In an effort to eliminate invasive species and pollution from the Great Lakes, a summit to organize cleanup initatives will soon be underway. (Photo courtesy of USGS.gov)
State and federal officials will meet soon to take
the next step on organizing clean up projects in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
State and federal officials will meet soon to take the next step on organizing clean-up projects in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
EPA administrator Mike Leavitt is in charge of a task force reviewing spending on about 140 Great Lakes programs. He’s been meeting with key parties and says he’s now ready for a summit with Great Lakes governors, mayors, tribal leaders and members of Congress. The meeting will be in Chicago. In a talk with environmental reporters, Leavitt said one goal will be to set up nine working groups on issues like invasive species, and non-point pollution.
“…and we will begin the process over the course of a year – not to stop or to stall – but to build on what’s already occuring into very concise action plans on the Great Lakes.”
Leavitt says it may be a very complex environmental collaboration. The National Wildlife Federation praises Leavitt for meeting with the various parties. But the environmental group says the EPA should plan on spending more money to clean up the Great Lakes.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consoritum, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.
The Annex 2001 Agreement discusses how much and to whom the water from the Great Lakes is going. Ontario objects to the current Agreement in fear that it doesn't do enough to protect the Lakes. (Photo by Kym
Ontario provincial leaders say they’re not willing to sign
a draft agreement aimed at protecting the Great Lakes from diversion in its current form. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, observers say Ontario’s objections won’t sidetrack negotiations on the agreement known as the Great Lakes Charter
Ontario provincial leaders say they’re not willing to sign a draft agreement aimed at protecting the Lakes from water diversions in its current form. Observeers say the objections won’t sidetrack negotiations on the agreement known as the Great Lakes Charter Annex. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett has this report:
The Charter Annex would give the eight states and two provinces that surround the Lakes a say in how much water can be diverted out of the Lakes to other regions. But Ontario officials say they don’t think the current draft goes far enough to protect the Lakes. David Natzger is with the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which is coordinating negotiations bewteent he states and provinces to implement the Annex. Natzger says the announcement reflects healthy debate, and not a snag in the process.
“I think it says that there’s a lot of interest in this issue in Ontario, and certainly there were some concerns that were raised in the public comment period, and they will be taken into consideration as changes are considered and made, ultimately.”
In January, the staffs of the Great Lakes governors and premiers plan to start negotiating changes to the Annex. Natzger says the changes will reflect some of the concerns brought forward in ten-thousand public comments.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Magazine publishers and other companies are thinking ahead and getting their paper from forests that have been certified. But what does this really mean? (Photo by Stanley Elliott)
Officials in the Midwest want to prove they’re not damaging their state forests. States that sell timber to paper companies are spending thousands of dollars to earn a certificate that says they’re managing the forests in a sustainable way. Paper producers are demanding that state foresters earn certification because officials want to stave off protests from consumers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
Officials in the Midwest want to prove they’re not damaging their state forests. States that sell timber to paper companies are spending thousand of dollars to earn a certificate that says they’re managing the forests in a sustainable way. Paper producers are demanding that state foresters earn certification because officials want to stave off protests from consumers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
It’s lunchtime and employees on break from Compuware in downtown Detroit are browisng through the magazine racks at Borders. Melody Kranz says she reads three different magazines every month. She says she is an avid recycler and an impassioned environmentalist, but never considered what kind of paper was going into her magazines.
“I don’t know why I haven’t thought about it, I just haven’t. I will now. Because I’m a gardening nut, I love to garden. So yeah, I just never really thought about it.”
But executive David Refkin is betting that Franz and others like her would think twice before picking up Time Magazine if they thought a forest was demolished to make the paper. Refkin is the Director of Sustainable Development for Time Incorporated. He says he’s noticed a strong surge in environmental awareness over the past two or three years.
“We don’t want people looking at a magazine and feeling guilty that a stream has been damaged and the fish are dying in there, or that habitats aren’t being protected because people are practicing bad forestry practices.”
Refkin says his company wants to take action now, before consumer groups decide to boycott its magazines over ecological issues. Time uses more coated paper for its publications than any other company in the U.S. The company is asking that 80 percent of all paper products Time buys be certified by 2006.
To the average consumer, that may not seem like big news. But for paper producers and foresters, it’s earth shattering. Larry Pedersen is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Pedersen says getting certified means years of work for state employees. The government has to prove to investigators that its management standards take into account issues such as biodiversity, water quality, soil erosion and wildlife habitat. Pedersen says the state is also required to provide records for each tree from the moments it’s planted or inventoried to the time it’s cut down and then made into planks or paper. But he says it’s worth the effort.
“A number of wood and paper-using companies brought it to our attention that they needed to have certified products because their consumers were demanding those. And with us having four-million acres of state forestlands, we saw the writing on the wall that we needed to jump on this.”
State forests in the region generate a lot of revenue. Wisconsin’s forests earn two and a half million dollars from timber sales and Ohio pulls in almost three million. Michigan’s forests bring in 30 million dollars annually. Earlier this year, Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that all state forests will be certified by January 1st of 2006. And the Great Lakes State is not alone… New York, Wisconsin, and Maine are also pursuing certification and Ohio and other states are considering it.
Andrew Shalit, with the environmental activist group Ecopledge, says he’s glad Time Warner is encouraging paper companies and state governments to get certified. But he says that doesn’t necessarily mean the paper is produced in an environmentally friendly way.
“It’s great to say that they’re going to get all of their paper from certified forests. The question is, who is certifying? And in the case of Time Warner, a lot of the forests are certified by a group called SFI, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and their standards are so weak as to be almost meaningless.”
There’s a heated debate over just what certification means. There are currently two groups that certify forests in the U.S. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or SFI, was originally founded by the timber industry but is now an independent body. The Forest Stewardship council, or FSC, came out of the environmental movement… or more specifically, out of the effort to protect South American rainforests. Shalit says he doesn’t think SFI certification is as rigorous or as comprehensive as FSC.
“It really is a problem for the consumer because you see something in the store and it has a little green label on it with a picture of a tree and it says sustainably certified, and you think you’re buying something good. It’s hard for the individual consumer to keep up with that.”
Shalit says several states, like Michigan, have solved the dilemma of rival certification programs by getting dual certification. he says although the system has flaws, it will improve if consumers demand more stringent forestry regulations.
Executives at Time Warner hope they can avoid boycotts and pickets by taking action preemptively. The company is leading the push for forest certification in the U.S., and environmentalists say the federal government may have to bow to pressure eventually and get the national forests certified as well.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Celeste Headlee.
American chestnuts (left) are smaller than Chinese and European chestnuts. The Chinese and European varieties are also resistant to the blight, making the imports more desirable to growers. (Photo by Lester Graham)
American chestnuts were an important food source for wildlife because there was a more consistent crop each year than acorns. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Bill Nash of Nash Nurseries holds the spiny husks that hold the chestnuts. The American chestnut grove behind him is 20 years old and has not yet been hit by blight. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Food is always a big part of the holidays. But one
traditional food has – for the most part – disappeared from American tables. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Food is always a big part of the holidays. But one traditional food has – for the most part – disapeared from American tables. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
(Sound of Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasing on an open fire…”)
That old chestnut of a song romanticizes roasting chestnuts as a part of the holidays. But a lot of us have never even seen chestnuts, let alone roasted them on an open fire. Chestnuts used to be a major part of the Eastern hardwood forest. There were millions of them. In fact, 25 percent of all the mature trees were chestnuts. But a blight, imported with some Chinese chestnut trees, slowly wiped out the American chestnuts. Now, they’re gone.
Well… almost. Much of the root stock is still alive. Sprouts grow until the blight knocks them back again. A blight only hurts the standing tree where it branches out.
And, in a few isolated pockets in the Midwest, the blight hasn’t reached the trees. A few American chestnuts are alive and growing and some of them are free of the blight. At Nash Nursuries in central Michigan, owner Bill Nash is guiding us through a rare sight… a grove of American chestnuts.
“These are 20 years old and as you can see, they’re fairly good sized. The American chestnut is quite a rapid growing tree. It’s well-suited for our climate, so it doesn’t have any of the problems that some of the hybrids do as far as growing and cultural care you have to take care of them. The Americans, you get them started and they’re pretty much on their own.”
In a few places in Michigan and Wisconsin there are small groves of chestnuts. They’re prized trees. They’re great for shade. The hardwood is rot resistant and makes great furniture and fence posts. And the chestnuts are eaten by humans and wildlife alike. Bill Nash says the tree will be popular again if it ever overcomes the blight that’s hit it so hard.
“The American chestnut will make another big comeback in this country as a yard tree, as a timber tree, as a wildlife tree.”
That part about a wildlife tree is more important than just worrying about the squirrels and bunnies. Chestnuts were an important food source for all kinds of animals.
Andrew Jarosz is a plant biologist at Michigan State University. He says the loss of chestnuts has been hard on wildlife populations.
“Chestnuts shed nuts in a more regular pattern than oaks, which will have what are called mast years – where they’ll have major crops, massive crops one year and very small crops in other years – which means it’s either feast or famine if you’re depending on oaks.”
Since the blight first began hitting American chestnuts about a century ago, researchers have been looking into all kinds of ways to stop it. One way is to cross it with the Chinese chestnut which has a couple of genes that resist the blight. But it takes a long time to breed out the Chinese characteristics from the American chestnuts and still keep the resistant genes.
Another approach is genetic manipulation. Genetically modifying the American chestnut tree to make it disease resistant. Again, work is underway, but it takes a long time. And even after success, it’s likely some people won’t like the idea of releasing a genetically modified organism into the wild.
The final approach worked in Europe when the blight hit there. It seems there’s a naturally occuring virus that kills the blight. It spread naturally in Europe. There are a few groves in Michigan that have naturally acquired the virus and it’s working to keep the blight at bay. Andrew Jarosz is working on the research. He says the trick is figuring out how to get the virus to spread to other trees short of manually spreading it on cankers infected by the blight.
“If we’re literally talking about millions of trees across probably, you know, the eastern third of the country, we obviously can’t treat every canker on every tree. And we need to be able to figure out a way to deploy the virus in a way that it can spread.”
Even with all that hopeful research, it’ll be ten years at least before some practical solutions end up in the forests, and Jarosz believes a couple of centuries before the American chestnut holds the place it once did in the forests.
Bill Nash knows it’ll be a while before there are major changes, but he is optimistic about the American chestnut.
“Oh, I would think the tree has a bright future. There’s enough people working on that, enough programs going on now… So, I would suspect that in the not-too-distant future we should have some of this progress made. You know, Robert Frost in his poem predicted the comeback of the American chestnut, that something would arise to offset that blight. And we’re starting to see that.”
Frost put it this way: “Will the blight end the chestnut? The farmers rather guess not, It keeps smoldering at the roots And sending up new shoots Till another parasite Shall come to end the blight.”
Seems Frost was an optimist too.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
From lighter, thinner ski boots and other cold-weather clothing...
(Photo by Adam Fowler)
... to using less lumber in home-building, aerogels are reported to have a multitude of uses. (Photo by Bartlomiej Stroinski)
A new insulating material could cut down on home heating
costs and save on materials in construction. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Katherine Glover tells us about Aerogels:
A new insulating material could cut down on home heating costs and save
on construction materials. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Katherine Glover
tells us about Aerogels:
Aerogels look like frozen smoke, and feel like styrofoam. Up to ninety-nine
percent of an aerogel is empty space. This makes it an excellent insulator. Last
year, the first aerogel jacket hit the market. And aerogel footwear inserts are used
by the U.S. military and the Canadian National Ski
Team. Ed Hogan is the marketing manager of Aspen Aerogels.
“Everybody knows how much cold feet can spoil an outing, right? And this stuff
is so thin, you can put it in a shoe or put it in a boot, and you hardly notice it.”
Because they’re new, aerogels are still expensive relative to other materials. The
company says once they gain in popularity and the price goes down, they could be used
as insulation in walls and the clear form could be used in windows. This could cut down
dramatically on heating costs. And, because aerogels are so thin, the company says
houses could be built with less lumber. That’s because less lumber would be needed
to make room for aerogel insulation.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Katherine Glover.
Many scientists are finding that much of the Arctic's ice cover could melt by the end of this summer. However, the Bush Administration cites a few reasons why compliance with the Kyoto treaty is still not a favored option. (Photo by Michael Slonecker)
Despite warnings that global warming is causing the
Arctic to warm up at twice the rate of the rest of the world, the Bush administration is not changing its policies on emissions in the U.S. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Despite warnings that global warming is causing the Arctic to warm up at twice the
rate of the rest of the world, the Bush administration is not changing its policies
on emissions in the U.S. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Earlier this month 300 scientists presented a four-year study that concluded the
Arctic was warming up right now. The report indicated the northern ice cap was already
diminished by 15 to 20 percent, and by the end of this century half of the Arctic’s summer
ice cover would be melted and polar bears could be nearly extinct. The study predicted that
the wildlife in the Arctic and the people who depended on it for food would be in dire straits.
But even with the new evidence that the Arctic is facing worse warming than first predicted,
the Bush adminsitration is not changing its course. The White House has indicated the U.S.
would lose too many jobs and have to restrict its economy more than other nations such as
China and India if it were to adhere to the Kyoto global warming treaty. So far, the Bush
administration has agreed only to fund further research on the issue.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Deer hunters try their best to prevent deer from sensing their presence - from hiding atop platforms to wearing camouflage clothing. (Photo by Alan Mead)
...to making their breath smell like pine? The idea of "Gum-O-Flage" is something to chew on. (Photo by Nara Vieira de Silva)
In much of the region, deer hunting season is in full swing. Hunters are taking to the woods doing their darndest to keep deer from spotting them. Now, an avid deer hunter has taken camouflage to another level. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley explains:
In much of the region, deer hunting season is in full swing. Hunters are taking to the
woods doing their darndest to keep deer from spotting them. Now, an avid deer hunter has
taken camouflage to another level. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley
Neil Brentl says hunters know when a deer smells you.
“They make a very, very distinct like, huff sound, and you know. Every hunter knows
the sound. When you hear it, you almost wanna get out of your tree because you’re done.”
Brentl says that powerful sense of smell is a deer’s first line of defense. A few years
ago, Brentl’s brother suggested that perhaps the deer were sensing Brentl’s breath. The
idea for “gum-o-flage” was born.
“I took, like a regular gum, actually, like Bubble Yum, and chewed all the flavor out of
it, and added pine needles to it believe it or not. And I found that it was working.”
Brentl says the gum isn’t scientifically proven to work. But he says he hopes to have some
tests done soon. He says so far, “gum-o-flage” has been a hit with hunters in Upper Wisconsin.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Christina Shockley.
Ontario has proposed a new recycling plan for electronic waste in an effort to conserve materials and reduce pollution. (Photo by Eylem
Old computers, televisions and stereos may soon be
found in recycling bins across Ontario. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Old computers, televisions and stereos might soon be found in recycling
bins across Ontario. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Last year, 157 thousand tonnes of electronic waste ended up in Canadian
The Ontario government plans to send that waste to recycling plants instead.
It will require electronics manufacturers to devise a recycling plan for their
own products – things like CD players, microwaves and even power tools – and then
help pay for it. John Steele is a spokesman for the Ontario environment ministry.
“Our goal is to reduce the amount of electronic waste that enters a landfill site.
Once something enters a landfill site, for all intents and purposes, it can not be
recycled or reused. It’s a waste of a resource as far as the Ministry of the Environment
It’s also a source of pollution. Many electronics contain toxins like lead and mercury.
Steele says the plan will be modelled after recycling agreements the province already has
with newspaper, soft drink and pizza box manufacturers.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
While people are now aware of the health benefits of eating fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, a study has shown that the risk of high mercury levels and heart disease might counteract those benefits. (Photo by Bartlomiej Stroinski)
Researchers in one state in the region are trying to
find out how much mercury load their residents are carrying.
So far, 300 samples have been collected for the study. And
the researchers have found that one-quarter of Wisconsin men participating in the study have high levels of mercury. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Researchers in one state in the region are trying to find out how much mercury load
their residents are carrying. So far, 300 samples have been collected for the study.
And the researchers have found that one-quarter of Wisconsin men participating in the
study have high levels of mercury. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
The EPA says the safe level for mercury is one part per million. In the ongoing Wisconsin
study, one in four men and one in eight women have more than that in their bodies. The
study subjects volunteered for the study, so officials say they may not represent the
Eating fish contaminated with mercury has long been thought to cause developmental
problems in young children. But now there’s research from Europe showing it can also
contribute to heart disease in adult men.
Lynda Knobeloch is a toxicologist with the Wisconsin Department of Health.
“There have been several studies that show that people who eat fish have less heart
disease because of omega 3 fatty acids, but the European study was able to sort out the
good effects of omega 3s from the bad effects of methyl mercury, and see that the mercury
actually can overwhelm the beneficial effects of omega 3s and actually cause heart disease.”
Wisconsin is requiring its utilities to reduce mercury emissions by 75% over ten years.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
Dysart Woods in southeast Ohio is an old-growth forest. Many of the trees are more than 300 years old. (Photo courtesy of dysartwoods.org)
Ohio Valley Coal Company's mine operations map. Green = Dysart Woods Old-growth forest. Yellow = longwall mining panels. Red = Room and pillar mining. (Image courtesy of Buckeye Forest Council)
Ohio University professor and hike leader Phil Cantino provides some perspective on this massive oak.
The need for cheap energy is coming into conflict
with efforts to preserve a forest. Coal mining companies are using a technique that causes the land to subside and sometimes changes natural underground water systems. Environmentalists say mining underneath a forest preserve could destroy the ecosystem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports on environmental activists who are defending the
The need for cheap energy is coming into conflict with efforts to preserve a forest.
Coal mining companies are using a technique that causes the land to subside and sometimes
change natural underground water systems. Environmentalists say mining underneath a forest
preserve could destroy the ecosystem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lisa Ann Pinkerton
reports on environmental activists who are defending the forest:
For decades, the coal mining industry has been using a technique of extraction called
long wall mining. Industry officials say it’s the most effective way to get the bituminous
coal out of the ground. In traditional room and pillar mining, the land above is not disturbed.
But the long wall machine leaves no support for the 1000-foot tunnel created in its wake. After
the coal is extracted, the ground caves in, causing the land to sink.
Dysart Woods, in southeastern Ohio, is slated for such a fate. The conservation group,
Buckeye Forest Council, wants to block the woods from mining. Its members believe long
wall mining will destroy the old-growth forest. The four hundred and fifty acres, fifty-five
acres of the trees are more than 300 years old. Fred Gittis is an attorney who has volunteered
his services to protect the woods.
“And these woods are precious, and they are among the last old-growth forest areas remaining,
not only in Ohio, but in this part of the country. Recently a documentary was filmed in Dysart Woods, because it has some of the conditions that would have existed at the time of George
Gittis argues state should repeal the mining permit granted for Dysart Woods. Ohio Valley
Coal was granted the permit in 2001. As steward of the woods, Ohio University disputed the
permit for three years. But last November, it agreed to drop its appeal, in exchange for $10,000 from the state to study the forest’s water, as it is undermined. Ohio Valley
Coal Company would drill the wells needed. But the Buckeye Forest Council says a study doesn’t
solve the problem.
“First of all it is just a water monitoring project. It offers no protection to the woods.
Second of all, they don’t have the base line data right now to compare to what it normal.”
That’s Susan Heikler, Executive Director of the Buckeye Forest Council. When Ohio University
accepted the mining permit, her organization took up the fight. The group worked with lawyer
Fred Gittis and nationally known experts to review the science of the Coal Company’s mining
plan. Gittis says the Council’s experts were not impressed.
And, both hydrogeologists and mining experts have indicated that the basic science related
to this mining permit is, not to be insulting but, junk.”
The plan calls for long wall mining within 300 feet of the old-growth forest. However,
experts from the Buckeye Forest Council say a 1500 foot buffer around the woods
is the only way to insure the protection of the hydrology – the natural water system that
sustains the forest.
In a major concession two years ago, the Coal Company agreed not to long wall mine directly
under Dysart Woods. Instead, room and pillar mining is planned. The Company says that will
delay subsidence for centuries to come. Attorney Fred Gittis says without core samples from
directly under the woods, the company doesn’t have the data to back up this claim.
“If you don’t know what that rock is, if it’s soft like claystone or shale, it can collapse.
And so its pretty basic stuff.”
Attorneys for the company declined to be interviewed for this story. In statements, the
Company defends its lack of data by pointing to exemptions they were granted by the Department
of Mineral Resources. The Company stands by its assertion that, quote, “trees and other surface
vegetation will absolutely not be affected by mining.” But in September, the story changed. In
court, a mining consultant for the company, Hanjie Chen, testified that the forest floor would
sink 5 inches. Attorneys for Ohio Valley Coal abruptly stopped his testimony after this
statement. But Gittis says the damage to the coal company’s case is already done.
Although Buckeye Forest Council rested its case in July, the defendant, Ohio Valley Coal is
still adding witnesses and dragging out the case. Fred Gittis says the Company is trying to
exhaust the Buckeye Forest Council’s legal funding. He adds that this is why he volunteers his
For the time being, mining under the old growth forest has been pushed back until the hearings
conclude in November.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lisa Ann Pinkerton.