Advancements in electric buses making green transit more accessible for rural areas

ELECTRIC BUSES: More public transit systems and school districts are acquiring, or at least considering, electric buses to replace their polluting diesel fleet. Technology has improved electric buses since Traverse City’s troubled experiment with a hybrid electric 15 years ago. Federal lawmakers, including U.S. Reps. Levin and Tlaib are backing legislation to help fund the switch. We talk to Benzie Transport, MDOT and KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Clare County Transit and the Capital Area Transit Authority have received federal grants. By Chloe Traofatter. FOR BENZIE COUNTY, CLARE COUNTY, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE AND ALL POINTS.

Record visitation at Michigan’s national parks expected to continue

NATIONAL PARKS: Despite the pandemic, the number of visitors to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore zoomed last year, and so did problems with parking and insufficient staffing. How are park managers planning to handle another possible onrush this summer? Isle Royale numbers, however, plummeted because the ferries between the island and the mainland shut down. By Samuel Blatchford. FOR MARQUETTE, LEELANAU, TRAVERSE CITY, SAULT STE. MARIE AND ALL POINTS.

Sheep graze under the shade of solar panels in Lenawee County, an example of agrivoltaics.

Crops grown under solar panels and pollinator habitats could be wave of the future

SOLAR FARMS: A new report about combining solar power and farming has advocates saying the practice could take hold in Michigan, boosting productivity of crops while also providing much-needed refuge for bees and other pollinators. We talk to an MSU expert, and an extension educator in West Olive For news and agriculture pages. By Sheldon Krause. FOR MICHIGAN FARM NEWS, HOLLAND AND ALL POINTS.

Children playing nearby air pollution sources in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood.

Chronic health problems linked to pollution fuels environmental justice movement

DIRTY AIR: Environmental justice activists say the health of residents in Southeast Michigan’s communities of color is disproportionately harmed by poor air quality. Studies show that one indicator of the disparities is the high rate of asthma in some Detroit neighborhoods. We talk with Detroiters Working for Environment Justice and the deputy director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. By Jakkar Aimery. FOR DETROIT AND ALL POINTS

Recruiters adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

NATIONAL GUARD RECRUITMENT: Michigan Army and Air National Guard recruiters are adapting to challenges created by the pandemic. For example, a recruiter based in Sault Ste. Marie invites her son’s high school friends to do their homework in the armory. They’re using social media a lot more, and one Air Guard member, from Macomb County, said she was more comfortable being interviewed remotely rather than in-person. March 2020 enlistments were higher than in pre-pandemic March 2019. By Elaine Mallon. For SAULT STE. MARIE, CRAWFORD COUNTY, ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, MARQUETTE, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.

Shrinking enrollment creates empty school buildings

ABANDONED BUILDINGS: School districts have closed 130 buildings in the past decade, mostly victims of a shrinking number of school-age children, including one in Jackson that was shuttered in 2020 after a half-century of service to elementary schoolchildren. The superintendent of a Manistee County district explains why two elementary buildings have stood empty since 2010. We also hear from an Education Department expert. By Elaine Mallon. FOR MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.

State officials concerned about vaccine misinformation on social media

VACCINE MISINFORMATION: Attorney General Nessel and the state’s chief medical executive say misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on social media can be harmful to public health. That includes bogus claims that the vaccine affects fertility and that 5G cell phone towers can exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms. An MSU professor says research shows a correlation between misinformation about vaccines and people’s decision not to get the shots. Nessel’s office is asking platforms like Facebook and Google to take down such websites. By Brandon Chew. FOR ALL POINTS.

A new EPA app aims to help track water quality at beaches

WATER TESTING: The EPA has a new app to help monitor contamination at freshwater beaches and other water recreation spots. But Michigan is ahead of the game with the BeachGuard program it’s been using for years. Last summer’s closures included beaches in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Macomb, Hurron and Isabella counties. We talk to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and District Health Department #10, which covers Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo and Oceana counties. By Sophia Lada. FORCRAWFORD COUNTY, OCEANA COUNTY, BIG RAPIDS, LUDINGTON, LAKE COUNTY, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.

Some music festivals scheduled with social distancing guidelines

MUSIC FESTIVALS: The pandemic decimated Michigan’s music festival theme last summer, and many organizers have pulled the plug again for this year. However, plans are underway for some others to continue, at least for now, including the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon and Faster Horses Music Festival in Brooklyn. Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival in Marquette explains why it’s been cancelled this year. Among the other cancellations: Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival. For news and entertainment sections. By Elaine Mallon. FOR LUDINGTON, DETROIT, HOLLAND, OCEANA, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.