A new study shows that a ban on ozone-depleting chemicals has led to a slow recovery of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Researchers say within the next 100 years, the ozone layer could be as strong as it was 25 years ago. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the recovery process. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
A new study shows that a ban on ozone-depleting chemicals has led to a
slow recovery of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Researchers say
within the next 100 years, the ozone layer could be as strong as it was 25
years ago. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the recovery process.
The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
The ozone layer protects the Earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet
radiation, including skin cancer and damage to the environment. The
study’s authors say it shows a direct relationship between ozone recovery
and a ban on chlorofluorocarbons, which were used as a refrigerant.
University of Colorado Researcher Betsy Weatherhead says this is good
news, but people should still be careful.
“While ultraviolet levels are still high, and we expect them to be high for
at least the next 10 to 20, possibly 30 years, we have to be particularly
vigilant about protecting ourselves and our children against the harmful
aspects of UV.”
Weatherhead says ozone recovery faces some uncertainties… such as
rising global temperatures. She says that could stall recovery or lead to
record-low ozone levels.
Members of Congress say politics is delaying EPA rules to reduce pollution from lawn mowers. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
Members of Congress say politics is delaying EPA rules to reduce
pollution from lawn mowers. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
California is usually ahead of the nation in pollution restrictions. That’s
the case here. The state wants lawn mower manufacturers to add
catalytic converters to mowers to reduce emissions. Lawn mowers
generally pollute at a rate six times that of automobiles.
The EPA says it’s actively working on California’s request… but it’s
been slowed. One of the issues is whether a catalytic converter might be
a fire hazard on a lawn mower.
But another delay comes from U.S. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri. There
are two major Briggs and Stratton manufacturing plants in Missouri. The
small engine manufacturer says its tests show because they get so hot, a
catalytic converter is too much of a hazard on machines that come into
contact with dried grass.
Senator Bond has made a couple of maneuvers to delay a ruling for the
California request and a national ruling to clean up the lawn mower
For some people, lawn care is a choice between burning calories or burning fossil fuel. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Turf plots at Michigan State University are studied for grass hardiness, ease of maintenance, and water usage. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Polls indicate the majority of people want to do better toward the environment. One of the most polluting activities at many homes is lawn care. Lawn mowers spew out emissions that pollute at a higher rate than cars. Lawn sprinklers can use massive amounts of water. And over-use of fertilizer can pollute nearby streams. The GLRC’s Lester Graham looks at simple things you can do to reduce pollution and still have a green lawn:
Polls indicate the majority of people want to do better toward the
environment. One of the most polluting activities at many homes is lawn
care. Lawn mowers spew out emissions that pollute at a higher rate than
cars. Lawn sprinklers can use massive amounts of water. And over-use
of fertilizer can pollute nearby streams. The GLRC’s Lester Graham
looks at simple things you can do to reduce pollution and still have a
It figures that the day I went to talk to a turf expert about mowing and
lawn care… it would be raining.
“Well we needed it. So, I guess that’s the good thing about it.”
Tom Smith is the Executive Director of the Michigan Turfgrass
Foundation. He’s got all kinds of recommendations for how to properly
prep soil for lawns… but we wanted to limit this story to some simple,
practical things we can do with an existing lawn to reduce the impact to
“One of the first things and easiest things you can do is mow high. In
fact, I tell most consumers, most residential facilities mow as high as you
can set your mower. Because, what that will do is you’ll get a better root
system, you’ll get more shading of that soil and you’ll have less water
Smith works closely with the Michigan State University’s turf grass
research program. One of the things they’ve learned there goes against
some of the advice you might have heard in the past about watering. In
research that’s been going on since 1982, they’ve let Mother Nature take
care of one plot… another gets deep waterings a couple of times a
week… and a third gets daily watering, light rates, in the middle of the
heat of the day. The plot that looks best year after year… the one that
gets light watering, daily during the middle of the day. Most of the water
evaporates… but it reduces the heat stress on the grass… so it doesn’t go
dormant and brown. And Smith says it actually uses less water…
“In that research, we were able to reduce water use by about half by
doing daily watering at light rates in the middle of the day compared to
that deep infrequent watering.”
“Now, there are going to be some people who say ‘Look, I don’t want to
use water in a cosmetic way at all.’ Is there a grass that doesn’t use the
kind of water that most grasses we know do?”
“Actually there is one of our grasses that we recommend called Turf
Type Tall Fescue. Turf Type Tall Fescue is our most drought tolerant
grass. In most summers it will stay green without any supplemental
Smith says before you start spreading fertilizer on your lawn… you
should get a soil test to see exactly what you need. It’s an eight to ten
dollar test that can be done by your county extension office… and it’s
good for about three years. If you put fertilizer down without knowing…
you’re probably adding to the phosphorous and nitrogen pollution
problems in the streams and lakes in your area and beyond.
Keeping your equipment running well also helps reduce pollution. An
oil change in the lawn mower… and sharpening your mower blades.
(Sound of grinder)
Mark Collins maintains the turf plots at Michigan State University’s turf
grass program. His crew sharpens their blades every third mowing… but
they’re probably mowing a lot more than you do…
“Probably a homeowner should at least once a month. Just keep the
blade sharp. That’s the biggest thing. If it’s a sharp blade, then it cuts
the grass cleanly and you don’t get a frayed edge on the grass blade.”
And Collins says a mulching mower is best because it cuts the grass
blades into tiny bits that help fertilize the lawn… and reduces the need
for bagging your clippings.
And while we’re on the topic of mowers… recent years, lawn mower
manufacturers have been making more efficient, cleaner burning
machines… although they’ve resisted the idea of catalytic converters
which would greatly reduce emissions.
At Midwest Power Equipment, John Brown says there’s not a lot of
consumer pressure to make lawn mowers more environmentally
“Nobody asks about environmentally friendly – or very, very few. Most
people want to know about power, they want to know about ease of use.
As far as environmentally friendly, it’s probably the last question that
But if you are interested… Brown says there’s a little bit of information
on emissions right on the mower.
“Yeah, there’s a little sticker that’s actually on – like on the ones I have
on the floor here – it’s wrapped around the gas tank. It says an air index
quality and it’s a one-to-ten scale, one being the best, ten being the worst.
So, you could look at it, kind of judge for yourself.”
So, using less water, planting hardy grass, using only the fertilizer you
need, keeping your machinery in good working order and buying the
least polluting models all help. But… there are soulutions… such as
planting more drought resistant shrubs and trees so that there’s not as
much grass to mow… and if you’re really adventurous… you can get a
manual reel mower… one with no engine… it just uses the energy you
provide by pushing it.
The continued operation of hydroelectric dams will be up for debate in the next decade. Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers is looking to remove the Boardman River dam in northern Michigan. This dam removal could impact how all future dam removals are completed. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
The Army Corps of Engineers is tackling a dam removal project that could affect how the Corps approaches future dam removals. In the next decade, communities will be deciding whether to keep operating tens of thousands of hydroelectric dams on rivers across the country. This project is significant because it involves several dams being taken out of production along the same stretch of river. The GLRC’s Bob Allen reports:
The Army Corps of Engineers is tackling a dam removal project that
could affect how the Corps approaches future dam removals. In the next
decade, communities will be deciding whether to keep operating tens of
thousands of hydroelectric dams on rivers across the country. This
project is significant because it involves several dams being taken out of
production along the same stretch of river. The GLRC’s Bob Allen
(Sound of water)
The Boardman River is beautiful. It winds and turns and tumbles
through forested hillsides and passes along northern cedar swamps.
Sections of the upper river qualify as a blue ribbon trout stream, but a
series of dams along the lower half of the river changed some of the best
Steve Largent has worked on repairing damaged banks along the
Boardman for the last fifteen years. He says removing the dams will
restore faster flowing sections of the river, and clearing out the sand and
silt built up behind the dams will be good for trout and other critters.
“The sediment that is building up in the back of Brown Bridge pond
continues to move upstream as it fills in the upper end of the pond it’s
aggregrating upstream. It’s moving upstream further and further destroying
habitat further upstream.”
So a free running river will help wash away that sediment, but these days
it’s not just anglers who are interested in the Boardman River. Recently
river engineers have been drawn to the Boardman like trout to a fly
fisherman’s lure. They’re interested in landing the job of studying the
Boardman River and its dams. The million dollar study will look at
whether to keep or tear down three hydroelectric dams along a 17 mile stretch of river in northern Michigan just before it flows into Lake
Craig Fischenich is a research engineer with the Army Corps of
Engineers. He says the potential to remove three dams along the same
stretch of river is not something you’re going to find anywhere else.
“Whereas in many parts of the country they’re removing individual dams, they’re on systems that have other dams on them, and so this is an
opportunity here to actually try to restore an entire watershed.”
Fischenich says taking out the dams would mean improvements for
native fish. But there are risks too. If the dams go, invasive species
such as the parasitic sea lamprey could get upriver, and introduced
species such as steelhead and salmon could swim into the river and
compete with the native fish.
That prospect doesn’t exactly thrill John Wyrus, who lives on the
Boardman. He’d rather see some kind of obstacle down near the mouth
of the river to prevent introduced species from entering.
“So that these steelhead and salmon can’t get up the river. I would just
like to see it a brown trout and brook trout fishery.”
That’s the kind of scenario the study of the Boardman River would
(Sound of people talking)
Recently a lot of the engineers vying to do the study gathered at a
conference put together by the Corps of Engineers.
Gordon Ferguson works for ENSER Corporation. His company
is one of a dozen that submitted bids to land the study.
“This is a particularly interesting project because it involves a lot of
complex issues both from an engineering standpoint and also local
community issues. Property rights issues of homeowners along the
What they learn from the Boardman could be important to communities
near rivers across the nation.
Many of the tens of thousands of dams across the country are aging, and
in coming years, just like on the Boardman River, those with hydroelectric generating stations will need to be upgraded to keep their operating license.
The local utility says the dams on the Boardman don’t generate
enough power to make it worth fixing them. So they’re giving up the
licenses to generate electricity. Ownership of the dams reverts to the
local governments, and local officials are asking the Army Corps of
Engineers to pay for the study of the Boardman. The federal agency is
eager to be involved in this project.
The Boardman River study offers a chance for researchers to figure out
how to count less tangible values. Like how removing dams will affect
other wildlife such as eagles and osprey along the river.
Jock Coyngham is an ecologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Typically, he says, wildlife and recreation get discounted in this kind of
study because it’s easier to quantify things like hydropower, but it’s
important to figure out what value they have.
“If you make all your resource decisions as a state and as a country over
a long period of time pretty soon there won’t be any substantial fish
populations, any wild reproduction. Just because traditional cost-benefit
analysis tends to underestimate those ecosystem services and values, let
The Army Corps is waiting final approval for funding. Once given the
OK, the study of the Boardman River and its dams… could very well lay
the groundwork for other dam removals around the country.
The nuclear industry is dealing with criticism over spills of a chemical called tritium. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee reports:
The nuclear industry is dealing with criticism over spills of a chemical
called tritium. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee reports:
Federal regulators don’t require nuclear power plants to report what’s
considered minor tritium spills to the public. That’s despite the fact
tritium can make water radioactive, but some residents in Arizona,
Illinois and New York are furious. They’ve learned about tritium
spills… sometimes years later. Now, power plants want to change
The Nuclear Energy Institute’s Ralph Andersen says the industry will
report even minor tritium leaks to the public.
“It’s appreciating the common sense issue that of course, neighbors
around a nuclear power plant want to be aware of emissions from the
plant, not just hear about it later or read about it in the paper.”
Federal regulators insist the public’s safe. Nuclear watchdog groups
remain worried, though. The agreement covers only nuclear plant
operators, not places that store tritium outside power stations.
Gas prices are as high as they’ve ever been in the U.S. But there’s one place in the country where people are fueling up for under a dollar a gallon. The GLRC’s Mark Brush explains:
Fuel prices are as high as they’ve ever been in the U.S. But there’s one
place in the country where people are fueling up for under a dollar a
gallon. The GLRC’s Mark Brush explains:
Some drivers in one part of the country are not feeling the bite of high
gas prices, but they planned for it. They pre-paid for thousands of
gallons of gas when prices where cheap and now they’re filling their
tanks with the fuel they banked ahead of time. These drivers are filling
up at First Fuel Banks in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Jim Feneis is the CEO of First Fuel Banks. He says they have some
pretty happy customers these days:
“We have better than 300 members still fueling at sub one dollar per
gallon, and we have thousands of members fueling at sub two dollars per
Feneis says he has no plans to expand the business to other parts of the
country. Unlike oil companies who are reaping record profits he says
retailer’s profit margins are slim and getting slimmer.
A whooping crane experiment in the Eastern U-S has had its first hatch of eggs from migrating birds. But humans had to help. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
A whooping crane experiment in the Eastern U.S has had its first hatch
of eggs from migrating birds. But humans had to help. The GLRC’s
Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Several migrating cranes laid eggs this spring at the Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, but some eggs broke. So, wildlife
officials scooped up two intact eggs and eventually sent them to a
wildlife center in Maryland. The eggs recently hatched. Wildlife
agencies say it’s a huge step for the effort to create a migrating and
reproducing flock of whoopers in the Eastern U.S.
Joan Garland of the International Crane Foundation says that’s even
though the chicks were not hatched in the wild.
“We did sort of have to help these eggs out a little bit. We did remove
them from the nests and raise them in incubators, but at least they were
produced and part of their life was there in the wild in the nests at
Garland says the two chicks will probably be sent back to the wildlife
refuge this summer, and there, they’ll be taught to fly south.
Federal researchers have detected Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s, in many of the nation’s underground drinking water supplies. But the samples showed lower concentrations of the cancer-causing chemicals than some suspected. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Federal researchers have detected Volatile Organic Compounds, or
VOC’s, in many of the nation’s underground drinking water supplies. But
the samples showed lower concentrations of the cancer-causing
chemicals than some suspected. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Volatile Organic Compounds are by-products of industrial and
commercial applications. They come from plastics, paints, dry-cleaning
products and gasoline.
Over the past few decades, researchers have detected many places in the
country where soil and groundwater is highly contaminated by VOCs.
This latest study by the U.S Geological Survey took a broader look at
VOC concentrations in the nation’s groundwater.
John Zogorski led the project.
“In most of the wells that we sampled, and we’re sampling before any
treatment by the water utilities, we didn’t find any of these 55
compounds using even our most sensitive analytical methodology.”
Zogorski says VOC’s were found in some drinking water wells, but he
says the good news is that where the VOC’s were found, they were
mostly below federal drinking water standards.
Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study that’s the first of its kind in the U.S. suggests children’s health might be suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has our story:
Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study
that’s the first of its kind in the U.S suggests children’s health might be
suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn
Allee has our story:
The University of Southern California studied kids who live near busy
roads and freeways. They found they were fifty percent more likely to
develop asthma than kids who lived farther away.
Professor Rob McConnell co-authored the work. He says homes aren’t
unique. Other places, such as school playgrounds, could pose risks if
they’re near roads, too.
“I think there’re some practical implications for parents or for physical
education teachers in terms of having children exercise away from a
McConnell says studies of children in Europe back up his own
Environmentalists say the findings confirm their suspicion that decades
worth of clean air regulations haven’t gone far enough.
Matt Lehner owns a farm that sits between two condominium projects. His rooster has become a symbol for his community's fight against rapid development in the area. (Photo by Adam Allington)
Matt Lehner's chickens rest on his farm that sits between two condominium development projects. Recently, residents of the condominiums were upset because a rooster crowing in the early morning and during the day. (Photo by Adam Allington)
The management of Bay View Development tried to get a no-farm-animal ordinance passed by the Village of Suttons Bay council without notifying Matt Lehner of their intentions. Many locals rallied around him, using the rooster as a symbol of their dislike of developers continuing to build in the community. (Photo by Adam Allington)
Some communities are struggling to find the right balance between new development and preserving the farms and natural areas surrounding them. Some towns feel as though rapid development is out of control. Local residents sometimes feel as though they’re fighting big business to preserve their community’s way of life. Every once in a while, a champion for their fight emerges from the least likely of places. The GLRC’s Adam Allington reports:
Some communities are struggling with finding the right balance of new
development and preserving the farms and natural areas surrounding
them. Some towns feel as though rapid development is out of control.
Local residents sometimes feel as though they’re fighting big business to
preserve their community’s way of life. Every once in a while, a
champion for their fight emerges from the least likely of places. The
GLRC’s Adam Allington reports:
Matt Lehner is a mechanic and a small scale farmer. He lives on his
family’s homestead built by his great great grandfather in the late 1800’s.
These days the only animals on the farm a few chickens and geese that
Matt raises as a hobby.
“I’ve got bard rocks, I’ve got Rhode Island reds, I’ve got mini chickens
In a strange twist of fate Matt’s rooster has a become a local icon of sorts
by simply doing what roosters do best.
(Sound of crows)
Located just in northern Michigan near the Village of Suttons Bay, Matt’s
farm sits smack between two big condominium projects sitting on the
Bay, a scenic area off of Lake Michigan. Developers have tried to buy
the farm for years, but the family is not selling.
The new residents of the condos didn’t appreciate the early morning
crowing of Matt’s rooster… or their crowing any other part of the day for
that matter. Rather than an audible reminder of the rural character of the
area, the rooster crowing was a perceived as a problem by the
management of the Bay View Development. So they tried to get a no-
farm-animal ordinance passed by the village council.
“They tried to go to the village meeting to get an ordinance against
chickens without even notifying me they were doing this and the village
told them that this farm is 150 years old and it precedes their jurisdiction
by at least 50 years.”
In other words, Matt’s farm was not only there before the condos… it
was there before the village, and that wasn’t the end of the story. When a
small article about the dispute was published in the local newspaper, the
Leelanau Enterprise, locals rallied around the roosters with
surprising tenacity. Letters poured into the Enterprise. Most of which
were critical of the condominium’s attempt to get a crowing ban. It was
almost like the chicken scratched the surface of a tension that had been
simmering for years. Some residents of the county have the feeling that
their home is gradually becoming swallowed up by developers with no
connection to the land or its communities.
Ashlea Walter is a business owner from the nearby town of Empire. She
says that the rooster issue represents a kind of irony that she sees
happening every day.
“Yeah, I think the sentiment is that there is a lot of development all over
the county that we see and I’m not anti-development at all, but what I’m
seeing is the irony of the development. The great thing about this area is
its agricultural history, it’s picturesque towns and its natural beauty but
then what is so wonderful about the area is what the developers want to
get rid of.”
The developers didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They weren’t trying
to change the community. They just didn’t want the rooster waking up
Todd Demock is the construction superintendent for the Bay View
Development. He says that as far as the chickens are concerned he never
thought it would go this far.
“Apparently the roosters that were next door were making a bunch of
noise. It didn’t bother me I wasn’t paying much attention to it. One day
I came in and seen an officer here and Karen told me that she had to file
a complaint against it. So we kind of laughed it off and didn’t think it
would become a big deal.”
But it did become a big deal. As word traveled around the county, the
Suttons Bay rooster has become the hot topic at every local coffee hour,
beauty salon and town meeting. Most people just shake their head and
laugh, others are more animated.
And the chickens, well their life hasn’t got any easier. With their right to
crow already at risk, a fire recently claimed one of Matt Lehner’s coops.
Police Officer Burt Mead was assigned to investigate.
“My initial reaction was, due to the history and the problems that we had
investigated there before that there could be some kind of criminal
Turns out, no one had in fact put a hit out on the chickens.
“The principle reason it burned was that he had put a heat lamp in there.
Some of the chickens were in there nesting and he thought they would be
more comfortable, because it had been cold the previous two nights. So
he put the lamp in there and it was a temporary fixture. We think that it
probably fell over, the fire started precisely where he had placed the
lamp and the damages spread from there.”
As far as the dust up between the Lehner Farm and the Condo
development, the two parties have smoothed things over a bit. Matt will
keep his chickens but has agreed to slaughter some of the noisiest
roosters…and the developers they’ve offered to replace his coop with a
custom built “chicken condo”.
But the roosters won’t be forgotten. They’ve become a symbol for what
some people see as their threatened way of life… and a bumper sticker
battle cry for keeping the developers’ influence on the community