warm season), they will likely be infected by this disease. Oak wilt is spread by sap beetles. They can "smell" the sap from miles away and will bring the fungus to trees when they feed on sap from newly pruned oaks or oaks that have lost branches in a storm. In Oakland County, power line companies (DTE) has hired trimmers who have been systematically trimming during the wrong time of year. This brought the disease to oaks in our local forests and subdivisions. Storm damage to oaks has amplified the problem.
There are simple steps you can take to treat and protect your trees. DO NOT PRUNE during the warm season (March 1st to Dec. 1st). Only prune when the weather is below 50 degrees, that is in December, January and February! If you prune a branch or you hear it fall during a storm, the wound must be treated within a half hour with black spray paint or tree wound paint with a latex or asphalt base. If you have infected trees nearby, dig a trench between the diseased and healthy trees that is at least 4 feet deep to prevent it spreading through root structures. Have your white oak tree injected with the fungicide Alamo. White oaks may be cured with Alamo. Red oaks can be protected with Alamo. The fungicide has no affect on red oaks that are already showing symptoms. Remove infected trees and chip the wood.
Because we already have oak wilt in Highland, it is important to stop it spreading further. You can help by hiring a certified arborist or certified tree company to examine, treat or remove your oaks. Remember, If they prune, they should only do so from December 1st to March 1st. If they tell you the time of year doesn't matter - this should be a red flag - do not hire that company! It is imperative that NO oak wood is purchased, moved or transported for fire wood. This will only spread the disease to new, unaffected areas. DO NOT MOVE FIREWOOD or take it up north! This is how Emerald Ash Borer, Oak Wilt and other diseases have spread to our beautiful forests. Planting a wide variety of native trees also will help create stronger bio-diversity in our forests.
Join us on Weds. October 12th at 6:30 p.m. at the Highland Township Board meeting (in the Highland Township hall) to support our efforts to put an ordinance in place to fight Oak Wilt and other tree diseases. WE NEED A BIG TURNOUT!
Six Rivers Land Conservancy Highland Chapter members will be leading the planting of the Highland DDA (Downtown Development Authority) landscaping beds along the streets in Highland Station on this Saturday June 11 from 8 AM to 12 PM. All native Michigan perennials will be used for the landscaping. You can see what the finished product looks like at the intersection of Milford Road and Livingston Road.
We REALLY NEED LOTS OF HELP in order to get the rest of the beds planted. Weeding is pretty well done so the task will be planting and mulching for each bed. Please consider volunteering a few hours on Saturday morning to help get this completed. We will be working on Livingston Road, McPherson Street and Ruggles Street.
Bring gloves, rake, trowel, knee pads, hose and wheelbarrow if you can. We have hundreds of plants in 2 inch diameter trays that must get into the ground. Recent rains should help make ground soft.
Come and go as you please on Saturday morning and help make your community more beautiful and complete the Streetscaping project. Many hands will make easy work.
Call Jim Lloyd at 248-881-9977 if you have any questions.
Earth day is celebrated every April in Highland Township and Milford, Michigan with a very special afternoon of family fun! On Sunday, April 24, 2015 from noon to 4pm, the Huron Valley Green Team and Carl's Family YMCA off Commerce Road in Milford will host a free earth day event at the YMCA packed with activities for families, children - anyone can attend! There will be face painting, arts and craft activities, dancing, music, free food, free saplings, and the International Academy will put on a "green" fashion show (one year there was a dress made entirely of brochures!). There will be a wide variety of booths such as how to protect your lake's water quality and green building techniques to the "reptile man" with turtles and other reptiles. I might even bring my snake again this year! Finally, winners of the Huron Valley earth day poster contest are given their awards and the YMCA is decorated with dozens of awesome posters created by local students. This is an annual event put on by the Huron Valley Green team so if you missed the fun last year, I urge you to mark your calendar to attend this afternoon of family fun! Below are some photos from last year's event.
EARTH DAY POSTER CONTEST: In celebration of earth day there was a poster contest for all Huron Valley elementary and middle school students. The theme this year was Live Green through the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. A wide variety of excellent posters were submitted by elementary and middle school students and many even used recycled materials. Many of these posters will be displayed around the gym, so everyone can enjoy the ideas and creativity of our Huron Valley students.
As an environmentalist, one of the most disturbing trends I am seeing is the widespread destruction of animals and animal habitat all around the world. In just 300 years, our planet has been transformed - and not in a good way for earth's animals! I'm sure everyone has heard about the steady burning down of the Amazon Rainforest. Yet habitat destruction takes place in America too. Gone are the tall grass prairies of the American midwest and the ancient old growth forests that covered America. Habitat is fragmented with each new subdivision and city. As alarming as this is, loss of habitat is only a small part of the picture. There is also the impact of climate change, the explosion of our human population, and the widespread extinction of earth's diverse plants and animals. So what? Who cares? I strongly believe that it is our job to educate our families and children about the importance of every creature in a food chain - to introduce them to nature, plants, flowers, insects, reptiles - and teach them the beauty and fragility of every living thing. It should never be "what's in it for me" rather "how can I help and give back to the earth"?
As an educator of young children, I regularly teach units on animals, trees, food chains, ecology - not just for earth day. We investigate habitat loss, are animals endangered by melting polar regions and warming seas, what happens when animals are hunted for ivory or fur, how important is each animal to the food web? We think about and brainstorm what we can do to make a difference. Simple actions like turning out the lights, using less plastic, or planting milkweed plants for migrating monarchs can help! I invite you to examine the impact you are making on our earth and investigate how you can make a difference. Then teach your children. They are the ones who will inherit this fragile earth.
Do you want to get outside and active, helping to protect our local parks in Highland? We could certainly use your help in controlling invasive plants in Highland State Rec.
On Saturday, January 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. work will be done at the Silo Field Trial Area. Volunteers will be hauling and piling brush and stacking fire wood. Meet at the Silo Field Trial parking lot off Livingston Road, between Pettibone Lake and Beaumont Roads in Highland State Recreation Area. GPS coordinates: 42.638344, -83.595671 Saturday, January 30 – 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
On Saturday, February 20 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm join ongoing efforts to restore part of the Highland State Rec field trial area to an open grassland. Volunteers will be hauling and piling brush and stacking fire wood. Meet at the Silo Field Trial Area parking lot off Livingston Road, between Pettibone Lake and Beaumont Roads. GPS coordinates: 42.638344, -83.595671
On Sunday, February 28 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm join us in removing invasive shrubs from a high quality natural area! We’ll be removing a smorgasbord of invasive shrub species and we need your help. Meet at the bike trailhead parking lot on the north side of Livingston Road between Duck Lake and Waterbury Roads. GPS coordinates: 42.639536, -83.576926
Questions, please contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper, Natural Resource Steward Stewardship Unit, Parks and Recreation Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
To learn more and to register please visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click on the Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays link. Contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper at email@example.com or 517-719-2285 with any questions.
It was Halloween and as we walked the streets with my sons, it was thrilling and exciting to come upon a lighted porch - candy! Yet each year when Halloween is over, far too many of those welcoming lights are still on, flooding nearby homes with unwanted light. As our neighborhood has changed and car dealerships built a few miles away,far too many bright lights are polluting the night sky. I understand the need for safety, but wonder if a different kind of shielded, diffused light might not be just as effective? Better yet, turn out the outside porch lights and floodlights and instead lock your doors and car for safety. Let's protect our rural atmosphere and enjoy the canopy of stars..
This is our ongoing blog with articles on the environment, local news and events, and issues related to land conservation.