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.
LANSING — Foresters in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region are destroying mighty oaks and other trees to regrow hardwood forests. That may seem counterproductive, but forestry officials say oaks need special attention to maintain a diverse and healthy forest system. That means cutting down decades-old trees, clearing shrubs and sometimes burning the forest floor to encourage new oaks to grow. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently launched a multi-year effort to reforest between 2,000 and 2,500 acres in Kalkaska County. The state land has mature oaks that block oak seedlings from taking root.
LANSING — Michigan schools may not be so welcoming for students, according to two recent studies. Both Wallethub.com and Backgroundchecks.org did studies based on information from the National Center for Education Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, National Education Association and other organizations. Both websites say they have community outreach programs with writers, open data analysts and statisticians who produce studies on statewide levels. And both ranked Michigan as one of the worst states for bullying in America. “The purpose of the study was to understand bullying on a state-to-state basis,” said Jason Quimby, the director for outreach at Background Checks which Quimby called an organization devoted to public safety, open government and transparency.
LANSING– A program designed to increase schools’ use of local produce is cooking up resources for K-12 school food and nutrition directors so they can better incorporate healthy Michigan foods into cafeteria meals. The effort by a group called Cultivate Michigan is part of the trend pushing local produce into meal plans in large institutions, including schools and hospitals. “People are more educated than ever about the benefits of healthy eating,” said Barbie Ward-Thomas, the food service director at Gwinn Area Community Schools that participated in the project. The program provided school menu recipes incorporating Michigan products, Kaitlin Koch Wojciak, Community Food Systems educator in southeastern Michigan,
said. The program targets cooks and kitchen supervisors who deal directly with the food.
LANSING – Wildlife disease is on the rise and human beings may be the culprits. And people have a lot at stake. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 60 percent of known human infectious diseases and 70 percent of the newly discovered ones are spread from animals. An increase in wildlife disease means an increase in human disease. It also threatens agriculture, recreational hunting and pets.
LANSING — Some trout in Great Lakes tributaries are just as contaminated with a chemical linked to respiratory, liver and skin ailments as the Pacific salmon that they eat, according to a new study. The findings should help those making decisions on eating fish, dam removal and stocking, according to the researchers. Pacific salmon, such as Chinook and coho, are large sports fish that live most of their lives in the Great Lakes and then spawn and die in rivers and streams.
The study by University of Notre Dame biologists looked for PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in salmon tissue during autumn spawning runs in tributaries of lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior. It compared that tissue with the tissue of native brook trout and mottled sculpin that live full time in the same rivers and eat the eggs and flesh of the salmon. The results showed the organic pollutant levels of the two types of fish are a close match in those living in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan tributaries.
By RAY WILBUR
Capital News Service
LANSING — When Michigan voters cast ballots Nov. 8, they’ll be lining up at voting machines that may be 15 years old in some places. County clerks and election officials say they hope for updated equipment by 2017, or at least by the time voters decide on Michigan’s new governor in 2018. But they say voters this November could face machine crashes and long wait times caused by the aging equipment. Already Michigan ranks 46th in the nation for how much time the average voter will take to cast a ballot, according to a Massachussetts Institute of Technology study.
LANSING — Invasive plants can grow so thick and tall they hide the world’s greatest Lakes. “In the lower part of the state it’s pretty bad,” said Laura Bourgeau-Chavez, a research scientist with Michigan Technological University. “We were doing work in Saginaw Bay, and there are kids who live there and they don’t even know there’s water there because the weeds are so tall. “So they’re unable to take advantage of the fact that they live next to a Great Lake.”
Help is on the way. Bourgeau-Chavez maps wetlands and monitors them in the field.
By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — A new law creating a statewide teacher evaluation system was a win for many educators because it limits the effect of standardized tests, but it left out a group of important players — school counselors. Although counselors have expanded their role in schools, many find it difficult to receive an appropriate progress report, which is essential to continued improvement, according to the Michigan School Counselor Association (MSCA). Shawn Bultsma, MSCA director of headquarters in Grand Rapids, said he worked as a school counselor for 10 years and administration assessed him with ill-fitting teacher evaluations. It started in 1995 when he was in New Jersey. “I was evaluated with a teacher’s evaluation that took, probably, 50 percent of ‘the variables do not apply,’” Bultsma said.