Behind that romantic stand of pines, a history of abuse

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Long before “Pure Michigan” lured tourists and vacationers Up North, images of pristine forests and sparkling streams were doing the same thing — even if what tourists would see was neither pure nor pristine.

While the state’s slick tourism campaigns of the recent decades are familiar, people might not know that they hark back to post-Civil War advertising that romanticized the state’s nature “and gave it the transcendent qualities that remain in tourists’ imaginations today,” according to a recent study.

The study by Camden Burd, who grew up in Grand Rapids and spent summer vacations on Green Lake in Interlochen, dates the current “Pure Michigan” theme to a 2008 rebranding of the state’s tourism industry. Continue reading

Little birds have big impact on economy

By CARL STODDARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — Little birds have tourists and birdwatchers flocking in big numbers to Northern Michigan, a favorite nesting area for the rare Kirtland’s warblers, which were once nearly extinct.

Ilene Geiss-Wilson, the executive director of the Grayling Visitors Bureau, said she has gone on two tours to see the Kirtland’s warblers in their prime nesting areas east of Grayling. And she’s hardly alone.

“There’s a lot of interest” in the warblers, Geiss-Wilson said. “We have people contact us. They fly in from other countries for a day or two just to check that bird off their list. It’s pretty amazing.”

Diane Tomlinson, owner of the Woodland Motor Lodge in Grayling, said she’s seen “a huge increase in warbler traffic” from around the country and beyond in the last three to four years. Continue reading

Scientists worry about lake herring crash, say new restrictions may help

The lake herring, also called cisco, is similar to herring found in northern Europe used to make a popular caviar. Image: Peter Payette

The lake herring, also called cisco, is similar to herring found in northern Europe used to make a popular caviar. Image: Peter Payette

By SAM CORDEN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have been worried about the lake herring population in Lake Superior recently. In fact, last year they warned it could be headed towards a collapse.

Lake Superior is the only Great Lake that still has a significant population of herring – or cisco as they’re commonly called.

This fall, new rules protecting herring took effect in Wisconsin and Minnesota and things appear more stable. But there may still be a big problem lying beneath the surface. Continue reading

Senate passes bill to expand tax collecting job for business

BY CAITLIN DeLUCA

Capital News Service

LANSING — Employers across the state would start withholding city income taxes from employees who live in cities that have income taxes even if the business isn’t in the city, according to bills proposed in the Legislature.

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and Rep. Al Pscholka R-Stevensville, would mandate that suburban employers collect the local income tax of employees who live in the 22 cities across the state that impose the tax.

The Senate version has cleared the Senate Committee on Government Operations and the House version is still in the House Committee on Tax Policy.

Employers in cities with income tax now have to withhold and remit the tax on behalf of their employees. Continue reading

Business groups, community colleges push to expand job training

By CAITLIN DeLUCA

Capital News Service

LANSING – Business groups and community colleges are pushing to expand a statewide new job training program.

Community colleges run the program for employers that create new jobs. It gives the new employees free training.

It is paid for by capturing the state income tax revenue of the newly hired employees for the first year. After that, those revenues revert to the state, said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association.

The program was approved in 2008 with a $50 million cap. When that cap is reached, the additional new revenues revert to the state’s general fund.

But the demand for more training programs is greater, supporters say. And now that the cap has been reached, the community colleges and employers  must wait for for the amount in the fund to dip below it before they can start new programs, Hansen said. Continue reading

Michigan car crashes are up; blame the economy

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — As the state’s economy grows, so does something else that affects the lives of every resident — the number of traffic crashes. And according to experts, the two are related.

Between 2012 and 2015, Michigan’s total number of crashes increased by about 23,000, according to State Police statistics.

That rise to about 297,000 crashes can be attributed to a number of things, said Carol Flannagan, director of the Center for the Management for Safe and Sustainable Transportation at the University of Michigan.

One of them is a strengthening economy that has younger drivers hit the road more often. And those drivers cause more crashes, she said. Continue reading

Michigan among states forced to deliver the most with the least

By BRIDGET BUSH

Capital News Service

LANSING– Michigan is one of 18 states required to provide the most state-mandated services with the least state funds, according to a recent national report.

Michigan local governments are among the most economically burdened nationwide.

Only Georgia and Montana didn’t feel similar budget pinches in 2016, according to the report by the National Association of Counties.

“It’s important that people realize this is a problem all over — not just in our state,” said Michael Selden, director of member information services for the Michigan Townships Association. “Citizens want more and more, but local units have less and less.”

It’s hard to pinpoint where the problem began, Selden said. Since the recession began in 2008, tax revenues decreased, and legislators reacted by reducing state revenue sharing. Continue reading

Michigan pursues Chinese investment to reinvigorate manufacturing

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — While the presidential campaign linked job loss to outsourcing to foreign countries, Michigan’s efforts to bring Chinese investment are reinvigorating manufacturing plants that have been vacant for years.

Since becoming governor in 2011, Rick Snyder has made five trips to China and has  pushed initiatives that have brought 23 Chinese companies to the state, said Josh Paciorek, the governor’s deputy press secretary.

That’s created 3,541 jobs and accounts for $649.5 million invested in 11 cities, he said.

During a trip there last year, Snyder signed agreements to promote trade and investment with the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Hubei, Guangdong and Zhejiang, as well as the city of Chongqing. Those regions have many auto companies and related suppliers, making them a natural fit for Michigan because of its pre-existing auto industry, Paciorek said. Continue reading

Autonomous vehicle regulations could be loosened in Michigan

By CAITLIN DeLUCA

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan drivers could be traveling among self-driving cars by early next year.

A package of bills passed by the Legislature allows researchers to test drive autonomous vehicles on public roads, broadening research centers’ ability to perfect the vehicles.

The bills now go to the governor for his signature, expected by the end of the year.

Autonomous vehicles operate without a driver. According to studies by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, they could increase productivity due to less time spent traveling, lower crash severity, improvement in road safety and reduction of emissions.  

The loosening of regulations on self-driving cars puts Michigan on top in terms of leading the industry in freedom to research autonomous vehicles. Continue reading

Pulses of light probe under northern Michigan for ancient sites

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

Cache pit diagram. Image credit: Meghan Howey.

Cache pit diagram. Image credit: Meghan Howey.

LANSING – Archaeologists in northern Michigan have used pulses of light shot from airplanes to double their discoveries.

This remote sensing technology is called light detection and ranging, or lidar. Lidar sends out a pulse of light that returns a measure of distance from the object it strikes. It can improve the efficiency of archaeological searches, particularly when scanning vast areas for small details, according to a recent study published on plos.org.

Lidar helped locate cache pits in the upper Great Lakes region. A sensor was flown over the area being studied and the data was passed on to the researchers.

Cache pits were used by Native Americans to store food, tools and supplies between the years 1000 and 1600. Roughly 39 inches in diameter and 39 inches deep, the cache pits make only small changes in the visible landscape. It is their more uniform shape and tendency to appear in clusters that separate the cache pits from naturally occurring changes in the landscape. Continue reading