CNS Budget – Jan. 19, 2018

Jan. 19, 2018 – Week 1

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman & Sheila Schimpf

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841;cepak@msu.edu.

For other matters, contact Eric Freedman at (517) 355-4729 or (517-256-3873); freedma5@msu.edu.

 

1st WEEKLY FILE: Welcome to the spring 2018 semester. Our correspondents look forward to continuing to serve you and your readers.

 

WELCOME NEW CNS MEMBERS: Our newest CNS subscribers are the weekly Clare County Cleaver, weekly Benzie County Record Patriot and the daily Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

 

Here is your file:

 

ISLEROYALEANIMALS: By Bailey Laske. With only one surviving wolf known on Isle Royale, the national park’s moose population is climbing without predators to keep the numbers under control. To help restore the wolf-moose balance, Michigan United Conservation Clubs wants the federal government to allow moose hunting on the island and to relocate moose from the U.P., not Canada. We also hear from an Isle Royale guidebook writer. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, SAULT STE. MARIE, CHEBOYGAN AND ALL POINTS.

        w/ISLEROYALEANIMALSPHOTO: Wolf in Isle Royale National Park. Credit: National Park Service.

 

HUNTINGFISHINGLICENSES: As the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold in the state drops, DNR and Michigan United Conservation Clubs warn that money for wildlife habitat protection is shrinking as well. For news and outdoors pages. By Haley Gable. FOR CHEBOYGAN AND ALL POINTS.

 

RURALMATERNITYWARDS: A new study finds that many rural hospitals around the country are closing their maternity wards for financial reasons. An Oceana County midwife says such closures mean some pregnant women must travel an hour or more to a hospital. Many are turning to midwife services. Marquette has the only neonatal intensive care unit in the U.P. By Gloria Nzeka. FOR OCEANA, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, CHEBOYGAN AND ALL POINTS.

 

WILDLIFECOOPERATIVES: Wildlife cooperatives are bringing landowners together to improve habitat and other land conservation efforts. We hear from the Mecosta/Osceola Lake Conservation District, Lake Hudson Pheasant Cooperative, Southern Mecosta Whitetail Management Association, DNR and Michigan United Conservation Clubs. For news and outdoors pages. By Agnes Bao. FOR BLISSFIELD, BIG RAPIDS, LAKE COUNTY AND ALL POINTS.

w/WILDLIFECOOPERATIVESCHART: The number of deer cooperatives in the state is rising. Credit: Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

w/WILDLIFECOOPERATIVESMAP: Deer and pheasant cooepratives in the state. Credit: Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

 

CENSUS: The headcount won’t take place until next year but the state is ramping up for the 2020 Census, which is expected to cost Michigan a seat in the U.S. House and an electoral vote. Also at stake will be the future shape of legislative and congressional districts and allocation of government aid. The state demographer explains. With references to Wexford County, Gladwin, Clare County and Cadillac. By Riley Murdock. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, CADILLAC, CLARE, GLADWIN AND ALL POINTS.

 

MARIJUANA: By Colton Wood. The Senate has approved a bill to make it easier for licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to deal with banks and other financial institutions. Dispensary owners in Houghton and Holland explain the difficulties they’ve been having without such a law. FOR HOLLAND, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, BAYMILLS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

 

CONSERVATIONEDUCATION: Public schools don’t focus enough attention on teaching about conservation as part of the science curricula, a DNR expert and Michigan United Conservation Clubs say. Among the reasons are a focus on standardized testing and the lack of a state Department of Education mandate. We hear from Centreville Schools and the Department of Education. By Maxwell Evans. FOR THREE RIVERS, STURGIS AND ALL POINTS.

 

CYBERBULLYING: Michigan would be the 17th state to make cyberbullying a crime under legislation pending in a House committee. The sponsor is from Shelby Township. The ACLU has concerns that it would violate freedom of speech under the First Amendment. By Casey Hull. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

 

CHRONICWASTINGDISEASE: DNR has been ramping up its testing of deer for chronic wasting disease, including new testing efforts in Montcalm, Mecosta and Kent counties. CWD testing costs the state about $1 million a year. There’s still no known treatment. We hear from DNR experts, the state veterinarian and Michigan United Conservation Clubs. By Crystal Chen. FOR GREENVILLE, IONIA, BIG RAPIDS AND ALL POINTS.

        w/CHRONICWASTINGDISEASEMAP: Deer check stations in Michigan. Credit: Department of Natural Resources.

        w/CHRONICWASTINGDISEASEPHOTO: White-tailed deer with CWD. Credit: Department of Natural Resources.

 

CNS

 

Banking may become easier for marijuana businesses

By COLTON WOOD
Capital News Service

LANSING — As a member of the marijuana industry, Max Martinez understands the struggle of working with banks.

As the owner of Pure West, a medical marijuana dispensary in Holland, Martinez has been turned away by banks throughout his seven-year tenure at the company. .Most dispensaries allow transactions to be completed only in cash, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and banks could be charged with a crime if they do banking transactions with dispensaries.

Now, he may soon get the help he needs.

A bill awaiting the governor’s approval would revise the state law that regulates medical marijuana facilities, including protection for accountants and financial institutions from sanctions when dealing with a marijuana licensee.

“You got to understand, too — like in our perspective in the business, it’s already happened,” Martinez said. “It’s not that, ‘Oh, wow, Michigan is barely jumping on.’ It’s already happened in other states.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, got final approval from the House and Senate this month.

“To answer from a different perspective, as a business owner who has been doing this for seven years, yeah, it’s nice to be able to go to a bank and ask them, but again, I’ve been turned away from so many banks,” Martinez said. “It’s a really rude impression that they leave, so I really haven’t had to use a bank myself.”

But the separation between dispensaries and banks goes beyond the doors of Martinez’s business.

For Martinez, paying his bills is a challenge because he’s unable to have auto-pay set up with the bank.

“The problem is that when I do go, they always try to say, ‘Well, you’re doing this with it, or you’re doing that with it.’ It’s like, ‘No, that’s not the case. I just need to function in this business.

“I don’t really need you, but if I have to pay my bills like electricity or stuff I would like to have on auto-pay, I can’t do that, because, ‘Oh, you’re doing this with this.’’ So, that’s where that perspective comes from,” he said.

Penny Milkey and her husband, Ryan, the co-owners of North Specialty Health in Houghton., have experienced great frustration from banks not being willing to cooperate.

“There is progress being made with the legality of dispensaries in Michigan,” she said. “However, since it is still a federally scheduled substance, that does prevent a lot of banks from wanting to work with us.”

Since they took over the store in December 2013, she and her husband have been cut off and given no access at all to the banking system, which can make conducting business difficult.

“It will be amazing if it goes through, because we will actually be able to use a banking system,” Milkey said of the bill. “It just seems like they would want people to use a banking system, because they could track everything better.”

Concerns raised about maternity care in rural areas

By GLORIA NZEKA
Capital News Service

LANSING – Almost 2.5 million women of childbearing age living in rural America face higher risks during pregnancy and childbirth, including some who are forced to drive at least an hour to give birth in a hospital, a study in the journal “Health Affairs” found.

The study found that 45 percent of rural U.S. counties had no hospital obstetric services at all, leaving more than half of all rural U.S. counties without hospital obstetric services.

This comes at a time when the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased by more than 25 percent from 2000 to 2014, according to a 2016 study in the “Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal Mortality Surveillance Committee estimated in a January report that approximately 80 women die each year in the state during pregnancy and childbirth.

Patrice Bobier, a  midwife from Oceana County and member of the board of the Michigan Midwives Association, said the trend in hospitals closing their obstetric care departments could be because they struggle to balance their books.

Hospitals increasingly find themselves having to merge with bigger corporations or health institutions, bringing their maternity operations to a halt, Bobier said.

Bobier has been working as a midwife since 1982. But in the last three years, she noted an increase in women giving birth through her midwifery services.. 

The situation in the Upper Peninsula is particularly critical, with fewer obstetrical units than other areas in the state.

UP Health System Marquette is the only hospital in the U.P. with a neonatal intensive care unit.

Obstetricians in the  hospital often travel to nearby hospitals to provide obstetric services, said Emily Wright, physician relations specialist at UP Health System in Marquette.

To address this situation, the Michigan Maternal Mortality Surveillance Committee endorsed six recommendations in September.

For example, the committee will seek to enhance education and coordination between the state Board of Licensed Midwifery and midwives attending out-of-hospital births about  timely referrals of women to hospitals when necessary.

Lawmakers eye making cyberbullying a crime

By CASEY HULL
Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan would become the 17th state with criminal penalties for cyberbullying under a proposal in the Legislature that would make it a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if a bullied person dies.

The bill would make cyberbullying a misdemeanor with a potential maximum one-year jail term. However, if the bullying results in the death of the victim, it would become a felony.  

Current state law doesn’t specify what qualifies as cyberbullying.

Enforcement of penalties for online bullying creates the potential for a First Amendment viiolation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan.

“There is no Supreme Court decision for lower courts to go off of,” said Tara Mesyn, a former Mason High School teacher who is working on a study of cyberbullying laws at Michigan State University.

“The lack of precedent has caused interpretation of what is and what isn’t cyberbullying to be all over the place,” she said.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.

“As it stands, a child’s parents are required to find representation and to pursue litigation for cyberbullying on their own,” Lucido said.

“With the passage of this bill, it would become possible for the state or justice system to act on cases of suicide and independently investigate potential acts of bullying,” he said.

The House Crime and Justice Committee was prepared to pass the bill before receiving a letter from the ACLU raising concerns that the law would violate freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

The committee will reconsider the bill later this year, said Lucido, vice chair of the committee.

According to ACLU of Michigan policy counsel Kimberly Buddin, “The broad scope of the bill ends up criminalizing speech online that would generally be protected.”

Buddin acknowledged that “advocating for someone to cause physical harm to another person would not fall under protected free speech.”

The Department of Education has taken a neutral stance on the legislation, according to its school safety consultant, Aimee Alaniz.

With high stakes, state gears up for census

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service

LANSING — It’s that time of decade again.

Though the next U.S. census won’t take place until 2020, Michigan and other states will soon begin the groundwork to prepare the country for its upcoming headcount.

With more than 327 million people to be counted, states will be responsible for confirming federal address lists and making sure new residents are identified and their addresses recorded.

Michigan employs a full-time state demographer, Eric Guthrie, dedicated to leading its census preparation efforts.

Guthrie serves as Michigan’s liaison to the US Census Bureau regarding the Federal and State Cooperative for Population Estimates, a collection of state-level agencies that review, update and verify population estimates.

“This is kind of an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation, where the federal government is handling the actual nuts-and-bolts setup and everybody is working together to make sure the work itself that needs to happen” gets done, Guthrie said.

Among other purposes, census data is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. With a population of 9,883,640 according to the 2010 census, Michigan currently has 14 congressional districts.

The information also affects distribution of federal aid.

More than $589 billion was distributed between the states and Washington D.C. through “census-guided” programs in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

The 2020 census will be the first census in which all forms can be filled out electronically, a major change that Guthrie said he hopes will not only make it easier for individuals to respond, but will cut costs as well.

“The census is a very important project that will affect every area for the next decade in terms of representation and funding,” Guthrie said. “Everything we can do to make sure it’s successful will be for the common good.”

The Local Update of Census Addresses Operation, or LUCA, a program allowing local governments to compare their address lists to the Census Bureau’s, will begin in February. LUCA will help to make sure the Census Bureau’s address list is as accurate as possible for the coming count, he said.

“Which is highly important, because the census is essentially a household survey,” Guthrie said.

“In order for the census to make sure it reaches every household, it has to have the most current address list possible.”

In addition to LUCA, Guthrie will begin a state-level review of Michigan’s address list. The state recently hired two full-time demographic analysts who will help with preparation efforts, he said.

“Every administrative unit in the state is offered an opportunity, so that goes down to Michigan’s smallest village and township all the way up to the city of Detroit and the state,” Guthrie said. “They will get the list of all the addresses within their jurisdiction.”

Different-sized units might employ different methods, Guthrie said.

Small areas might use paper address lists and perform their comparisons manually, while Guthrie, working with several million addresses on the state level, might make electronic comparisons to look for areas with the largest discrepancies.

A large part of census preparation is getting the word out and making sure people understand why it’s important, Guthrie said. That becomes more complicated for more sparsely-populated areas that might lack resources.

“When we start thinking about more rural, spread-out populations that are not able to participate, that makes the process of counting those persons more labor-intensive on the Census Bureau’s part and may result in more difficulty counting those populations,” Guthrie said.

Michigan will participate in LUCA on a statewide level, but a large number of individual counties are not participating, including many in the Upper Peninsula and the Northeast Lower Peninsula.

LUCA efforts require local governments to use their own staff and resources, which might be one of many reasons certain areas decide not to participate, Guthrie said.

Wexford County and Cadillac are both individually participating in LUCA, according to the Census Bureau..

Meanwhile, Gladwin County is not participating and will be counted by the state, but Gladwin and other communities within the county will participate individually.

Clare County is not participating in LUCA and will be counted by the state.

Guthrie said, “I’m going to do the best I can to review areas that didn’t sign up to participate, but I’m at the largest level. I’m going to supply whatever addresses I can find that the census doesn’t have, but I might not have them all myself.”

Fewer fishing, hunting licenses mean less conservation money

By HALEY GABLE
Capital News Service

LANSING –  Revenue from hunting and fishing license sales decreased from $63.2 million in 2016 to $62.1 million in 2017, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Meanwhile, the number of licensed hunters and fishers has been declining over the last 20 years, DNR said.

The funds from licenses go directly to fisheries and wildlife conservation programs and make up the most of budget for those programs. When license sales decline, it means less money to support wildlife programs.

Nine percent of the DNR’s total budget comes from general tax dollars, and only 4.5 percent of that goes towards conservation, according to the department.  

The DNR increased licenses fees in 2014, which helped generate funds. However, DNR public information officer Ed Golder said there is no current plan to ask the Legislature for another increase.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) Executive Director Dan Eichinger said hunting and fishing licenses are the main source of funding for state conservation efforts. Getting people to buy licenses is essential to conservation and the benefits it brings to individuals, their communities and the state as whole.

Conservation plays a substantial role in the Michigan economy. According to the DNR, hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing contribute $3 billion annually to the state’s economy. Recreation related to hunting and fishing supports 33,000 jobs.

Eichinger said that the best way for citizens to support conservation is to purchase a hunting or fishing license because these funds must be allocated for wildlife conservation.

To generate money and increase license sales, Eichinger said there must be an effort to either grow the user base or be more efficient with funds.

MUCC has several programs to educate the public on how conservation benefits themselves, wildlife habitats and the economy.

For example, Gourmet Gone Wild is a program designed to expand the hunting user base. According to its website, the program is “designed to introduce young professionals to hunting and fishing in an innovative way: tasteful and healthy cuisine.”

Participants have the opportunity to learn about the health benefits of eating wild game and how hunting promotes conservation and sustainability.

Another program is the R3 Program, which stands for recruitment, retention and reactivation. According to MUCC public information officer Nick Green, it aims to inspire parents to take their children fishing and hunting.

“R3 is about getting parents on board in order to support the next generation,” said Green.  

The program provides tools for parents, children and others to learn how to fish and hunt. The hope is that people will enjoy these activities, continue to participate and, in turn, will renew their hunting and fishing licenses, he said.

The MUCC also holds an annual summer camp for children ages 9-16.

MUCC education coordinator Shaun McKeon said the camp focuses on teaching skills such as hunting and fishing, and educates campers on conservation science.  

Local communities can also participate in and benefit from statewide conservation efforts.

For example, in 2017, the Cheboygan Conservation District  participated in the Hunting Access Program, which provides the opportunity for private landowners to benefit financially from allowing hunters access to their land.

According to the district, six landowners enrolled last year.

State cranks up testing deer for chronic wasting disease

By CRYSTAL CHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — The past deer hunting season witnessed a significant increase in the number of deer confirmed or suspected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

More deer tests are needed, especially in counties that have not been sufficiently sampled, to identify the presence of the disease as well as to help develop an overall management plan, the department said.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer and elk. It causes a spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals and could result in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and, ultimately, death, according to the DNR.

Scientists believe CWD affects only members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, said John Niewoonder, a biologist and field operations manager for Montcalm and Ionia counties in DNR’s Wildlife Division.

Surveillance for the disease is ongoing, and DNR added a new nine-township Core CWD Area in Montcalm and Kent counties in late 2017.

Also, the confirmation of CWD in a free-ranging deer from Montcalm County last September led to the mandatory testing of heads for all deer harvested by hunters within 72 hours and within 5 miles of the core area.

“We continue to test deer from portions of Montcalm and Ionia counties that were harvested during the special January deer season,”  Niewoonder said. “There are at least 34 deer from Montcalm County that are either confirmed or suspected CWD-positive from this past deer season.”

So far, the source of the disease is unknown, and there is no treatment for CWD-positive deer.

The biggest challenge for treatment is that “there’s so much about the disease we don’t know,” said Dan Eichinger, the executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

“Since you can only test CWD once a deer is dead, with more deer samples from hunters, we’ll have a much better understanding of the extent of the disease, what direction the disease might be travelling in,” Eichinger said. “And that will help inform what the overall management is to be.”

In the past three years, the state spent more than $1 million annually on CWD testing, according to Stewart.

“The level of detail and the amount of effort that we are putting forward is certainly enough to detect the area where we are intensively looking, but that same level of effort probably can’t be applied to everywhere in the state,” Stewart said.

Niewoonder said surveillance is far from complete for the entire state.

“There are many counties that have not been sufficiently sampled to identify whether the disease is present or not. Since the disease likely occurs at very low levels, it is difficult to detect unless many deer are sampled,” he said.

The state has 75 deer check stations, Stewart said, including several new ones in Montcalm and Mecosta counties.

The workload for DNR staff is determined by various factors, such as deer densities in an area, as well as the geographic range where DNR wants to identify the disease. Additional staff was brought into the testing lab in the past hunting season, according to Stewart.

Though the current testing method is “highly effective,” it is still impossible to identify every CWD-positive deer, said Stewart. “People can’t look at a deer and say it has CWD.  Otherwise they would be very easy to target and remove those animals from the landscape.”

Niewoonder said there is no reliable live animal test for CWD, so tests are conducted on dead deer. “The difficulty lies in getting enough samples to detect a disease that exists at very low levels in the deer herd.”

Most of the test samples come from hunters, mostly from October through December.

“That’s when most of our samples are submitted and that’s when most of the identifications of any positive animals come to be,” said Stewart. But in certain surveillance areas, DNR also collects roadkill for testing.

As for deer raised on privately owned farms, testing is done when animals die. Samples must be submitted for testing within one month of death.

“Samples from deer farms in Michigan are sent to the laboratory for testing nearly every week,” said James Averill, the state veterinarian and director of the Animal Industry Division in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Wildlife cooperatives boost conservation and habitat

By AGNES BAO
Capital News Service

LANSING – According to research studies on their perception about land use, many farmers’ attitudes are still rooted in using their private land to grow crops, focusing on increasing productivity.

Fewer of them would think about taking conservation actions, the studies found.

However, what if these activities are not wildlife-friendly? What if these types of land management hurt wildlife habitat?

“There are some people who don’t have interest in wildlife. Some agriculture practices and different land use practices are not good for pheasants,” said AI Stewart, a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) upland game bird specialist.

But landowners have the right to manage their property as they choose, he said.

Anna Mitterling of Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has worked for more than three years to broaden the perceptions of landowners and break land-use stereotypes.

Mitterling, the organization’s wildlife cooperative coordinator, promotes a comprehensive program to assist landowners in better land management and planning for future needs.  

The Michigan Wildlife Cooperative is a voluntary conservation effort supported by the DNR, the Quality Deer Management Association, Pheasants Forever and MUCC.

A wildlife cooperative gathers private landowners, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to enhance their local wildlife and habitat. The participants share their wildlife experiences with each other, accumulate more knowledge of wildlife from activities,  improve relationships with neighbors and have a chance to use land management techniques on a bigger scale.

Currently, Michigan has 120 wildlife cooperatives, a number that has been increasing since 1991, according to the MUCC.

“The ones I work with are often larger over time, with 25 or so members, and 3,000 -12,000 acres of combined properties,” Mitterling said.

Deer cooperatives and pheasant cooperatives are two of the major types in Michigan.

Deer cooperatives focus on the quality of deer herds. Pheasant cooperatives work to create and enhance grassland habitats.

“In our deer cooperative, we have an annual buck pole, we do a youth deer pole on the weekend of the youth hunt and we work with the DNR to put a plane in the air to look for poachers,” said Harold Wolf, the president of the Southern Mecosta Whitetail Management Association.

Wolf said cooperatives are good for the people who join: He got to know his neighbors better, felt pride in improving the deer herd and shared happy experiences and memories with family and friends.

As for pheasant cooperatives, Lake Hudson Pheasant Cooperative leader David Ames said, “Most of us are hunters. We focus on creating grassland habitat pheasant can survive in.”

His cooperative is based in Lenawee County.

Despite such benefits, some landowners decide not to take part.

“The biggest challenge for us is finding private landowners that want to participate,” Ames said.

One reason for landowner concern is the size of their property. Many think their land is too small to support conservation activities, Ames said. “A small amount of land, like 20 acres, would be big enough that we can help them to do something on it,” he added.

Ames also stressed the significance and necessity of wildlife and land use education.

In terms of the land use stereotypes, Ames suggested more outreach and said that elementary education about wildlife conservation may lead to more changes in property owners’ attitudes and land use stereotypes.

Rick Lucas, a wildlife and forestry professional with the Mecosta/Osceola Lake Conservation District in Reed City, said, “The common denominator of every natural resource and conservation issue across the state is people.”

Sara Kross, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at California State University, Sacramento, researched the impact of farmers’ perceptions on their conservation activities.

She found a positive relationship between their perceptions and conservation efforts. For instance, general farmers thought perching birds and bats significantly help control insect pests, while fruit farmers view them negatively.

Accordingly, fruit farmers are less likely to try to protect perching birds and bats, Kross’ study said.

Push on to improve conservation education

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — When NASA reported 2017 to be the second-hottest year on record, the announcement was confirmation of a continuing trend: All 18 of the hottest years in modern history have occurred in the past two decades.

Yet as the globe heats up, no coordinated effort to standardize education on the conservation of natural resources in Michigan’s public schools has appeared, according to state officials and educators.

Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said he believes public schools are failing to properly educate students about conservation.

Eichinger said public education standards heavily emphasize the more rote aspects of science, while he prefers more of a focus on how humans can take better care of their environs.

“I think it’s far more important for us to prepare somebody in their compulsory education less on how many particles make up this, that or the other thing, and talk more about conservation biology and how humans have the potential to impact it,” Eichinger said.

A lack of education in these areas has led to misunderstandings, Eichinger said, using clear-cutting as an example.

Eichinger said people often have a negative reaction to the idea of chopping down large swaths of trees, when in fact, clear-cutting is an important part of a healthy regeneration process within forests.

“Being able to really talk about some of those nuances that happen when you’re talking about conservation — we miss a lot of that,” Eichinger said.

The implementation of environmental education is “hit-or-miss” across the state due to a lack of state oversight, said Kevin Frailey, the education services manager for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He also serves on the board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

This is unlikely to change immediately because standardized tests like the MEAP focus on other aspects of science, technology, engineering and math education and don’t leave much room for variation.

“What the state does do is they create the tests,” Frailey said. “If you’re going to have questions about environmental education on the test, then teachers are more likely to teach that to kids.

“But of course, that’s the question: How do you get environmental education types of questions on the tests?” he said.

The framework for Michigan’s current K-12 Science Standards, adopted in November 2015, do make mention of human impact on Earth’s systems. “Earth and Human Activity” is listed as one of the “core ideas” for earth and space sciences.

However, Gregg Dionne, supervisor of curriculum & instruction for the Department of Education, said local boards of education are the ones that approve curriculum, so the state does not have much say in how thoroughly this subject matter is explored.

School boards “have the authority over implementation — how much time is spent on it, how deep they go into the content, those kinds of things,” Dionne said. “They assess that locally.”

Frailey said this “fragmented” setup sometimes leaves the implementation of environmental education up to individual teachers.

Michigan residents “do think it’s taught in their schools,” Frailey said. “If it is, it’s pretty much the teacher’s choice.”

Frailey said the decision to leave that choice up to the districts reflects Michigan’s historical preference for hands-off governing by the state.

“Michigan is not a state that typically mandates much of anything at the state level — it’s more done at a local level,” Frailey said. “There’s never been a lead at the Department of Education to make environmental [education] or conservation a priority with Michigan students.”

The state’s refusal to mandate environmental education leaves it up to other organizations to push for change.

At the DNR, Frailey is responsible for coordinating educational programs, like Salmon in the Classroom, that bring students in contact with natural resources and environmental studies.

Frailey said he believes students nowadays still have more knowledge about natural resources than in the past. He attributes that in part to a growing awareness among educators of the importance of getting such information out to children.

“I would say kids in school know more about wildlife and the environment than they ever used to,” Frailey said. “I used to go into classrooms 30 years ago and ask kids about wildlife or habitats or whatever, and they would just look at you blankly.

“Nowadays, you go into schools and it seems like kids know so much more of that stuff,” he said.

Barbara Lester, curriculum director of Centreville Public Schools in St. Joseph County, said Centreville students are afforded many opportunities in and out of the classroom to learn about conservation.

Lester said field trips to the Kalamazoo Nature Center and an agricultural science class are among the many ways the district implements environmental education in the curriculum.

“We teach environmental science as part of our curriculum in almost every grade level,” Lester said. “It’s part of biology, it’s part of earth science, it’s part of the elementary curriculum. It’s infused into what we teach in science.”

Lester said she also has seen a definite improvement in students’ understanding of environmental issues in her time as an educator.

Because of that improvement, Frailey said he’s hesitant to connect climate change denial with a lack of standardized environmental education, saying climate change denial is often more of a political issue than an educational one.

“I think people know the science, but the politics sometimes don’t allow them to let the science sink through,” Frailey said.

A 2013 study from Stanford University found that 77 percent of Michiganders believe global warming is happening. The same study found 72 percent of state residents approve of increased consumption taxes on electricity and 23 percent favor increased consumption taxes on gasoline.

Worries plague Isle Royale as wolves almost disappear

By BAILEY LASKE
Capital News Service

LANSING – Isle Royale’s problem with the balance in its animal population is at an all-time high.

According to Michigan Technological Institute, only one wolf survives and an expanding moose population numbers about 1,600.

The national park located on an island in Lake Superior faces an extreme blow to its biodiversity, but new possibilities for help are on the horizon.

The island is a unique ecosystem as the wolf and moose populations operate in a single predator-prey relationship.

According to researchers at the Isle Royale Wolf and Moose project, the wolf population reached an all-time high around 1980 with about 50 animals. Researchers assert it quickly declined with the spread of the canine parvovirus.

Since that time, the wolf population has struggled to gain strong numbers. Inbreeding resulting from the sharp population decline has only furthered the problem.

Now, the wolves face extinction on the island while moose face widespread starvation.

“With so many moose, they are eating themselves out of house and home,” said Isle Royale guidebook writer Jim DuFresne.

Without a predator, the moose population will continue to expand until they deplete their food source and die out, DuFresne said.

While the current proposal by the National Park Service is to bring wolves from Canada to the island, alternatives are being discussed.

“We should be using the wolves from the U.P., not Canada,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Eichinger suggested allowing hunting on the island to lower to moose population.

Keeping the movement of animals within state borders may seem logical to Eichinger, but according to DuFresne the ability of the wolves to adapt to the island’s environment is questionable.

“We need wolves that can kill a moose,” said DuFresne, “Wolves in the U.P. preying on deer is very different than wolves from Canada that know how to take down a 1,300-pound moose.”

Other experts like Ken Vrana, director of the Isle Royale Institute, say that the argument surrounding the location of the wolves to be transferred is far too political.

“The situation should be looked at through a scientific perspective. Scientists should figure out what genealogy would be best and go from there,” said Vrana.  

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, 66 of the 75 areas managed by the National Park Service allow recreational hunting.

Eichinger and DuFresne argue that hunting moose could be a successful tactic, but the concept holds challenges.

From the Treaties of 1842 and 1854, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has hunting, fishing, and gathering rights in certain areas of the U.P., including Isle Royale. This would give them the final decision on the hunting of moose on the island, Vrana said.

Even if the tribe chooses to hunt in the area and possibly allow others to do the same, the logistics of moving an animal once it’s killed make the plan seem less feasible, DuFresne said. Outside of the main harbor, the island is pure wilderness with only small trails, and with vehicles banned, hunters would have to carry their kill out of the woods.

“They may be able to carry chainsaws with them and cut up the moose to make it easier to carry,” said DuFresne, who has seen moose hunters in Alaska use that method. But even with this tactic, moving an animal that weighs more than 1,000 pounds would be no easy feat, he said.

Whether the plan to move wolves to the island is carried through or hunting is allowed, with only one wolf on the island, time is running out.  

Vrana said, “Whatever happens, I think everyone agrees that something should be done, and fast.”.