March 24, 2017 CNS Budget

March 24, 2017

To: CNS Editors

From: Perry Parks and Sheila Schimpf

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

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Pechulano Ali, (517) 940-2313, pechulan@msu.edu.

For other issues contact Perry Parks, perryrobertparks@gmail.com, (517) 388-8627.

FREE ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISM WORKSHOP: Reminder: You and your staff are invited but seats are limited. MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism will host a free all-day workshop in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 1. The topic is “Covering the Grand River – Covering Any River” and includes presentations by experts from DNR, DEQ, Annis Water Resources Institute, Environmental Health News and the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. It’s at Grand Valley’s L.V. Eberhard Center from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Free lunch and free parking.  Register by email to Barb Miller at mille384.msu.edu Continue reading

Wetlands mitigation may get cheaper for local governments

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new partnership of state and local agencies is working to set aside state land to make it easier for public entities with expansion needs to fulfill wetlands replacement requirements.

Because wetlands play a vital role in the health of the state’s environment and its tourism economy, the Wetlands Protection Act requires damage to wetlands that happens under a permit be compensated by creating a wetland someplace else.

The Michigan Municipal Wetland Alliance (MMWA) is developing a wetlands mitigation bank system using Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property as bank sites.

“By us using state-owned lands, we are saving on the purchase of lands for the development sites and restoration sites,” Stephen Shine, the wetland mitigation bank administrator for the DNR, said. “And we are creating an added benefit for those state-owned lands by enhancing recreational opportunities for a whole variety of enthusiasts — everything from birdwatchers, people who like to hike, hunters.” Continue reading

Criminal justice bills would define problems to help solve them

By LAINA STEBBINS

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s recidivism rate is significantly higher than the national average. Or is it?

No one knows for sure, supporters of a criminal justice revamp package say, thanks to a lack of agreement among state agencies about which measurements to use in defining how often convicted criminals go on to commit future crimes. And that’s just one part of the problem.

A piece of legislation defining recidivism and how to calculate a rate is one of 20 bills in a package that supporters say would enhance the efficiency of Michigan’s criminal justice system. The package awaits approval from Gov. Rick Snyder after clearing the House and Senate with bipartisan support.

The bills would institute changes throughout the system: Reforms to data tracking, prison time, probation and parole policies, and reentry approaches are included. Continue reading

Medical officials applaud new state vaccination campaign

By ISAAC CONSTANS

Capital News Service

LANSING –  Michigan, with vaccination rates that put it near the bottom of a list of all states, has launched a new campaign — I Vaccinate — that it hopes will boost rates up to 90 percent.

Currently, 67.6 percent of Michigan children aged 19 to 35 months have received all of their recommended vaccinations, according to a 2016 United Health Foundation report.

The program, which was launched in late March, has an “innovative” multi-platform structure that will educate and encourage Michigan residents, according to state officials.

I Vaccinate combines a social media, web and TV presence to convey the importance of vaccinations for communities by focusing on parents’ concerns. Its website offers vaccination schedules, links to the immunization registry and answers questions that parents and guardians typically have. Continue reading

Productivity boost offsets acreage, price declines of corn

By CARL STODDARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — Soon Michigan farmers will start planting millions of acres of corn, cultivating what has become a billion-dollar business in the state.

Farming is one of the top three industries in Michigan, and corn one of the top crops.

“Agriculture in Michigan has been a growing industry, contributing a great deal to the state’s economy,” said Kate Thiel, a field crop specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau and its 46,500 member farmers.

One of the largest crops in Michigan is corn, Thiel said. Michigan farmers grew about 2.4 million acres of corn for grain in 2016, generating $1.1 billion last year – despite a price drop.

“While corn growers have seen a decrease in value of their product in recent years due to decreased commodity prices, they still play a large role in Michigan’s economy,” she said. Continue reading

Porcupine Mountains drilling raises environmental concern

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Fierce public reaction greeted the news that a copper company had a use permit to drill at the west edge of one of Michigan’s most remote state parks.

Orvana Resources U.S. Corp.—a subsidiary of Highland Copper—is doing exploratory drilling near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western Upper Peninsula. It’s not producing copper, but many members of the public aren’t happy with what it may mean.

“It’s a wild state park to begin with, and having industrial activity there is a shame,” said Steve Garske, a board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Mining Action Group. “It seems like mining companies keep targeting areas that are important to the state.” Continue reading

Poet researched Great Lakes’ wrecks for new collection

By KATE HABREL

Capital News Service

LANSING — A 200-pound ship’s radiator interrupted a funeral in 1922 when it plunged from the sky and into the Falk Undertaking Parlors on Military Street in Port Huron.

It came from the Omar D. Conger, a ship blown to pieces when its boiler exploded while docked at Port Huron.

“That part is accurate! It happened! And that’s just bizarre!” said poet Cindy Hunter Morgan, an assistant professor of creative writing at Michigan State University. “When I read that, I thought, I’ve got to build a poem around that.”

And she did. From that poem: Continue reading

Cemeteries protect biodiversity amidst death

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Four white-tailed deer graze atop a rise, oblivious to Jay P Lee and GW Palen, and other folks named Stowell and Whitehead and Slayton and Potter interred there. It’s afternoon — an uncommon feeding time for deer that usually prefer dawn and dusk — on a fall day at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing.

The deer browse amongst the graves, apparently unperturbed by the writer, photographer, and ecologist walking at the foot of their hill, discussing varieties of lichen on tombstones, the food value of non-native honeysuckle for wildlife and the evils of invasive buckthorn.

The ecologist is Brian Klatt, director of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and we’re exploring the cemetery, which was farmland until 1873. It sits at the intersection of two busy roads about three miles from the classic white-dome state Capitol and backs into the floodplain of Sycamore Creek. Continue reading

Rain, evaporation make predicting lake levels tricky

By STEVEN MAIER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Predicting water levels in the Great Lakes isn’t as straightforward as it would seem.

A warm winter has led to lower ice coverage — just 5 percent of the Great Lakes was covered with ice as of March 1. The average coverage at this time for the last 40 years has been 43 percent, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

Less ice means less protection from evaporation and, theoretically, lower water levels, said Jacob Bruxer, a senior water resources engineer with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

But it’s not quite that simple. And not the case now.

That’s because water levels are a function of many factors, Bruxer said.

“Everyone wants to make that into a big story — about how ice cover is affecting water in the lakes,” Bruxer said. “I would just stress that evaporation is very complicated.” Continue reading

Bills would allow citizens to dine out with their dog

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — When dining out for dinner, who always seems to be missing? The lonely four-legged friend at home.

Bills proposed in the House and Senate are aiming to change this. Dogs would be allowed to dine with their owners at restaurants with outdoor patios.

As a pet owner, Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, who re-introduced the bill in the Senate, said she understands the desire to spend time with your dog after working all day.

She also said there are people who like to travel in Michigan with their pets, but find it difficult when it comes time for a meal. Continue reading