Sturgeon spearing season is underway in some areas of the region. And hook and line fishing is allowed at other times of the year. But to protect the fragile population, the number of fish harvested each year is tightly controlled. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
Sturgeon spearing season is underway in some areas of the region, and hook
and line fishing is allowed at other times of the year, but to protect the
fragile population, the number of fish harvested each year is tightly
controlled. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley
Over-fishing and habitat problems have plagued the lake sturgeon found
in the Great Lakes. Although the numbers are starting to rebound, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says lake sturgeon are still threatened or
endangered in nearly all areas the species was once found.
Ron Bruch is a sturgeon biologist with the Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources. He says the spawning cycle of lake sturgeon is one
reason the population needs to be watched.
“Lake sturgeon don’t spawn until later in life, the females don’t spawn
until they’re 20 to 25 years old, and then they only spawn once every
three to five years.”
Bruch says only about five percent of the adult population of lake
sturgeon should be harvested each year… to avoid a population crash.
He says that compares to nearly 30 percent of the population of most
other game fish.
More than a dozen states are thinking about adding intelligent design to their public school science curricula. But at least one state is specifically looking at keeping creationism away from the classroom. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
More than a dozen states are thinking about adding intelligent design to
their public school science curricula, but at least one state is specifically
looking at keeping creationism away from the classroom. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
When biochemist Michael Cox hears about attempts to bring the
religious-based idea called, intelligent design, into the k-12 classrooms,
he worries about an atmosphere less conducive to research. Cox says he
also worries about today’s students.
“If you are confusing students about what science is and what constitutes
science in grade school and high school, those students are less likely to
become scientists… and if they choose to become scientists they’re gonna
have a great deal of difficulty with science college programs.”
Cox is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He supports
a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature that would clarify what could be
taught in public school science classes. The measure would require that
material be testable as a scientific hypothesis and be consistent with
definitions of science developed by the National Academy of Sciences, but
critics say the bill is an attempt to block the teaching of creationism.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs can save energy and money. (Photo courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
They say that charity begins at home. So does energy conservation. At least, that’s the idea behind a new program designed to get children interested in saving energy, one light bulb at a time. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Lehman reports:
They say that charity begins at home. So does energy conservation. At least,
that’s the idea behind a new program designed to get children interested in
saving energy, one light bulb at a time. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Chris Lehman reports:
All of German Valley Elementary School’s 100 students are gathered in the
gymnasium to learn about saving the world…
“You guys are the ones who are going to have to worry about this stuff down
the road as you become adults and go out into the world. We always want to
plan, don’t we fifth grade.”
These kids are about to get a lesson in saving the planet. Although German
Valley Elementary is surrounded by farmland, the students are going to be
treated to a rap concert as part of that lesson. Their teachers are the rap stars,
trying to drive the message home…
(Sound of teacher rap skit)
The unusual school assembly is the kick-off event in a program called PEAK,
which stands for Preserving Energy for All Kids. It’s funded by a legal
settlement against one of the biggest power companies in Illinois: ComEd.
An audit found ComEd under funded its infrastructure. As part of a court
settlement, money was set aside to encourage energy conservation.
David Kolata is Executive Director of the Citizen’s Utility Board. The
consumer advocacy group is one of the agencies charged by the courts with
dispersing the 16 million dollar ComEd settlement.
“The mandate is simply to use that money to reduce our energy usage as
much as we can. We’ve taken the approach that there are multiple programs
out there that makes sense and we’re trying to see…basically pilot programs
to see what works and what doesn’t.”
So, German Valley Elementary is a testing ground. The school was
recommended by State Representative Jim Sacia. Sacia says educational
programs such as PEAK are crucial as younger generations face growing
questions about energy shortages in the future.
“I think it’s just so important that they learn at a young age the importance of
conserving energy and to consider alternative energy sources so that they can
make the world a far more energy-efficient place in years to come.”
The PEAK program includes more than school assemblies and teachers
mimicking rappers. The bulk of the lessons take place in the classroom…
(Sound of classroom presentation)
Teachers at schools participating in the PEAK program use teaching
materials generated by a California-based organization. One of the first
lessons is about the difference between standard light bulbs and compact
fluorescent light bulbs. Those bulbs use about one-third of the energy of a
standard incandescent light bulb, and can last up to ten years.
Students are given an assignment: to go home and count all of the light bulbs
in their house. Then they’ll figure out how much money their parents could
save by switching to compact fluorescents.
The PEAK program is in its beginning stages at German Valley Elementary,
but the message of energy conservation seemed to be hitting home with fifth
grader Brian Kraft:
“Because if we’re older and we don’t have any energy there will be nothing
to do and see.”
“How do you want to save energy yourself?”
“Turn lights off, play outside more than play inside.”
Playing outside means less TV watching and video game playing… and that
saves energy too.
Fifth grade science teacher Robert Nelson says the initial phase of the PEAK
program has generated positive feedback from children and their parents.
The school intends to sell compact fluorescent bulbs as a fundraiser later in
the school year.
Organic farms are concerned about nearby farms that produce genetically modified crops. They fear that the genetically modified crops will cross with and alter the genes of their own crops. (Photo by Rene
Proponents of genetically modified crops say the crops can be grown with fewer pesticides. (Photo by Daniel Wildman)
The nation’s agricultural seed companies are fighting local restrictions on their genetically engineered products. They say it’s the federal government’s job to regulate food safety. But critics say federal agencies aren’t doing a good job of testing genetically modified food for safety. They’re backing the right of local governments to regulate genetically engineered crops themselves. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
The nation’s agricultural seed companies are fighting local restrictions on
their genetically engineered products. They say it’s the federal
government’s job to regulate food safety, but critics say federal agencies
aren’t doing a good job of testing genetically modified food for safety.
They’re backing the right of local governments to regulate genetically
engineered crops themselves. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Sarah Hulett reports:
Genetically engineered crops are created when genes from other plants,
animals or bacteria are used to alter their DNA.
Critics call them “Franken-foods,” and two years ago, three California
counties banned farmers from growing genetically altered crops. That
alarmed the agribusiness industry, and now it’s fighting to keep that from
So far, the industry successfully lobbied 14 states to pass laws preventing
their local governments from putting restrictions on engineered crops.
Four other states are considering similar measures.
Jim Byrum is with the Michigan Agri-Business Association.
“Frankly, it’s pretty frustrating for us to look at some of the rumors that
are floating around about what happens with new technology. It’s
reduced pesticide use; it’s reduced producer expense in production. It’s
done all sorts of things.”
Genetically engineered seeds are created in the laboratories of big seed
companies like Monsanto and DuPont. The modified plants can produce
higher-yield crops that make their own insecticides, or tolerate crop-
killing problems such as drought or viruses.
Proponents of the technology say genetically altered crops have the
potential to feed the world more efficiently, and they say it’s better for
the environment. That’s because the crops can be grown with fewer
polluting pesticides, but critics say not enough is known yet about
engineered crops’ long-term ecological impact, or on the health of
people who eat them.
(Sound of farm)
Michelle Lutz is among the skeptics. She and her husband run an 80-
acre organic farm north of Detroit. She’s watching about a dozen head of
the beef cattle she’s raising. They’re feeding on cobs of organic corn
grown several yards away.
“I’m surrounded by conventional farmers. The farmers right over here to
my east – they’re good people, and I don’t think they would intentionally
do anything to jeopardize me, but they are growing genetically modified
Lutz worries that pollen from genetically modified corn from those
nearby fields could make its way to her corn plants – and contaminate
her crop by cross-breeding with it. Lutz says people buy produce from
her farm because they trust that it’s free from pesticides, because it’s
locally grown, and because it has not been genetically altered. She says
she shares her customers’ concerns about the safety of engineered foods.
Lutz says letting local governments create zones that don’t allow
genetically engineered crops would protect organic crops from
But Jim Byrum of the Michigan Agri-Business Association says no
township or county should be allowed to stop farmers from growing
genetically modified crops. He says every engineered seed variety that’s
on the market is extensively tested by federal agencies.
“Frankly, that evaluation system exists at the federal level. There’s
nothing like that at the state level, and there’s certainly nothing like that
at the local level. We want to have decisions on new technology, new
seed, based on science as opposed to emotion.”
Critics say the federal government’s evaluation of genetically modified
crops is not much more than a rubber stamp. The FDA does not approve
the safety of these crops. That’s just wrong.
Doug Gurian-Sherman is a former advisor on food biotechnology for the
Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s a very cursory process. At the end of it, FDA says we recognize that
you, the company, has assured us that this crop is safe, and remind you
that it’s your responsibility to make sure that’s the case, and the data is
massaged – highly massaged – by the company. They decide what tests
to do, they decide how to do the tests. It’s not a rigorous process.”
Gurian-Sherman says local governments obviously don’t have the
resources to do their own safety testing of engineered foods, but he says
state lawmakers should not allow the future of food to be dictated by
powerful seed companies. He says local governments should be able to
protect their growers and food buyers from the inadequacies of federal
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that will determine how much power the federal government has over isolated wetlands - wetlands that aren't adjacent to lakes or streams. (Photo by Lester Graham)
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments that could decide which wetlands the federal government can regulate. The case before the court involves a couple of construction projects in the state of Michigan, but it’s being followed closely throughout the country. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments that could
decide which wetlands the federal government can regulate. The case
before the court involves a couple of construction projects in the state of
Michigan, but it’s being followed closely throughout the country. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
The federal Clean Water Act is supposed to stop people from polluting
streams, wetlands and other waterways that are connected to the
country’s major lakes, rivers and coastal areas, but what if the wetland in
question is located 20-miles from the nearest major waterway? Is it
covered by the Clean Water Act? That’s the question the court will
In the 1980’s John Rapanos started moving sand from one part of
property he owned in Michigan to another, to fill in some wetlands. He
wanted to sell the land to a shopping mall developer. Trouble is, he
didn’t get permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to fill in the
wetlands. The government says he should have.
“The property has a drainage ditch that runs through it…”
Robin Rivett is a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. It’s a
property-rights group that is representing Rapanos.
“And because of the movement of the sand on the property, which is
characterized as wetlands, the government came in and has prosecuted
him for actually discharging fill material into the navigable waters.”
Rapanos was charged with violating the Clean Water Act. Washington is
demanding 13-million dollars in fines and fees, and wants him to set
aside about 80-acres as wetlands.
In another case, that’s been combined with the Rapanos matter,
developers in Southeast Michigan were denied permits to fill in wetlands
so they could build a condominium complex. That site is about two
miles from Lake St. Clair, which lies between lakes Huron and Erie.
In both cases, the federal government says the sites fall under the Clean
Water Act because they’re located near navigable waters. Actually, that
term – navigable waters – has evolved over the years and come to mean
“interstate or intrastate waters,” along with their wetlands and tributaries.
The plaintiffs, their attorneys and supporters say the land should be
governed by state environmental regulations, rather than the federal
Clean Water Act, but on the side of the government in this case is 35
state governments, along with many environmental and conservation
Jim Murphy is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation. His group
has filed briefs on behalf of more than a dozen organizations that support
the federal position.
“What is at stake here is the ability of the act to protect the vast number
of tributaries that flow into navigable waters and the wetlands that
surround and feed into those tributaries. If those tributaries and wetlands
aren’t protected under the federal Clean Water Act, it becomes difficult if not
impossible under the Clean Water Act to achieve its goal to protect water
Murphy says if the Supreme Court rules that Congress did not intend to
protect wetlands like the ones in this case, then about half the wetlands in
the country could lose their federal protection. Murphy and others on his
side worry that wetlands could begin disappearing more quickly than
they already do today.
Scott Yaich directs conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited – a
wetlands protection group.
“The landowners who have those wetlands would no longer be subject to
getting the Corps of Engineers to review, so essentially they could do
anything they wanted.”
The lawyers for the landowners don’t see it that way. The Pacific Legal
Foundation’s Robin Rivett says individual states would have something
“I believe there are 47 states that have their own clean water programs.
If it is clear that the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over
local waters, the states will step in to protect those waters.”
Maybe they will; maybe they won’t, say environmental groups. They
fear a patchwork of water protection laws. They say it could mean
polluted water from a state with weaker laws could flow into a state with
stronger water protection laws.
Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation.
“The Clean Water Act provides a floor. It provides comprehensive
protection, a floor beyond which states must maintain that level of
Those who support the property owners in this case say it’s about more
than clean water – it’s also about land use. They say if the court rules
that waterways and wetlands are interconnected and all deserving of
protection under the Clean Water Act, then what could be left out?
Duane Desiderio is with the National Association of Home Builders,
which has filed briefs supporting the property owners.
“All water flows somewhere. Every drop of water in the United States,
when it goes down the Continental Divide, is going to drain into the
Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, or the Gulf of Mexico. Pretty much.”
Both sides are hoping the Supreme Court provides a clear definition of
which wetlands and tributaries Congress intended to protect when it
passed the Clean Water Act. A decision is expected this summer.
Some human males claim they gain weight when their mates are pregnant. A new study documents a weight gain for some kinds of monkeys when they’re about to be fathers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach
Some human males claim they gain weight when their mates are
pregnant. A new study documents a weight gain for some kinds of
monkeys when they’re about to be fathers. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison weighed about sixty
cotton-top tamarins, and common marmosets during the study. Those
two squirrel-sized primates are known to be monogamous and good
Researchers found the male monkeys gained another ten percent in
weight when their partners were expecting. Endocrinologist Toni Ziegler
speculates that hormonal changes help the expectant fathers to bulk up
and prepare to lug around their babies.
“There’s a high energetic cost to being the one which these fathers are to
do most of the infant carrying and since they have twins and sometimes
triplets it’s a big responsibility.”
Ziegler says the additional weight only stays on the male monkeys
during the pregnancy… something their human counterparts can only
Environmentalists disagree over whether new mining rules will do enough to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Linda Stephan reports:
Environmentalists disagree over whether new mining rules will do
enough to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Linda Stephan reports:
A type of mining called deep-shaft sulfide mining is controversial. That’s
because it can cause sulfuric acid to get into the waterways.
Under new rules in Michigan, companies that want to open mines will
have to prove absolutely no toxins will escape the mine and pollute soil,
ground water, or surface waters. That’s even once the mine’s been shut
Marvin Roberson is a Sierra Club representative who helped shape the
“That’s an extremely high standard. The fact of the matter is, I think it’s
going to be very, very difficult for most applicants to meet the standards
that are set in this, and those that do will be pretty clearly opening
facilities that won’t be causing environmental harm.”
But an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation says there are some
areas where erosion, landslides, or water pollution can’t be prevented,
and the new rules don’t restrict where a mine can be built.
A state has abandoned its efforts to stop the spread of a tree-killing beetle because of the cost. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jeff Bossert
A state has abandoned its efforts to stop the spread of a tree-killing beetle
because of the cost. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jeff Bossert
The emerald ash borer has been spreading in the upper Midwest…
killing millions of ash trees along the way. Since it was first discovered
in northern Indiana two years ago… more than 100-thousand ash trees
have died in that state.
The infestations are hard to find… and state officials say cutting down
trees hasn’t been enough to stop the beetle. Now, the state’s Department
of Natural Resources has decided to stop cutting down trees, and instead,
just monitor the infestation.
State entomologist Bob Walz says he hopes technology will one day
“It’s our hope in the next several years that we’ll have a better tool to
conduct surveys and be able to better limit where emerald ash borer is
found, but at the present time we just don’t have a good tool and
therefore, we’re always playing catch up.”
State officials say some of the blame can be placed on those who ignore
warnings… and take firewood from infected areas.
A new report on pollution in the Great Lakes basin aims to spur U-S and Canadian governments to get tougher on dirty factories. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
A new report on pollution in the Great Lakes basin aims to spur U.S. and
Canadian governments to get tougher on dirty factories. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
This year, the United States and Canada will formally review the
decades-old treaty called the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Environmental groups are hoping the review will lead to tougher
pollution regulations in both countries, and they say a new report proves
there’s still a huge problem with dirty air, water and land.
The report finds that even after 30 years of environmental cleanup
efforts, factories in the region are still releasing 1.3 billion pounds of
toxins a year.
Paul Muldoon is with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
“Although there’s been much improvement, this is a challenge to both
governments to really set targets and challenge industry to do better.”
The report finds that Canadian factories emit 73 percent more air
pollution per facility than their U.S. counterparts.
The President’s proposed budget calls for big boosts in military and homeland security spending. And deep cuts to many domestic programs. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports, the Great Lakes are getting their share of cuts too:
The President’s proposed budget calls for big boosts in military and
homeland security spending. And deep cuts to many domestic programs.
As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports, the
Great Lakes are getting their share of cuts too:
Several groups are calling the President’s budget a net loss for the Great
A fund that helps states update their outdated sewage treatment plants is
slated to get one of the biggest cuts. Programs that protect fisheries from
the destructive sea lamprey would also get cut back.
Andy Buchsbaum directs the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife
“We knew that it was going to be a tight budget year, but it really was pretty
shocking to see the level of cuts in key Great Lakes programs. Now
there were some programs that went up but by and large across the board
the programs were severely cut, in things that are just critical.”
One action Buchsbaum says is critical is stopping the Asian carp from
getting into the Great Lakes. Right now, there’s no federal funding for an
electric barrier designed to keep the invasive carp out.
It’s now up to Congress to decide whether to go through with these