Michigan food banks pressured by COVID-19 fallout

As the holiday season approaches, the demand for food in Michigan is at a record high because of COVID-19, according to the state’s food banks. The need for volunteers to distribute it is also at record levels. And monetary donations are up. We talk to several regional food bank officials to get a sense for the increased need for food assistance as the pandemic leads to job loss and new medical expenses.

Minneapolis St. Paul nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Pandemic lockdown created clean air gains

The same pandemic that restricts travel and manufacturing is having a measurably decreased air pollution in parts of the Great Lakes region, experts say. It is an impact that scientists can detect with sensors mounted on NASA satellites and that measure nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that can exacerbate human respiratory problems such as asthma, cause acid rain and speed the creation of ozone and the pace of climate change. But sparsely populated areas like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula see little benefit, partly because they already have less economic activity and are affected by other pollution sources such as wildfire.

About 4,000 gray wolves are in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Protection for wolves still stirs controversy

The Trump administration decision to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the lower 48 states is generating controversy and threatened litigation. The Fish & Wildlife Service says the wolf has met recovery goals that make it unnecessary for Endangered Species Act protection. There are roughly 4,000 in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The superintendent of Isle Royale National Park says delisting might decrease public interest in funding the translocation of wolves to places like Isle Royale where the population is under 20 and they are needed to balance the moose population.

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Buckthorn is the oldest cutter on the Great Lakes.

Oldest Coast Guard cutter with smallest crew and largest Great Lakes responsibility needs replacing

The U.S. Coast Guard wants to retire its oldest cutter on the Great Lakes, the 57-year-old cutter Buckthorn based in Sault Ste. Marie. Doing so will take years, however, as the Coast Guard awaits congressional budgetary approval to begin the process of replacing up to 35 aging cutters. The Buckthorn covers between Whitefish Point on Lake Superior through the St. Marys River connecting Lake Huron to Lake Superior to Cedarville. The first replacement may not be ready until 2025, and it could take until 2030 for all the new ones to enter service.