Vacation Spot to Become Wildlife Refuge

A popular Great Lakes vacation area will become a buffer from the pressure of expansion. It will be preserved from development by being declared a National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium Mike Simonson reports:

Transcript

A popular Great Lakes vacation area will become a buffer from the pressure of

expansion. it will be preserved from development by being declared a national wildlife

refuge. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:


The 540 acre section of land borders northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. The

Whittlesay Creek Wildlife Refuge Area is considered prime waterfront land by

developers, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Tom Busian says this time, nature

won out over condos and golf courses.


Tourism in the Apostle Islands region has grown year after year, and Busian says it’s

putting the squeeze on wetlands. The federal status allows them to protect the area.


“Currently, a lot of coho salmon breed there, and we’re also looking at re-introducing

coaster brook trout to the system. But we’ll be managing the land for a lot of other

wildlife too. It’s an important habitat for birds, for waterfowl, for hawks and

eagles.”


Congress appropriated 650,000 dollars to buy the land for the refuge, and a donation

of 50,000 dollars from Ducks Unlimited will also go toward the purchase.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson in Superior, Wisconsin.

Protecting the Piping Plover

Canadian environmental groups are hoping new legislation will mean better protection for endangered species north of the border. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some species are protected on the U-S side of the Great Lakes, but not on the Canadian side:

Transcript

Canadian environmental groups are hoping new legislation will mean better protection for endangered species north of the border. Some species are protected on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, but not the Canadian side. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement with environmental groups to settle a lawsuit to protect habitat for piping plovers, an endangered migratory bird. At first, U.S. environmentalists were thrilled, but then noted that birds also breed in Canada where they’re not protected. Mark Johnson is with the Canadian Nature Federation.


“In Canada we do not have federal endangered species legislation. And, our failure to have legislation in place is undermining the U.S.’s efforts to protect endangered species, and, in particular, their habitat.”


But that might change soon. Federal legislation has been introduced in Ottawa to protect endangered species in Canada. Canadian environmental groups are working with industry and politicians to find a compromise. They’re hoping to see effective legislation approved early this year.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Commentary – Hemp Wars

Earlier this year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ruled that hemp products from Canada were not allowed into the United States because of the trace amounts of THC that they contained. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points out the government’s move may have little to do with controlling an illegal substance:

Transcript

Earlier this year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ruled that hemp products from Canada were not allowed into the United States because of the trace amounts of THC that they contained. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points out the government’s move may have little to do with controlling and illegal substance.


It all started out innocently enough. Jean Laprise, a Canadian farmer was producing hemp products like birdseed and hemp fiber for the U.S. market. The hemp was all carefully tested and showed only minute traces of THC, the stuff in marijuana that makes you high. Laprise had been shipping the hemp for over a year without any problems. And then last summer, without any explanation or warning, U.S. Customs impounded 40,000 pounds of Laprise’s birdseed.


In December, after months of haggling back and forth between Canadian and U.S. government agencies, U.S. Customs and Drug Enforcement Administration finally decided that the whole thing was a gross misunderstanding. They declared that the products complied with the U.S. Controlled Substance Act and Laprise was set to start shipping again.


Enter the Office of National Drug Control Policy – an office of The White House no less. In January it declared that any amount of THC, regardless of how small, was too much and placed an outright ban on the importation of hemp.


I’m all in favor of the war on drugs. But this is ridiculous. This stuff doesn’t contain enough THC to get a bird high. Not only that, but hemp products are actually good for the environment. Hemp fiber is stronger and more durable than cotton and hemp plants require none of the heavy pesticides needed to grow those crops. Hemp can also be used to make paper, without the use of chlorine. Pulp and paper mills are notorious for polluting many of our waterways with their chlorine-laced effluent.


And maybe that’s the point. It seems to me that this has a lot more to do with powerful industrial lobbies like cotton and pulp and paper than it does about protecting the American public from the dangers of the demon weed.


It’s ironic that at the same time The White House bans the importation of hemp in the name of public safety, it’s shipping weapons-grade plutonium across the country. Kind of makes me wonder what the boys in Washington have been smoking.

Regional Planning Effort Taking Root

From southeast Wisconsin to the Indiana dunes, a large chunk of the Chicago region is working to preserve and restore natural areas. It’s the first voluntary effort of this size in the nation and it’s becoming a model. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… government is now getting involved, but some of the private sector is still wondering what’s happening:

Transcript

From southeast Wisconsin to the Indiana Dunes, a large chunk of the Chicago region is

working to preserve and restore natural areas. It’s the first voluntary effort of this

size in the nation and it’s becoming a model. Government is now getting involved, but

some of the private sector is still wondering what’s happening. The Great Lakes Radio

Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Almost one hundred organizations, including museums, zoos, federal agencies, and

environmental groups have been putting together a plan to preserve the few remaining

natural areas in and around Chicago. Kent Fuller heads up a task force for a group

called Chicago Wilderness. He also works for the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National

Program office. Fuller is working to implement the Chicago wilderness biodiversity

recovery plan.


“One of the elements of the plan is to try and reach local governments. Not only the

municipalities, but the park districts as well. To try to get the word out that there

are important aspects of biodiversity that exist on their lands and in those

communities that can be helped through the actions by, you know, things like local

zoning decisions, or decisions by a local park district whether to build one more ball

field or to manage a piece of their land for natural purposes.”


The plan’s organizers got the help of planning agencies because they coordinate a

region’s growth. The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission has approved the

project and late last year the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission – called NIP-C –

also approved. John Paige is the director of planning services for NIP-C. He says

although the commission has no regulatory powers, once the agency adopts a plan, it

filters down to county and municipal governments. They use it as a blueprint. State

government uses the planning agency’s designs for funding decisions.


“When we look at an expressway proposal, have they incorporated into it the provisions

for not altering or degrading any existing natural areas, but have they incorporated,

maybe, planting prairie grasses in the right-of-way. And we can say that must be done,

based on this plan.”


Paige says the biodiversity recovery plan will mean more natural areas, and more

native wildlife. And that improves the quality of life. He adds the quality of life

attracts business. And Paige believes business and wildlife preservation can go

hand-in-hand.


“It is somewhat seemingly conflicting or counterintuitive that they’re going to buy

land and build on it when it could have been a prairie or something like that. But I

maintain that it takes people and it takes people that appreciate that to, in fact,

protect the land. You know, they’re going to build on this one, but they’re going to

be interested in saving the valuable natural areas that exist.”


Paige says urban planners have begun to understand the importance of preservation as

the region continues to grow. The chair of the Biodiversity Recovery Task Force, Ken

Fuller, says his group isn’t looking to return Chicago to swamps, dunes, and

prairie… at least, not all of it.


“This is not anti-growth. We’re looking at sustainable growth and particularly in the

rapidly growing areas, trying to get out there and talk to people ahead of time and

get them to have the idea, ‘Well, we should preserve the best places.’ And it really

builds a quality of life. And the hope is that people could sort of get re-acquainted

with nature and really come to appreciate it and understand the place they live and

love it in a different way than they maybe are able to at this moment.”


The Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan is changing some of the landscape of

the region. Cities are planting more native shrubs and trees in parks and roadsides.

Some corporate campuses are converting bluegrass lawns to prairie flowers. As new

office complexes and shopping malls are built, zoning laws will encourage or require

more of this kind of planting. But it’ll probably take a while for the idea of

biodiversity recovery to filter down to existing businesses. Amy Anderson is with the

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.


“I would not say that there is a wide understanding of environmental issues,

particularly among smaller businesses where it’s a struggle every day to keep your

business afloat.”


Anderson says most business people understand planting a tree is good for the

environment. But they figure a Japanese weeping cherry tree is as good as a native

wild black cherry tree.


“Biodiversity is another step above probably where most of the general public is,

thinking it’s a pretty complicated technical issue, but I would definitely say there

is movement afoot among industry, among business to become more environmentally

friendly.”


Anderson says being green is seen as a good public relations move. But she notes, it’s

easier to get businesses to think about things such as native grasses and shrubs when

economic times are good. She says as soon as the economy takes a turn downward, native

landscaping is the kind of thing that gets cut first to improve the bottom line.


Even if businesses keep planting marigolds instead of native prairie clover, more

natural plantings will be springing up in parks and landscapes all over the Chicago

region. And it might not stop there. Already a half-dozen cities in the U.S. and a few

in other countries are contacting Chicago wilderness to see how they can restore some

of their own natural areas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Settlement Money Going Up in Smoke?

The tobacco industry recently settled lawsuits with forty-six states. The settlements totaled two-hundred-forty-billion dollars. It was money many people believed was earmarked for programs to reduce smoking – especially among kids. In the second of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports not all states are spending the money that way:

Transcript

These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on keeping kids from smoking – everything from

billboards and television spots, to educational programs in schools. But for kids who

already smoke, there haven’t been many programs to help them quit. In the first of a

two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports getting help

is getting tougher:


(sound of hallway)


North Kent High School in Comstock Park, Michigan, is an alternative high school – a

school for kids who couldn’t make it in traditional programs. Some couldn’t keep up

academically. Some were expelled for using drugs, or fighting. And some are drop-outs,

trying again.


Principal Donna Hendershot says many of the kids often have a rough home life, where

there’s substance abuse or physical abuse.


“Every student is their own story. The one thing they all have in common is that they

didn’t fit in that traditional, well-structured program.”


Another thing these students have in common is that most of them smoke. According to

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking rates at alternative high

schools across the country are nearly thirty percent higher than at traditional

schools. Donna Hendershot says between eighty and ninety percent of her students

smoke. But considering all the other problems the students face, Hendershot says for

many years, smoking was tolerated in designated areas.


“Rather than fight the issue – you gotta smoke, you go to this place, you smoke. And

then the school board and the superintendent said to me, ‘No more. We’re giving you

notice. By July one, there can be no smoking at your school. You have to enforce the

laws.'”


But Hendershot thought that cracking down punished the kids for their addiction. She

wanted to do something different. She wanted to help them stop smoking permanently.

But she soon found out, that was easier said than done.


“The one thing we discovered in our research is that there aren’t too many successful

teenage smoking cessation programs. Most people just say, ‘Oh, you can’t get kids to

quit smoking. Why even try?’ And that seemed to be the prevalent attitude. But we had

to try, because I was in the situation with these kids here, and I didn’t want to give

up.”


So Hendershot teamed up with tobacco control specialists at a local hospital. They

funded a new program to help teens stop smoking. The nine-week course included heath

screenings for the students. They also met individually with a social worker, for

ongoing support. And, the kids even got free candy and gum to help curb their

cravings.


High school senior Sabrina Schoonmaker says the program worked. She says the stop

smoking message really hit home as she watched her heart rate before and after

smoking.


“And every time you would take a hit on a cigarette, you could see on that monitor,

your heartbeat rise. And it would rise a couple beats, every time. And that’s scary to

think, that every time you smoke, that happens.”


It took Schoonmaker two tries to stop smoking. Now she’s been tobacco-free for over

eight months. But programs like this are few and far between. Many people believe the

recent tobacco settlements with states provided funding to help keep people from

smoking and to help them quit. But on average, states have only set aside about eight

percent of the money for those types of programs. And when it comes to kids and

tobacco, most of the emphasis is on prevention – keeping them from smoking in the

first place. Experts say while there’s some good data available about prevention

programs, there’s still a lot of work to e done when it comes to research about

helping kids quit.


“In terms of the number of studies that have been done, in terms of the rigor of

studies being done, it’s lagging way behind.”


Steve Sussman is a professor of preventative medicine at the University of Southern

California.


“Part of the reason for that may be skepticism about the efficacy of teen cessation

programs. That is, people perceive they’re just too young, that once they’re smoking

regularly as a teen, they’re not going to quit and you’ve got to wait until they’re an

adult.”


So, there’s a catch-22 for stop-smoking programs targeting teens: to get good data,

researchers need funding. But to get funding, they need data. North Kent High School

is an example of the problem. Even though the principal Donna Hendershot claims a

forty percent success rate in getting students to quit, she’s fighting to keep her

program alive.


“About the time we were really getting it right, you know, the funding fell out from

under it. And so I’m back to where I always said I would never be: forcing these kids

to go all day without a cigarette, watching the nicotine withdrawal, just having some

minor little education pieces in place, but not the full support system that we had.”


Because of this fight for funding, tobacco control advocates like Donna Hendershot are

now trying to raise awareness of two issues: That teens often need help to quit

smoking, and that the tobacco settlement money isn’t being used to help curb tobacco

use.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson in Comstock Park, Michigan.

Sub to Be Tourist Site?

A Lake Superior-based yacht company is selling a Soviet attack
submarine… and it might make some community the proud owner of a
unique tourist attraction. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike
Simonson has more:

Transcript

A Lake Superior-Based yacht company is sellin a Soviet attack submarine. And it might

make some community the proud owner of a unique tourist attraction. The Great Lakes

Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:


Not surprisingly, this is probably the only Soviet “whisky-class” attack submarine on

the market. A steal at $495,000, says Richard Rose-Oleck of Owen’s Yacht in Duluth.

The 250 foot sub is docked in Sweden, where it’s used as a mueseum. but Rose-Oleck

would like to see soemone or some community in this region buy it and move it for

display.


“I would love to see it in the Great Lakes. Number one, it would last longer, and I

think it would be an interesting exhibit.”


The fresh water in the Great Lakes would help preserve the diesel-powered sub. It no

longer has any of its twelve torpedoes, but the engines work, and the 1955 vintage

craft has been restored.


The submarine has been on the market since December. There’ve been serious inquiries,

including one from Duluth-Superior, the only one from the Great Lakes region. Another

offer is from a private company which would use it as a corporate boat, giving new

meaning to the term, “hostile takeover.”


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson in Superior, Wisconsin.

Bird Decline Tied to Exotics

According to the National Audobon Society, some species of
songbirds have experienced a 30 percent decline in their population
over
the past decade. Now, there’s evidence that non-native plant species
may
be contributing to the problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports:

Transcript

According to the National Audubon Society, some species of songbirds have experienced

a thirty percent decline in their population over the past decade. Now, there’s

evidence that non-native plant species might be contributing to the problem. The Great

Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:


American robins and wood thrushes like to build their nests in shrubs. Typically, they

choose tall bushes with long thorns that keep predators away. But as those plants are

replaced by non-native species, the birds are forced to move into the new shrubs. And

that makes them vulnerable to predators.


Christopher Whalen is an avian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. His

study found birds that nest in exotic shrubs were twenty percent more likely to lose

their eggs to a predator.


Because of the different way these plants grow, the exotic shrubs provide a

suitable-looking confluence of branches at a lower height above the ground. So, nest

height drops a meter and a half to two meters on average.”


That makes it easier for raccoons to invade. Whalen’s study focused on Illinois, but

he says birds are doing this throughout the Northeast and Midwest.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.

Commentary – The Public’s Right to Say No

Earlier this month, the U-S completed a controversial shipment of
weapons grade plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest
before the event, the material was shipped without any public
knowledge.
As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points
out, this sets a dangerous precedent:

Transcript

Earlier this month, the U.S. completed a controversial shipment of weapons-grade

plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest before the event, the material was

shipped without public knowledge. This sets a dangerous precedent, as Great Lakes

Radio Consortium’s commentator Suzanne Elston points out:


Proponents of the plan think it’s a good idea. Take plutonium from dismantled nuclear

weapons, mix it with uranium and use it for fuel in nuclear reactors. The process

doesn’t destroy the plutonium, but what it does do is make it very difficult to use.

Supporters hope that this will prevent the plutonium from falling into the wrong

hands.


The plan had been in the works for several years. The problem was getting the stuff

from Los Alamos, New Mexico to an experimental nuclear facility in Chalk River,

Ontario. As soon as the public got wind of the trucking routes there were howls of

protest, particularly from a group of activists in Michigan. They were concerned about

the risks of an accident when the plutonium was shipped through their community. They

were desperately trying to get a court injunction to stop the plutonium from being

shipped when it was discovered that the stuff had already been sent.


There was no public input, no warning – nothing. Even the mayors of Sault Ste. Marie,

the towns where the plutonium crossed the border into Canada weren’t notified until

after the event. And because the whole thing went off without any problems, officials

were rather pleased with themselves. They duped the public, nobody got hurt – mission

accomplished.


I find this really scary. Whether the shipment was safe or not isn’t the issue here.

Not only does the public have a right to know what was going on, they also have the

right to stop it, if that’s the will of the people. But that right was taken away by

the boys at the Department of Energy and Atomic Energy Canada who seemed to think they

know better somehow.


Well guess what? That’s not what the democratic process is all about. Public input –

regardless of how inconvenient – has got to be considered. Just because a plan is

proposed, doesn’t mean that it should go ahead. Debate is the cornerstone of

democratic process. One of the possible outcomes of that debate is that the public

will exercise its right to say no.


But that wasn’t allowed to happen here. We the people are supposed to decide. That’s

called democracy.


Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario. She comes to us

by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

Plutonium Shipment Outrages Activists

Activists in Canada and the U-S are trying to stop plutonium from
dismantled warheads from being shipped to Canadian nuclear power
plants. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… the
first shipment was recently slipped into Canada and another is coming
this spring:

Transcript

Activists in Canada and the U.S. are trying to stop plutonium from dismantled warheads

from being shipped to Canadian nuclear power plants. The Great Lakes Radio

Consortium’s Lester Graham reports the first shipment was recently slipped into Canada

and another is coming this spring:


The Canadian government plans to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled

nuclear warheads from Russia. Canada suggested it could mix the weapons-grade

plutonium with uranium and use it for fuel in its nuclear power plants.


Protestors in the U.S. and Canada vowed they’d stop the shipments. During public

hearings in Michigan, some environmentalists and politicians said they’d lie down in

the road to stop trucks. So, when the U.S. Department of Energy planned a shipment of

sample material, the DOE made the shipment classified. Nobody was told when or where

the plutonium would be shipped. This month, the secret shipment left Los Alamos and

entered Canada at Sault Sainte Marie.


Verna Lawrence is the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. She’s outraged her town was

not notified the shipment was coming.


“We’d have barricaded I-75. I had people that would go with me. How dare they do that

to us in our area with the Great Lakes Basin. It’s crazy!”


Mayor Lawrence says the federal government is shipping the plutonium against the

wishes of the people.


“See, the Canadian government and the United States government are in cahoots. They

don’t give a damn about anybody else. And let me tell you another thing: the governors

are not protecting their citizens. If I was the governor and I had the National Guard

and the State Police, they would not set foot on the state of Michigan.”


Just on the other side of the border, the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario also was

not notified.


Once in Canada, the shipment was put on a helicopter and flown to the Chalk River

Nuclear Power Plant where the fuel is being tested. Protestors say it was flown to

avoid blockades by activists and native people. The only road from Sault Ste. Marie to

the Chalk River Nuclear Plant runs through the Garden River Reservation. Cathy

Brosemer is with a coalition of environmental groups in Ontario called “Northwatch.”

She says the shipment was kept secret and the helicopter was used to avoid angry

peopole along the route.


“What we’ve been dealing with right now is the utter contempt the government holds its

citizens in. The government decided to ignore the public’s views on this issue and

literally fly over our heads.”


Canada’s nuclear industry says that’s not the case. Larry Shewchuck is a spokesperson

for Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited (AECL). AECL operates Canada’s nuclear power

plants. He says avoiding protestors was not the reason AECL used the helicopter.


“Quite frankly, AECL was just as happy to leave the shipment on the road. It was the

government of Canada that asked us to put it in the air because that’s what Canadians

were asking for. So, in the end, we did what the politicians wanted.”


Shewchuck says at public information stops this past fall, many people suggested if

the shipments were as safe as AECL and the Canadian government said they were, they

ought to fly them to the nuclear plant.


Protestors question whether a last minute switch from ground transportation to air was

a regulatory shell game to trick opponents of the plutonium shipments. Shewchuck says

the change was proper and followed the rules.


“The regulations in Canada did not have to be changed to accommodate air transport.

Air transport was made under existing Canadian regulations. Everything was done by the

book and nothing had to be changed.”


Environmental activists in the area don’t believe it. Cathy Brosemer says that flight

might have violated regulations and might be key in an effort to get an injunction.


“We believe that there have been some breaches in the way that this was handled and we

are going to try to get something to stop the test of the substance at the CANDU

reactors in Canton/Chalk River.”


The AECL plans to go ahead with tests of the plutonium mix fuel. Brosemer says the

environmentalists will also seek an injunction to stop future shipments. This spring,

Russian plutonium is scheduled to be shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway, on

through the Great Lakes and finally to the Chalk River plant in Ontario.


The U.S. Department of Energy says there won’t be any more shipments from the States.

And official with the DOE spoke on the condition his name not be used. He says while

the United States is helping to pay for the disposal of plutonium from dismantled

Russian nuclear warheads, the U.S. has decided to use its plutonium in American

nuclear power plants.


The mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Verna Lawrence, doesn’t believe the Energy

Department. She says she and other people opposing the shipments have to be more

vigilant.


“We got to get somebody on the inside, I think. You know, that’s the only way we’re

going to – If you can’t lick ’em, trick ’em, you know. But we’ll figure out a way

because that’s just the first shipment. There’ll be many, many, many more.”


Officials in Canada and the U.S. say it’s ironic that the shipments are causing so

much controversy among some of the same people who opposed the nuclear arms race.

Canadian officials say the nuclear material as fuel is a safe and efficient way to

dispose of weapons-grade plutonium. If the mixed fuel works well in Canada’s nuclear

plants, regular shipments of plutonium from Russia’s dismantled warheads will travel

through the Great Lakes region for at least the next ten years.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.