We are struggling through an unprecedented time with this world-wide pandemic. One positive change I have seen personally nearly every day is this - people are outside hiking, biking, running and enjoying nature. This is so awesome to see! Today as I jogged around our lake I saw ducks skittering along the shoreline...I heard a loon calling with its beautiful tremolo. I heard tiny chickadees flitting from tree to tree, and I watched sandhill cranes flying overhead. It is so important for our mental health that we get outside (still practicing social distancing) and LISTEN to the earth's creatures, NOTICE the emerging beauty around us, and smell the leaves and damp soil beneath our feet. I am deeply grateful for the beauty of our earth!
If you live near a lake, even just lake access, I highly recommend that you stop using Tru Green or any lawn fertilizer services! Why? Fertilizer runoff enters the groundwater carrying harmful chemicals such as phosphorus that eventually work their way into nearby lakes and streams, causing harm to the water quality. Pishaw you might say! Do the research...check your local lake's water quality...it really does make a difference! Our subdivision's lake, Dunham Lake, has experienced a degradation of quality due to people using excessive amounts of fertilizer (even those without nitrogen and phosphorus) and it is directly affecting the lake. Sadly, people prefer a "perfect lawn" to a clean lake. So let's all do our part! Let a few weeds creep in. Raise the blade a little higher and let the clippings stay on the lawn. Cancel that contract with the fertilizer company. For more info, read the resources on this link: http://www.canandaigualakeassoc.org/get-involved/lake-friendly-living/
Additionally, follow the below step-by-step guide to a healthy, lake-friendly lawn. http://www.canandaigualakeassoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Cornell-lawn-care-guide.pdf
While in Costa Rica this week, I visited an ancient Rainforest in Nosara. This protected space was teeming with wildlife covered by a canopy of huge, ancient trees that were hundreds of years old according to our guide (one was over 600!). I was reminded of America's redwoods and giant sequoias. These massive trees are protected and it is illegal to cut them down, but only within the ecological preserve. As we rode along on our horses, we heard the strange, haunting howls of howler monkeys, beautiful bird songs, and saw multi colored lizards and iguanas, red and black crabs, butterflies and trees with huge, emerald green leaves. After our horseback ride through the forest, we left the preserve and I thought I could hear the distant sound of chainsaws. As we came around a sharp bend, the dense forest opened up and I saw row upon row of hundred year old trees that had just been logged, lining the road. Sadly, they would never grow into the giants we had just encountered. Our code of life must include caring for our earth. Our treatment of the environment around us MUST change, before we lose the beautiful, incredible diversity of plants and animals we have been lucky enough to enjoy. I am reminded of a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash...
You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
and feed them on your dreams
the one they pick
the one you'll know by...
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!
[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!
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
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.
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..
Let me begin by saying I am somewhat biased since I was raised by an avid environmentalist, Audubon enthusiast and scientist - my mother. In her kindergarten classroom, five year olds sorted and classified feathers matching them with actual bird mounts. Her children went on wildflower walks and mixed baking soda and vinegar to make volcanoes. Science was fun! As a Huron Valley art teacher with a minor in science, weaving science into art lessons has been a passion for me as well.
I strongly believe that science is crucial to our understanding and appreciation of the world around us! It has been a disturbing trend in recent years that what is tested too often is the focus of what is taught. Thus, language arts and math have been the primary focus in elementary grades, with science falling by the wayside. On a positive note, I am thankful that our school district (Huron Valley) will be adopting a new science curriculum this year.
So what can we do in the meantime? Children and adults would greatly benefit from time spent outside observing animals and their interactions. I recall lazy summer days lying in the grass watching ants and insects interacting...wondering about ants and how they evolved their intricate societies. There were summer nights my brothers and I lay outside on blankets watching the stars and chattering away about life on other planets. Let's put the wonder back into the lives of our children! Let's encourage them to collect and classify leaves, then make an artwork from them. Let's take them on a canoe trip on the Huron River and watch for different turtles splashing into the water or scan the skies for hawks and migrating sandhill cranes. Nature has so much to teach us, yet it is our charge to instill not just awe and wonder, but also to teach a sense of empathy, reverence and responsibility to the earth and animals around us.
For a good article by Warren McLaren on this subject, visit this link: http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/11/12/3629731.htm
For a very interesting NOVA special (which sparked this blog), watch Lord of the Ants featuring Harvard scientist Edward Wilson and his important research on ecosystems:
Each year with the arrival of spring comes a new onslaught of invasive plants. There are new characters each year to add to the old "favorites." Pictured above is Garlic mustard, a particularly insidious plant that can turn a forest of diversity into a mono-culture in no time. As soon as you spot this and other invasives, pull them out and dispose of them immediately so the seeds do not continue to spread. They are already flowering here in Michigan so don't wait!
Announcing the 18th National Water Trail
Recognizing the achievements of federal, state, and local partners, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System. From construction projects that fix up dam portages, increase accessibility and provide new launch and landing spots, to new way-finding signs, to a waterproof map book and online trip planning tool, the Huron River Water Trail has come together. The Huron River Water Council led the initiative and application for the National Water Trail designation. Their vision is of a Huron River that is a focal point for recreational activities, while boosting local economies and adding a richness and breadth to historical and cultural events along the river. How exciting to achieve national visibility! This designation will bring positive economic impacts including increased tourism, assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects, assistance with recognition and special events highlighting the trail, and more.
The National Water Trail System is a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. It is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service. LEARN MORE at www.hrwc.org! For a full article on the efforts of the HRWC to make the Huron River more accessible for river-goers, read this article: http://www.annarbor.com/health/huron-river-watershed-council-hopes-water-trail-will-boost-river-tourism/
UPDATE! READ ON:
From: Ben Brower [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2014 2:40 PM
To: Greg Baroni
Subject: Arnason SWD permit application with EPA
In mid-2013, Jordan submitted application to the EPA for a salt water disposal (SWD) permit which would be used to dispose salt water that is produced from nearby oil wells. At this point, Jordan has not had significant oil discoveries in this area to justify this SWD well therefore, as of yesterday, November 12, Jordan has requested the EPA suspend our SWD permit application. In the event we ever wish to move forward with this permit, we will be required to start the public comment period from the beginning. Jordan has been performing oil and gas operations in this area for the past few years and we have always attempted to keep the local officials and land owners informed of our activities as we desire to be good neighbors. You are welcome to share this information with residents and media outlets
Benjamin S. Brower, V.P.
Jordan Development Company
1503 Garfield Road North
Traverse City, MI 49696
THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO SENT LETTERS ON THIS SUBJECT! THIS ROUND IS WON!
Fracking WAS coming to Indian Springs.The Metroparks had leased the entire Indian Springs Metropark for potential drilling.
What is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas. During the process, the water is polluted with chemicals that are so dangerous that they then are disposed of by injecting them back into the deep rock layers where the oil came from. These Injection disposal wells are used to permanently 'store' the contaminated waste fluids including toxic, cancerous chemicals which should NEVER be returned to the hydrologic cycle again nor can they be recycled (thus the injection well). However; nowhere in the 23 page permit are the chemicals listed. No MSDS (material safety data sheet) of any kind are included. Should a leak occur, the impact would be
dramatic: Drinking water from wells would be affected. This site is also just south of Big Lake: the headwaters of the Huron River Watershed (see map attached). The obvious danger here requires little explanation: a spill or leak will travel south through the entire watershed to Lake Erie and the Great Lakes Watershed.....
The expected maximum daily volume of fluid to be injected is 20,000 barrels. The volume of such activity inherently imposes a tremendous amount of road wear and tear, plus noise and air pollution from equipment and diesel truck convoys – none of which our area is prepared to deal with – not to mention ‘disturbing the peace’. The industrial nature of these construction and transportation efforts, in our otherwise forested and country setting, is
undesirable and directly, negatively impact our home values,(re)mortgaging ability and insurance rates. Although “ …no significant environmental impact should result from the proposed injection”, accidents do happen, well-casings leak and guaranteeing containment is impossible. In the areas, where these problems have happened, property values have plummeted to the point of being unsaleable.
THANKS TO ALL WHO SUBMITTED LETTERS TO THE EPA - YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE!
In order to attain a formal public hearing, residents must express significant interest, in the form of Letters sent to the EPA which may be sent via email, fax or U.S. mail. Letters must state specifically what issues are being raised, and be directed to EPA Anna Miller; refer to subject: Arnason B2-2, SWD, MI-125-2D-0005 and include your name, city/town and state.
This is our ongoing blog with articles on the environment, local news and events, and issues related to land conservation.