A popular Great Lakes vacation area will become a buffer from the pressure of expansion. It will be preserved from development by being declared a National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium Mike Simonson reports:
A popular Great Lakes vacation area will become a buffer from the pressure of
expansion. it will be preserved from development by being declared a national wildlife
refuge. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
The 540 acre section of land borders northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. The
Whittlesay Creek Wildlife Refuge Area is considered prime waterfront land by
developers, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Tom Busian says this time, nature
won out over condos and golf courses.
Tourism in the Apostle Islands region has grown year after year, and Busian says it’s
putting the squeeze on wetlands. The federal status allows them to protect the area.
“Currently, a lot of coho salmon breed there, and we’re also looking at re-introducing
coaster brook trout to the system. But we’ll be managing the land for a lot of other
wildlife too. It’s an important habitat for birds, for waterfowl, for hawks and
Congress appropriated 650,000 dollars to buy the land for the refuge, and a donation
of 50,000 dollars from Ducks Unlimited will also go toward the purchase.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson in Superior, Wisconsin.
Canadian environmental groups are hoping new legislation will mean better protection for endangered species north of the border. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some species are protected on the U-S side of the Great Lakes, but not on the Canadian side:
Canadian environmental groups are hoping new legislation will mean better protection for endangered species north of the border. Some species are protected on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, but not the Canadian side. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement with environmental groups to settle a lawsuit to protect habitat for piping plovers, an endangered migratory bird. At first, U.S. environmentalists were thrilled, but then noted that birds also breed in Canada where they’re not protected. Mark Johnson is with the Canadian Nature Federation.
“In Canada we do not have federal endangered species legislation. And, our failure to have legislation in place is undermining the U.S.’s efforts to protect endangered species, and, in particular, their habitat.”
But that might change soon. Federal legislation has been introduced in Ottawa to protect endangered species in Canada. Canadian environmental groups are working with industry and politicians to find a compromise. They’re hoping to see effective legislation approved early this year.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Earlier this year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ruled that hemp products from Canada were not allowed into the United States because of the trace amounts of THC that they contained. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points out the government’s move may have little to do with controlling an illegal substance:
Earlier this year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ruled that hemp products from Canada were not allowed into the United States because of the trace amounts of THC that they contained. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points out the government’s move may have little to do with controlling and illegal substance.
It all started out innocently enough. Jean Laprise, a Canadian farmer was producing hemp products like birdseed and hemp fiber for the U.S. market. The hemp was all carefully tested and showed only minute traces of THC, the stuff in marijuana that makes you high. Laprise had been shipping the hemp for over a year without any problems. And then last summer, without any explanation or warning, U.S. Customs impounded 40,000 pounds of Laprise’s birdseed.
In December, after months of haggling back and forth between Canadian and U.S. government agencies, U.S. Customs and Drug Enforcement Administration finally decided that the whole thing was a gross misunderstanding. They declared that the products complied with the U.S. Controlled Substance Act and Laprise was set to start shipping again.
Enter the Office of National Drug Control Policy – an office of The White House no less. In January it declared that any amount of THC, regardless of how small, was too much and placed an outright ban on the importation of hemp.
I’m all in favor of the war on drugs. But this is ridiculous. This stuff doesn’t contain enough THC to get a bird high. Not only that, but hemp products are actually good for the environment. Hemp fiber is stronger and more durable than cotton and hemp plants require none of the heavy pesticides needed to grow those crops. Hemp can also be used to make paper, without the use of chlorine. Pulp and paper mills are notorious for polluting many of our waterways with their chlorine-laced effluent.
And maybe that’s the point. It seems to me that this has a lot more to do with powerful industrial lobbies like cotton and pulp and paper than it does about protecting the American public from the dangers of the demon weed.
It’s ironic that at the same time The White House bans the importation of hemp in the name of public safety, it’s shipping weapons-grade plutonium across the country. Kind of makes me wonder what the boys in Washington have been smoking.
From southeast Wisconsin to the Indiana dunes, a large chunk of the Chicago region is working to preserve and restore natural areas. It’s the first voluntary effort of this size in the nation and it’s becoming a model. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… government is now getting involved, but some of the private sector is still wondering what’s happening:
From southeast Wisconsin to the Indiana Dunes, a large chunk of the Chicago region is
working to preserve and restore natural areas. It’s the first voluntary effort of this
size in the nation and it’s becoming a model. Government is now getting involved, but
some of the private sector is still wondering what’s happening. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Almost one hundred organizations, including museums, zoos, federal agencies, and
environmental groups have been putting together a plan to preserve the few remaining
natural areas in and around Chicago. Kent Fuller heads up a task force for a group
called Chicago Wilderness. He also works for the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National
Program office. Fuller is working to implement the Chicago wilderness biodiversity
“One of the elements of the plan is to try and reach local governments. Not only the
municipalities, but the park districts as well. To try to get the word out that there
are important aspects of biodiversity that exist on their lands and in those
communities that can be helped through the actions by, you know, things like local
zoning decisions, or decisions by a local park district whether to build one more ball
field or to manage a piece of their land for natural purposes.”
The plan’s organizers got the help of planning agencies because they coordinate a
region’s growth. The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission has approved the
project and late last year the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission – called NIP-C –
also approved. John Paige is the director of planning services for NIP-C. He says
although the commission has no regulatory powers, once the agency adopts a plan, it
filters down to county and municipal governments. They use it as a blueprint. State
government uses the planning agency’s designs for funding decisions.
“When we look at an expressway proposal, have they incorporated into it the provisions
for not altering or degrading any existing natural areas, but have they incorporated,
maybe, planting prairie grasses in the right-of-way. And we can say that must be done,
based on this plan.”
Paige says the biodiversity recovery plan will mean more natural areas, and more
native wildlife. And that improves the quality of life. He adds the quality of life
attracts business. And Paige believes business and wildlife preservation can go
“It is somewhat seemingly conflicting or counterintuitive that they’re going to buy
land and build on it when it could have been a prairie or something like that. But I
maintain that it takes people and it takes people that appreciate that to, in fact,
protect the land. You know, they’re going to build on this one, but they’re going to
be interested in saving the valuable natural areas that exist.”
Paige says urban planners have begun to understand the importance of preservation as
the region continues to grow. The chair of the Biodiversity Recovery Task Force, Ken
Fuller, says his group isn’t looking to return Chicago to swamps, dunes, and
prairie… at least, not all of it.
“This is not anti-growth. We’re looking at sustainable growth and particularly in the
rapidly growing areas, trying to get out there and talk to people ahead of time and
get them to have the idea, ‘Well, we should preserve the best places.’ And it really
builds a quality of life. And the hope is that people could sort of get re-acquainted
with nature and really come to appreciate it and understand the place they live and
love it in a different way than they maybe are able to at this moment.”
The Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan is changing some of the landscape of
the region. Cities are planting more native shrubs and trees in parks and roadsides.
Some corporate campuses are converting bluegrass lawns to prairie flowers. As new
office complexes and shopping malls are built, zoning laws will encourage or require
more of this kind of planting. But it’ll probably take a while for the idea of
biodiversity recovery to filter down to existing businesses. Amy Anderson is with the
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
“I would not say that there is a wide understanding of environmental issues,
particularly among smaller businesses where it’s a struggle every day to keep your
Anderson says most business people understand planting a tree is good for the
environment. But they figure a Japanese weeping cherry tree is as good as a native
wild black cherry tree.
“Biodiversity is another step above probably where most of the general public is,
thinking it’s a pretty complicated technical issue, but I would definitely say there
is movement afoot among industry, among business to become more environmentally
Anderson says being green is seen as a good public relations move. But she notes, it’s
easier to get businesses to think about things such as native grasses and shrubs when
economic times are good. She says as soon as the economy takes a turn downward, native
landscaping is the kind of thing that gets cut first to improve the bottom line.
Even if businesses keep planting marigolds instead of native prairie clover, more
natural plantings will be springing up in parks and landscapes all over the Chicago
region. And it might not stop there. Already a half-dozen cities in the U.S. and a few
in other countries are contacting Chicago wilderness to see how they can restore some
of their own natural areas.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The tobacco industry recently settled lawsuits with forty-six states. The settlements totaled two-hundred-forty-billion dollars. It was money many people believed was earmarked for programs to reduce smoking – especially among kids. In the second of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports not all states are spending the money that way:
These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on keeping kids from smoking – everything from
billboards and television spots, to educational programs in schools. But for kids who
already smoke, there haven’t been many programs to help them quit. In the first of a
two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports getting help
is getting tougher:
(sound of hallway)
North Kent High School in Comstock Park, Michigan, is an alternative high school – a
school for kids who couldn’t make it in traditional programs. Some couldn’t keep up
academically. Some were expelled for using drugs, or fighting. And some are drop-outs,
Principal Donna Hendershot says many of the kids often have a rough home life, where
there’s substance abuse or physical abuse.
“Every student is their own story. The one thing they all have in common is that they
didn’t fit in that traditional, well-structured program.”
Another thing these students have in common is that most of them smoke. According to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking rates at alternative high
schools across the country are nearly thirty percent higher than at traditional
schools. Donna Hendershot says between eighty and ninety percent of her students
smoke. But considering all the other problems the students face, Hendershot says for
many years, smoking was tolerated in designated areas.
“Rather than fight the issue – you gotta smoke, you go to this place, you smoke. And
then the school board and the superintendent said to me, ‘No more. We’re giving you
notice. By July one, there can be no smoking at your school. You have to enforce the
But Hendershot thought that cracking down punished the kids for their addiction. She
wanted to do something different. She wanted to help them stop smoking permanently.
But she soon found out, that was easier said than done.
“The one thing we discovered in our research is that there aren’t too many successful
teenage smoking cessation programs. Most people just say, ‘Oh, you can’t get kids to
quit smoking. Why even try?’ And that seemed to be the prevalent attitude. But we had
to try, because I was in the situation with these kids here, and I didn’t want to give
So Hendershot teamed up with tobacco control specialists at a local hospital. They
funded a new program to help teens stop smoking. The nine-week course included heath
screenings for the students. They also met individually with a social worker, for
ongoing support. And, the kids even got free candy and gum to help curb their
High school senior Sabrina Schoonmaker says the program worked. She says the stop
smoking message really hit home as she watched her heart rate before and after
“And every time you would take a hit on a cigarette, you could see on that monitor,
your heartbeat rise. And it would rise a couple beats, every time. And that’s scary to
think, that every time you smoke, that happens.”
It took Schoonmaker two tries to stop smoking. Now she’s been tobacco-free for over
eight months. But programs like this are few and far between. Many people believe the
recent tobacco settlements with states provided funding to help keep people from
smoking and to help them quit. But on average, states have only set aside about eight
percent of the money for those types of programs. And when it comes to kids and
tobacco, most of the emphasis is on prevention – keeping them from smoking in the
first place. Experts say while there’s some good data available about prevention
programs, there’s still a lot of work to e done when it comes to research about
helping kids quit.
“In terms of the number of studies that have been done, in terms of the rigor of
studies being done, it’s lagging way behind.”
Steve Sussman is a professor of preventative medicine at the University of Southern
“Part of the reason for that may be skepticism about the efficacy of teen cessation
programs. That is, people perceive they’re just too young, that once they’re smoking
regularly as a teen, they’re not going to quit and you’ve got to wait until they’re an
So, there’s a catch-22 for stop-smoking programs targeting teens: to get good data,
researchers need funding. But to get funding, they need data. North Kent High School
is an example of the problem. Even though the principal Donna Hendershot claims a
forty percent success rate in getting students to quit, she’s fighting to keep her
“About the time we were really getting it right, you know, the funding fell out from
under it. And so I’m back to where I always said I would never be: forcing these kids
to go all day without a cigarette, watching the nicotine withdrawal, just having some
minor little education pieces in place, but not the full support system that we had.”
Because of this fight for funding, tobacco control advocates like Donna Hendershot are
now trying to raise awareness of two issues: That teens often need help to quit
smoking, and that the tobacco settlement money isn’t being used to help curb tobacco
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson in Comstock Park, Michigan.
These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on keeping kids from smoking – everything from billboards and television spots, to educational programs in schools. But for kids who already smoke, there haven’t been many programs to help them quit. In the first of a two-part series,the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports, getting help is getting tougher:
A Lake Superior-based yacht company is selling a Soviet attack
submarine… and it might make some community the proud owner of a
unique tourist attraction. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike
Simonson has more:
A Lake Superior-Based yacht company is sellin a Soviet attack submarine. And it might
make some community the proud owner of a unique tourist attraction. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
Not surprisingly, this is probably the only Soviet “whisky-class” attack submarine on
the market. A steal at $495,000, says Richard Rose-Oleck of Owen’s Yacht in Duluth.
The 250 foot sub is docked in Sweden, where it’s used as a mueseum. but Rose-Oleck
would like to see soemone or some community in this region buy it and move it for
“I would love to see it in the Great Lakes. Number one, it would last longer, and I
think it would be an interesting exhibit.”
The fresh water in the Great Lakes would help preserve the diesel-powered sub. It no
longer has any of its twelve torpedoes, but the engines work, and the 1955 vintage
craft has been restored.
The submarine has been on the market since December. There’ve been serious inquiries,
including one from Duluth-Superior, the only one from the Great Lakes region. Another
offer is from a private company which would use it as a corporate boat, giving new
meaning to the term, “hostile takeover.”
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson in Superior, Wisconsin.
According to the National Audobon Society, some species of
songbirds have experienced a 30 percent decline in their population
the past decade. Now, there’s evidence that non-native plant species
be contributing to the problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports:
According to the National Audubon Society, some species of songbirds have experienced
a thirty percent decline in their population over the past decade. Now, there’s
evidence that non-native plant species might be contributing to the problem. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
American robins and wood thrushes like to build their nests in shrubs. Typically, they
choose tall bushes with long thorns that keep predators away. But as those plants are
replaced by non-native species, the birds are forced to move into the new shrubs. And
that makes them vulnerable to predators.
Christopher Whalen is an avian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. His
study found birds that nest in exotic shrubs were twenty percent more likely to lose
their eggs to a predator.
Because of the different way these plants grow, the exotic shrubs provide a
suitable-looking confluence of branches at a lower height above the ground. So, nest
height drops a meter and a half to two meters on average.”
That makes it easier for raccoons to invade. Whalen’s study focused on Illinois, but
he says birds are doing this throughout the Northeast and Midwest.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Earlier this month, the U-S completed a controversial shipment of
weapons grade plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest
before the event, the material was shipped without any public
As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points
out, this sets a dangerous precedent:
Earlier this month, the U.S. completed a controversial shipment of weapons-grade
plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest before the event, the material was
shipped without public knowledge. This sets a dangerous precedent, as Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s commentator Suzanne Elston points out:
Proponents of the plan think it’s a good idea. Take plutonium from dismantled nuclear
weapons, mix it with uranium and use it for fuel in nuclear reactors. The process
doesn’t destroy the plutonium, but what it does do is make it very difficult to use.
Supporters hope that this will prevent the plutonium from falling into the wrong
The plan had been in the works for several years. The problem was getting the stuff
from Los Alamos, New Mexico to an experimental nuclear facility in Chalk River,
Ontario. As soon as the public got wind of the trucking routes there were howls of
protest, particularly from a group of activists in Michigan. They were concerned about
the risks of an accident when the plutonium was shipped through their community. They
were desperately trying to get a court injunction to stop the plutonium from being
shipped when it was discovered that the stuff had already been sent.
There was no public input, no warning – nothing. Even the mayors of Sault Ste. Marie,
the towns where the plutonium crossed the border into Canada weren’t notified until
after the event. And because the whole thing went off without any problems, officials
were rather pleased with themselves. They duped the public, nobody got hurt – mission
I find this really scary. Whether the shipment was safe or not isn’t the issue here.
Not only does the public have a right to know what was going on, they also have the
right to stop it, if that’s the will of the people. But that right was taken away by
the boys at the Department of Energy and Atomic Energy Canada who seemed to think they
know better somehow.
Well guess what? That’s not what the democratic process is all about. Public input –
regardless of how inconvenient – has got to be considered. Just because a plan is
proposed, doesn’t mean that it should go ahead. Debate is the cornerstone of
democratic process. One of the possible outcomes of that debate is that the public
will exercise its right to say no.
But that wasn’t allowed to happen here. We the people are supposed to decide. That’s
Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario. She comes to us
Activists in Canada and the U-S are trying to stop plutonium from
dismantled warheads from being shipped to Canadian nuclear power
plants. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… the
first shipment was recently slipped into Canada and another is coming
Activists in Canada and the U.S. are trying to stop plutonium from dismantled warheads
from being shipped to Canadian nuclear power plants. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports the first shipment was recently slipped into Canada
and another is coming this spring:
The Canadian government plans to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled
nuclear warheads from Russia. Canada suggested it could mix the weapons-grade
plutonium with uranium and use it for fuel in its nuclear power plants.
Protestors in the U.S. and Canada vowed they’d stop the shipments. During public
hearings in Michigan, some environmentalists and politicians said they’d lie down in
the road to stop trucks. So, when the U.S. Department of Energy planned a shipment of
sample material, the DOE made the shipment classified. Nobody was told when or where
the plutonium would be shipped. This month, the secret shipment left Los Alamos and
entered Canada at Sault Sainte Marie.
Verna Lawrence is the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. She’s outraged her town was
not notified the shipment was coming.
“We’d have barricaded I-75. I had people that would go with me. How dare they do that
to us in our area with the Great Lakes Basin. It’s crazy!”
Mayor Lawrence says the federal government is shipping the plutonium against the
wishes of the people.
“See, the Canadian government and the United States government are in cahoots. They
don’t give a damn about anybody else. And let me tell you another thing: the governors
are not protecting their citizens. If I was the governor and I had the National Guard
and the State Police, they would not set foot on the state of Michigan.”
Just on the other side of the border, the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario also was
Once in Canada, the shipment was put on a helicopter and flown to the Chalk River
Nuclear Power Plant where the fuel is being tested. Protestors say it was flown to
avoid blockades by activists and native people. The only road from Sault Ste. Marie to
the Chalk River Nuclear Plant runs through the Garden River Reservation. Cathy
Brosemer is with a coalition of environmental groups in Ontario called “Northwatch.”
She says the shipment was kept secret and the helicopter was used to avoid angry
peopole along the route.
“What we’ve been dealing with right now is the utter contempt the government holds its
citizens in. The government decided to ignore the public’s views on this issue and
literally fly over our heads.”
Canada’s nuclear industry says that’s not the case. Larry Shewchuck is a spokesperson
for Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited (AECL). AECL operates Canada’s nuclear power
plants. He says avoiding protestors was not the reason AECL used the helicopter.
“Quite frankly, AECL was just as happy to leave the shipment on the road. It was the
government of Canada that asked us to put it in the air because that’s what Canadians
were asking for. So, in the end, we did what the politicians wanted.”
Shewchuck says at public information stops this past fall, many people suggested if
the shipments were as safe as AECL and the Canadian government said they were, they
ought to fly them to the nuclear plant.
Protestors question whether a last minute switch from ground transportation to air was
a regulatory shell game to trick opponents of the plutonium shipments. Shewchuck says
the change was proper and followed the rules.
“The regulations in Canada did not have to be changed to accommodate air transport.
Air transport was made under existing Canadian regulations. Everything was done by the
book and nothing had to be changed.”
Environmental activists in the area don’t believe it. Cathy Brosemer says that flight
might have violated regulations and might be key in an effort to get an injunction.
“We believe that there have been some breaches in the way that this was handled and we
are going to try to get something to stop the test of the substance at the CANDU
reactors in Canton/Chalk River.”
The AECL plans to go ahead with tests of the plutonium mix fuel. Brosemer says the
environmentalists will also seek an injunction to stop future shipments. This spring,
Russian plutonium is scheduled to be shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway, on
through the Great Lakes and finally to the Chalk River plant in Ontario.
The U.S. Department of Energy says there won’t be any more shipments from the States.
And official with the DOE spoke on the condition his name not be used. He says while
the United States is helping to pay for the disposal of plutonium from dismantled
Russian nuclear warheads, the U.S. has decided to use its plutonium in American
nuclear power plants.
The mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Verna Lawrence, doesn’t believe the Energy
Department. She says she and other people opposing the shipments have to be more
“We got to get somebody on the inside, I think. You know, that’s the only way we’re
going to – If you can’t lick ’em, trick ’em, you know. But we’ll figure out a way
because that’s just the first shipment. There’ll be many, many, many more.”
Officials in Canada and the U.S. say it’s ironic that the shipments are causing so
much controversy among some of the same people who opposed the nuclear arms race.
Canadian officials say the nuclear material as fuel is a safe and efficient way to
dispose of weapons-grade plutonium. If the mixed fuel works well in Canada’s nuclear
plants, regular shipments of plutonium from Russia’s dismantled warheads will travel
through the Great Lakes region for at least the next ten years.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.