After spending the last two summers fighting against the Asian long horned beetle, government agriculture officials say the Great Lakes region remains threatened by a group of invasive species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jesse Hardman reports:
After spending the last two summers fighting against the Asian long
horned beetle…government agriculture officials say the Great
Lakes region remains threatened by invasive species. The great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jesse Hardman reports.
U.S. agriculture deputy secretary Richard Rominger says
the appearance of gypsy moths in the Great Lakes Region, an insect which
kill trees and plants by consuming their leaves, is this summers
“Gypsy moths will eat the leaves off the
trees they probably start with the oak trees the like those, then they’ll
eat anything including the shrubbery in your yard. In the last year gypsy
moths defoliated at least a million acres in Michigan. So that’s the
Rominger says other invasive species they’re battling include the
round goby…an aggressive fish which is competing with fish in Lake
Michigan for habitat…and the purple loose strife, a plant which
grows quickly and crowds out surrounding plants.
Agriculture officials say they will experiment with different
programs aimed at controlling invasive species…including the use of
other exotics that prey on the problem species.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jesse Hardman.
There has been a fair bit of attention focused on protecting the natural habitat of endangered species in the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, less threatened animals are routinely displaced or destroyed by development. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator SuzanneElston tells the story of one creature that got caught on the edge:
There has been a fair bit of attention focused on protecting the natural habitat of
endangered species in the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, less threatened
animals are routinely displaced or destroyed by development. Great Lakes Radio
Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston tells the story of one creature that got
caught on the edge.
One of the nicest things about living in the country is the neighbors – and I don’t
mean the two-legged kind, either. Over the years we’ve shared the land around
us with everything from a deer family to a Great Horned Owl. This past winter, a
lone coyote regularly came by our house to visit. But by the spring we hadn’t
seen the coyote for a couple months, until she showed up on our front lawn late
At first my husband and I barely recognized it. Most of her fur was gone and her
once beautiful ears lay limply against the side of her head. It didn’t take a
veterinarian to figure out that the coyote was seriously ill with mange. It’s a skin
disease caused by parasitic mites that eventually makes an animal’s fur fall out.
Since the coyote was obviously too sick to be treated, the only humane thing to
do was to call the local township and have the animal put out of its misery.
The trapper they sent knew all about our coyote. Her den had recently been
destroyed by a new housing development near us. She’d been hanging around a
local schoolyard for the past year, living off lunches that had been thrown away
by the school kids.
I suddenly felt very sorry for the coyote. It was almost as if she had come to us
for help, and our response was to have her killed. I also knew from talking to the
local farmers, that they certainly wouldn’t be mourning her loss. In the wild,
coyotes are natural predators that play a major role in helping control other
species and culling out sickly animals. But in farming communities they’re an
unwanted pest. In my small community alone, coyotes destroy over a hundred
thousand dollars worth of livestock every year.
I also know that coyotes aren’t endangered. And as far as unwanted wildlife
goes, they’re right up there with skunks and raccoons. But I couldn’t help but
think that this was their home, long before we got here. We move in, take over
their habitat, and then expect them to behave. I’m quite sure that if a loud,
aggressive neighbor moved in next door to me, I’d probably act like a coyote and
make a pest of myself, too.
The irony is, we build housing developments near the country so we can be a
part of it. We give these communities goofy names like Cedar
Creek and Countryside Homes – names that make us feel a part of nature. But as
soon as nature becomes less predictable than our thermostatically controlled
homes, we try to control it or get rid of it.
It took a couple of days, but the coyote was finally caught. As she was loaded
into the back of the trapper’s truck, I will never forget what I saw. Her decimated,
hairless body shivered in fear and cold, and her head was bowed with the weight
of her disease. But it was the look in her eyes that will haunt me forever.
As the trapper’s truck pulled out of our driveway, I sat down and wept.
Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice,
Ontario. She comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio
Many Americans are recycling more, but as a nation we’re also creating more trash than ever before. That’s because we’re consuming more. For instance, Americans buy nearly thirty million new computer systems a year. Cities and states are beginning to worry about what will happen to all the plastic, steel, lead, and heavy metals in electronics products as they reach the end of their useful lives. An experimental program in Minnesota points to some answers. It also highlights the broader issue of who’s responsible for the products we use, and eventually want to throw away. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Many Americans are recycling more, but as a nation we’re also creating more trash than ever before. That’s
because we’re consuming more. For instance, Americans buy nearly thirty million new computer systems a
(Insert your state’s information here:)
In 1998, about 350,000 computers became obsolete in Minnesota alone
In 1998, about 386,000 computers became obsolete in Wisconsin alone.
In 1998, about 894,000 computers became obsolete in Illinois alone.
In 1998, about 762,000 computers became obsolete in Michigan alone.
In 1998, about 832,000 computers became obsolete in Ohio alone.
In 1998, about 1.3 million computers became obsolete in New York alone.
In 1998, about 436,000 computers became obsolete in Indiana alone.
Cities and states are beginning to worry about what will happen to all the plastic, steel, lead, and heavy metals in electronics products as they reach the end of their useful lives. An experimental program in
Minnesota points to some answers. It also highlights the broader issue of who’s responsible for the products we use, and eventually want to throw away. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
It’s called product stewardship, and it means that everyone involved in producing, selling or using a product – from the manufacturer to the consumer – shares responsibility for that product’s environmental and economic impacts – including what to do with it when it’s not wanted anymore.
The first step is to learn more about the life cycle of a product, especially the end of its life.
Tony Hinault is learning a lot about computers as he coordinates a pilot electronics recycling effort at the Minnesota Office of Environmental
Assistance. He says the office tackled electronic equipment first, because it generally contains such things as heavy metals and toxic chemicals. So if electrical equipment is disposed of improperly it can cause serious toxic pollution.
“What we really wanted to do was to create an infrastructure to bring down the costs of managing this to the bare minimum and at the same time to set
up a system to allow for the private sector to manage the materials with
the least government participation as possible.”
Hinault’s office teamed up with Sony, Panasonic, and the American Plastics
Council to collect and recycle electronics products from homes all over
Minnesota for three months last year. They kept careful records of
collection and processing costs, and are making a detailed analysis of the
materials recovered from the 700 tons of products they collected.
(Sound of disassembly plant)
All 700 tons were brought here to the processing plant of Asset
Recovery Group, a division of the giant waste firm, Waste Management. The company recycles equipment for businesses around the state.
Taking an old computer apart for recycling is labor-intensive. Cases,
screens and picture tubes are thrown in separate bins. Wireboards, cords,
everything has to be sorted. And depending on the age of the product, most
of the components have little value. For instance, older computers and TVs
are often made from laminated plastic, which is more difficult to recycle
than a single plastic product. Cathode ray tubes, though, do have a little value. They are typically smelted to collect the lead they contain. But if
they’re recycled to create new CRTs, it’s cheaper than starting from scratch.
The two main goals of this whole process are to find a better way to make
things, and, says Tony Hinault, pushing manufacturers to make their
products easier to recycle.
“By taking a few simple steps in design and manufacture without adding cost,
possibly by reducing cost, they can increase the residual value of the
product when nobody wants it anymore and it gets into the recycling loop.”
Doug Smith, environmental director at Sony, says that’s already happening.
“We used to use screws, glue, we molded different types of plastic into
shells. And that all added extra manufacturing and assembly steps. If you
reduce assembly steps and time, you end up with a product that’s more
And one that’s cheaper to make, as well. And that’s what’s motivating
manufacturers, Smith says, not government mandates.
Collecting and transporting the products amounted to 80% of the total
cost of handling them, so partners in the pilot program say creating
efficiencies in those operations will be critical to development of the
Other states are looking forward to the results of Minnesota’s experiment.
Massachusetts recently banned CRTs from the trash. A tax pays for collection programs there. But Hinault says a survey conducted during
Minnesota’s program showed people believe manufacturers and consumers share
responsibility for managing unwanted products.
“They expect the manufacturers to step up to the plate, not government.
They want government to shepherd a solution but not to pay $15-20 per
television to make sure they get recycled properly.”
Results of the study will be available on the web at the end of August.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
Each summer, millions of people fish in the Great Lakes. And many of them eat what they catch. But a recent report from the International Joint Commission is warning people that fish from the lakes can be hazardous to their health. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, there’s evidence anglers are already taking precautions:
Each summer, millions of people fish in the Great
Lakes. And many of them eat what they catch. But a recent report from the International Joint Commission is warning people that fish from the lakes
can be hazardous to their health. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, there’s evidence anglers are already taking precautions.
(Sound of casting)
Fisherman Pat McGuire throws a line in the direction of a few bubbles rising up in the water. This is one of his favorite fishing spots – a set of train tracks that cross over a tiny bay on the northeastern end of Lake Ontario.
There’s not much of a view – he’s within casting distance of a busy road leading into the city of Kingston.
But McGuire says it’s a hotspot for pike and smallmouth bass.
Yet when it comes time for dinner, he’ll probably leave empty handed.
“We mostly catch and release. Some of the guys keep them. I keep fish every once in a while, like pickerel. I don’t gorge myself on it, but I’m not worried about it. It’s just that I wouldn’t eat it every day for a diet.”
McGuire says he doesn’t eat as much as he would like because many of the fish in the Great Lakes are contaminated. That danger was underscored recently in a report from the International Joint Commission. The group advises governments on both sides of the border on Great Lakes issues. They say one of the major problems lies with fish consumption advisories. The advisory is a booklet which lists every polluted body of water in the state and the number and type of fish people can safely eat out of it. But Leonard Legault says the advisories aren’t always clear.
He’s the commission’s Canadian chairman. And he says sometimes the U.S. states and Canada provide different recommendations for the same lake.
He argues it’s time they sent a clear and consistent message.
“The recommendation is asking them to require that sportfish consumption advisories state plainly that eating great lakes sportfish can be dangerous
because it can lead to birth anomolies and other serious health problems.”
For instance, in Lake Ontario, fish like the chinook
salmon and large lake trout often contain PCBS, mirex and dioxin.
The Lake Ontario advisories say nobody should eat these fish.
But Legault says anglers also need to know which parts of the lakes are safe to fish in, and how to prepare a fish before eating it.
Fisherman Pat McGuire says he usually can’t tell whether a fish is contaminated or not. But he prepares every fish as if it is.
“When you clean the bottom, you take the fatty tissue and there’s a line along the side of a fish, and I cut them out. Most of the part I eat is the back, back part just in front of the tail.”
McGuire says he avoids the fatty parts of the fish because that’s where most of the contaminants settle. And he finds most anglers he talks to are just as aware of the dangers.
“Most of your guys that fish know. Most of the guys. There’s enough stuff out – pamphlets on what fish to eat out of what lakes. They’re pretty educated.”
But researcher Nancy Connelly has found there are gaps in the anglers’ knowledge. She’s a scientist at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources. And she took a survey of 8 thousand licensed anglers
in the Great Lakes states. She found 83 percent were aware of the health
advisories. But when she asked anglers in New York about the
guidelines for women and children, almost half didn’t know them.
“Of those people who said they were aware of the health advisory, 52 percent correctly could identify what the maximum number of fish meals women of
childbearing age and children under 15 should eat.”
Connelly says that’s a problem, because the anglers decide which fish to bring home. As a result, the commission says advisories must be
distributed to women directly. The group is also calling for the creation of
community education programs to reach other uninformed groups.
That can include Hispanic anglers, Native Americans,
and those with lower incomes. But even if everyone learns of the danger, commission chairman Leonard Legault says that won’t be enough.
“The real issue is to clean up the lakes, to get the toxic substances out of them that lead to contaminated fish.”
(Sound up of McGuire)
But in the meantime, anglers must rely on scientists to tell them what they should and should not eat. And the anglers don’t always listen.
The Cornell study found 25 percent of the fishermen had recently eaten fish that the advisories listed as off-limits.
Fishermen Pat Maguire is among them. He occasionally eats carp – a fish with the highest level of toxins.
But despite the warnings, he and many other anglers continue to take the risk.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly
in Kingston, Ontario.
The U.S. government would like to see Canada spend more on cleaning up pollution hot spots in the Great Lakes. However the U.S. is having difficulties getting its own cleanup money approved. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The U.S. government would like to see Canada spend more on
cleaning up pollution hot spots in the Great Lakes. However, the U.S.
is having difficulties getting cleanup money approved for its own
cleanup. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
Canada recently announced it would spend the equivalent of more
than four-million U.S. dollars a year for the next five years on
cleanup of so-called “areas of concern,” heavily polluted areas in
the Great Lakes.
The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency says
she welcomes the Canadian effort… but Carol Browner says the U.S.
plans to spend 12 times that much… 50-million dollars a year.
Browner says she’d like to see a —quote “more equal partnership.”
but Browner is in an awkward position because congress doesn’t
seem ready to approve the money.
“We’re going to continue to fight in Congress. At this point in
time, we think Congress should provide 50-million dollars as an initial investment to focus on
those areas of critical concern. It’s an important next step in protecting this incredible national
Meanwhile, a commission that monitors a water quality agreement
between the U.S. and Canada says both nations are falling short.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
The Canadian government is releasing money to clean up some problem areas in the Great Lakes. Although Canada now spends millions of dollars a year on overall cleanup, this additional money would be targeted specifically toward the cleanup of highly polluted areas known as hot spots. It’s probably not a surprise that some environmentalists in Canada don’t think it’s enough money. But the U.S. government also wants Canada to come up with more money to clean up pollution. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Canadian government is releasing money to cleanup some
pollution hot spots in the Great Lakes. It’s probably not a surprise
that some environmentalists in Canada don’t think it’s enough
money. But the U.S. government also wants Canada to come up with
more money to clean up pollution. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham Reports.
Canada’s environment minister David Anderson recently announced
the equivalent of more than twenty million U.S. dollars would be
available to communities to clean up several badly polluted areas
in the Great Lakes over a five year period. The program is called the
Great Lakes sustainability fund. John Shaw is the manager of the
fund. He says this is extra money to be used to clean up 16 pollution
hot spots called “areas of concern.”
“So we fully expect to be allocating resources across all of the
‘Areas of Concern,’ working with the municipalities and the province to improve sewage
treatment plant effluent, control stormwater and combined sewer overflows, rehabilitate fish and
wildlife habitat, as well as work with the landowners in watersheds and that would include
agricultural operations to improve their environmental quality and how they manage things.”
While other money will be spent on the lakes. The Great Lakes
Sustainability Fund is the bulk of environment Canada’s efforts to
clean up the nation’s heavily polluted “areas of concern” in the
Environmentalists in Canada say the money is long overdue. They
point out this is not new money but replacement money. John
Bennett is with the Sierra Club Canada. He says the 20-million
dollars restores funds that were cut by parliament in the mid-1990’s.
“It’s a very good sign to see that Mr. Anderson and the federal
government is now getting back into funding this work. It’s really up to the
provincial government now to get in and match the fund.”
Bennett says 20-million dollars is nice but really it’s just a drop in
the Great Lakes.
“It’s still not enough to meet the problems. You know, the
Great Lakes is the most important body of water in North America and Canada is
willing to spend 20-million dollars U.S. to keep it clean? I don’t think it’s enough.”
But the Canadian government says its Great Lakes Sustainability
Fund is just the start. The fund’s manager, John Shaw, says matching
money from municipal and provincial governments can triple the
amount to be spent on pollution cleanup in the “areas of concern.”
“I guess there’s always a desire to have more, but I think the
important thing with the Fund is that we can fund approximately a third of
the project and look for two-thirds of the funding from the other partnerships.”
Across the border meanwhile…the US government would like to see
the Canadian government pay a lot more for cleanup of the “areas
of concern.” While the Canadian federal government is putting up 20-
million dollars over five years. The Environmental Protection
Agency is asking for two-and-a half times that much each year to
clean up the pollution hot spots on the U.S. side of the border. Carol
Browner is the EPA’s administrator.
“We would welcome any financial-enhanced commitment that
Canada would make in this arena. I think that it is clear that the
United States has been leading the way in terms of financial commitment,
seeking in just one budget year alone an additional 50-million dollars for cleanup
in the Great Lakes. We would like to see an equal partnership.”
However before Browner will boast too much about the US money
to clean up the “areas of concern”. She points out congress has not
approved it and, in fact, its future doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile an organization that represents the eight Great Lakes
states says the 20-million over five years from Canada and the
proposed 50-million a year from the US should only be viewed as a
first step to cleanup the Great Lakes’ problem spots. Michael
Donahue is the executive director of the
Great Lakes Commission.
“I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that this was a
one-time fix. I think what it is a, uh— should be viewed, hopefully, as
the first of many commitments to work in partnership with the provinces and
with the U.S. state and federal governments to get the job done over a period of time.”
In fact just last month a commission that monitors whether the US
and Canadian governments are keeping their commitments to a
water quality agreement between the two nations reported the two
governments had to step up their efforts. It warned if they don’t
there can be little hope of fully restoring and protecting The
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.