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American Chestnut

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Benefits of the American chestnut tree were important for building United States society but a disease, unknowingly imported across the ocean, has mostly eliminated benefits. This happened to elm trees when Dutch elm disease was imported. Recently this occurred when the Emerald Ash Borer beetle was imported in 2002. Our livelihoods, economy, and landscape ecosystem functions are dependent on preventing exotic species from becoming established in native nature niches.

The rapidly growing chestnut was highly valued as a durable wood. Important uses included tool handles, furniture, doors, plywood, poles, fencing, railroad tires, and tannin. It had little shrinkage, minimal warping and good gluing qualities. The tree provided fruit that was roasted and sold in markets.

American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) were a co-dominant species in the oak-hickory-chestnut forest that extended from Maine to Alabama and from the Atlantic Ocean to Michigan. Now the forest is referred to as oak-hickory. Southeast Michigan was the western range limit for the chestnut. Individuals at the edge of their range are considered ecologically important because they seem to offer more hope for adaptive genetic change. Fringe individuals might be better able to survive in new and changing environments. Their DNA might provide what is necessary to help the species survive in a changing world provided the living conditions do not change too rapidly.

Introducing new diseases that a species has never experienced is often devastating. It is a major reason Native American populations died when diseases like small pox were introduced by Europeans to America. Disease introduction to the American chestnut caused it to disappear from most of the landscape and ceased its function as an important ecological contributor in the eastern deciduous forest.

Fortunately, there were individuals that survived for some reason in outlying areas of the species range. The reason for survival has not been clearly determined. One factor could be fringe range individuals might have genetically variability that helps survival. Natural abundance ended in southeast Michigan but individuals lived farther west and north in Michigan. I have seen American chestnuts in Saginaw, Grand Traverse, and Kent Counties as well as many other counties. It is especially considered a rare sighting to find a large chestnut because few survive the disease to reach large size.

A fungus blight (Endothia parasitica) introduced from eastern Asia in the early 1900’s arrived in imported exotic chestnut tree species and devastated the ecosystem. The blight affected countless species beside humans that used the American chestnut trees for survival. We worry about diseases like Ebola and a variety of diseases that might challenge human survival. Diseases that challenge the survival of chestnuts, elms, and ashes also have great ecological significance on biodiversity. Other species like Purple Loosestrife, Garlic Mustard, and Phragmites crowd native species and eliminate them from healthy nature niche communities.

Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary is home to a large reproducing American chestnut that has a diameter of three feet. Hope continues that a disease resistant variety might be able to help the species reclaim its place the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Help species survive by planting native species to help them and associated animals thrive where you live. Remove invasive exotic species. Encourage landscape nurseries to avoid selling species that crowd out native species when they escape the garden or yard. There are non-native species suitable for the garden and yard that are not invasive. Invasive species are harmful to society’s economy, livelihood, and functional ecosystems. Nurseries sell products to make a profit and choose stock that customers purchase. You determine the biodiversity we pass on the future generations by what you purchase and plant and whether your yard is maintained to encourage native species.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

 

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Bowfishing: combining two pastimes into one sport

DNR Fisheries Division boat captain Roy Beasley shows off a longnose gar he arrowed on Lake Erie. Michigan DNR photo.

DNR Fisheries Division boat captain Roy Beasley shows off a longnose gar he arrowed on Lake Erie. Michigan DNR photo.

Roy Beasley grew up fishing, but when he discovered bowhunting, he changed his technique. He became a bowfisherman. “I still bass fish at my parents’ cottage or with the guys at work,” he said. “But I like doing this more.”

A research vessel captain with the Department of Natural Resources, Beasley is one of a growing number of sportsmen and women who like to combine hunting and fishing, using bows and arrows to take a wide variety of fish, including many that are generally not targeted by hook-and-line anglers.

Bowfishing is legal for bowfin, bullheads, burbot, carp (including goldfish), catfish, cisco, drum, gizzard shad, longnose gar, smelt, all species of suckers—including buffalo and quillback—and whitefish.

Beasley has taken most of them, including a number of Master Angler fish of six different species. But he particularly likes chasing gar and gizzard shad, because their narrow bodies make them more of a challenge.

Roy Beasley, DNR Fisheries Division, surveys the shallows from an elevated platform on his boat at Lake Erie. Michigan DNR Photo.

Roy Beasley, DNR Fisheries Division, surveys the shallows from an elevated platform on his boat at Lake Erie. Michigan DNR Photo.

Except in the spring, when a number of species are in shallow water spawning, most bowfishermen go out at night, using lights to see down into the water. Beasley said going at night “is easier and your shots are closer,” but he likes going in the daytime “because it’s more challenging.”

“A lot of people associate carp-shooting with night, except in the spring when the fish are spawning and wallowing around on the surface,” he said. “You can still shoot carp during the day in the summer, but they’re spookier.”

Bowfishermen prefer clear water and calm days with sunny skies. “You can shoot them on cloudy days, but they usually see you before you see them,” he said. Bowfishing is a shallow-water sport.

Beasley said the transition from bowhunting to bowfishing is fairly seamless. Seth Rhodea, president of the Bowfishing Association of Michigan, agrees. “If you’ve got an old hunting bow lying around, you can buy a kit with a reel and a line and an arrow for around $40,” said Rhodea, who also is a DNR conservation officer in Sanilac County. “You don’t need a boat; if you’ve got a place to wade in the spring when the carp and gar are up shallow, you can have fun all day chasing them around.”

Rhodea, who started bowfishing half a dozen years ago, isn’t a bowhunter. He said a buddy took him, and he enjoyed it and got into it. Lots of people have the same experience. “In the last three years, it seems like it’s growing,” said Rhodea, who added there are about 175 members in BAM, but more than 2,000 “like” its Facebook page. “In the spring, it’s not uncommon to see half a dozen boats from one of the launches out bowfishing. A lot of guys have gotten into it in the last few years. Seems like every time you take a new person out, he gets hooked, gets his own boat, and gets going.”

As a conservation officer, Rhodea says he gets a lot of complaints about bowfishermen—lights bothering riparians or the sound of generators disturbing their peace, for instance. And there are complaints about improper disposal of fish.  That isn’t a problem for most bowfishermen, who put the fish to use, often for fertilizer in their gardens.

Beasley says he has no problem disposing of the fish. He’s given some to bear hunters for bait, some to raptor rehabilitators to feed the birds, and even some to the Department of Environmental Quality for contaminant testing.

“And I’ve eaten some,” Beasley said. “The gar aren’t too bad. The drum is a little bit different texture—sort of reminds me of alligator.”

Beasley gets started in April and bowfishes into December some years, adding that spring is usually the best time. “You can do big numbers,” he said. “My best day was about 40 fish—I shot until my cooler was full.”

But bowfishing is as much about quality as quantity. Of the five state records that have been set so far this year, three of them—a blackmouth buffalo and two quillback carpsuckers—were taken bowfishing. In the last two years, six state standards have been set by bowfishermen.

The DNR doesn’t have any data on how many anglers participate, but there’s reason to believe the number is growing because of increasing submissions of fish taken by bowfishermen in the Master Angler program. Either that or those doing it are just getting better at the game. “I’m usually pretty successful,” said Beasley, who says he’s had 100-shot days. “But it’s like anything else…you don’t always get them.”

To learn more about fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Varsity Boys tennis begins new season

Left: junior Alex Robinson Right: freshman Dane Conely

Left: junior Alex Robinson
Right: freshman Dane Conely

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The Cedar Springs varsity boy’s tennis team began their new season by traveling to Sparta on August 19, for the Sparta Invitational.

The Red Hawk singles and doubles tennis players competed against Sparta, Coopersville and Fremont, which ended in a third place finish for the team.

This year’s tennis team consists of 12 players and is coached by Katie Unsworth and assistant coach Mike Gariepy. Returning players from last season are seniors Ethan Brown and Blake Fisk; juniors Jon Baculy, Karsen Dingman, Drew French, Dylan Kolasa, Jared Liggett, Austin Nielson, and Tim Shovan; and sophomore Nick Hibbs. New to the team this year is junior Alex Robinson, and freshman Dane Conely.

“We have a very solid team this year and all the boys are playing well,” said Coach Unsworth. “It should be another great season for varsity boys tennis.”

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Be the referee

 

By Mark Uyl, Asst. Director, MHSAA

Be the Referee is a weekly message from the Michigan High School Athletics Association that is designed to help educate people on the rules in different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Make The Call – Missed Field Goal 

Let’s get everyone in “football game shape” with the following You make the Call.

One team has the chance to kick a 50-yard field goal just before halftime. As the kicker approaches the ball being held at the 40-yard line, his plant leg slips and the kick comes up well short and wide, and it rolls out of bounds at the 4-yard line. Under high school rules, where will the team that forced the bad kick next snap the ball?

Believe it or not, under high school rules, missed field goals that roll out of bounds before reaching the goal line are treated just like a punt! The new offense will put the ball in play, first and 10, from the 4-yard line.

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Four tire tips for teen drivers

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(BPT) – Getting a driver’s license is a pivotal moment for many teens, and with the privilege of driving comes greater freedom and independence. For parents, this can be both a moment of great pride and overwhelming anxiety.

In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drivers 19-years-old and younger were more likely to be involved in motor vehicle collisions than any other driver on the road. According to NHTSA, teens are three times more likely to get into an accident than drivers over the age of 20.

It’s not surprising that teen drivers fall into a higher collision risk category given their inexperience. Additionally, teens are more likely to speed, text, drive without a seat belt and they typically maintain a closer following distance than more seasoned drivers.

“Taking the time to talk to teens about their driving practices can help prevent accidents,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “Teaching teens about proper vehicle maintenance, especially tires, is also important and often overlooked.”

Abram says tire maintenance is crucial because tires have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort and handling. “Unfortunately, tires are not always top-of-mind when it comes to routine vehicle upkeep. When tires are inflated appropriately and wheel alignment adjusted correctly, the driver has better control. Improper alignment causes uneven tread wear and reduces the life of a tire.”

Underinflated tires can also increase the stopping distance of a vehicle, warns Abram. “Taking care of your tires properly can help prevent skidding, aid in emergency stops and traffic avoidance maneuvers, as well as provide more traction on wet roads.”

Abram reiterates that parents should teach teens about tire care to optimize vehicle control and maximize safety. Here are a few of his rules of thumb concerning tire care:

  • Tires must be replaced before the tread wears down below 2/32 of an inch. A quick and easy tread test involves placing a penny into the grooves of the tire. If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, the tires should be replaced.
  • Check tire pressure at least once a month. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual or placard on driver’s door to determine proper tire pressure. Tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold.
  • Alignment should be checked at least once a year or if the vehicle is pulling to one side to avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.
  • Regular rotation of tires promotes even wearing of tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

For more tire care and safety tips visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.

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Close Calls

Most rear-end crashes occur in the afternoon when school is letting out.

Most rear-end crashes occur in the afternoon when school is letting out.

(NAPS)—At least 1,500 people a year could avoid getting injured or killed on the road, government and university researchers say, if road rage could be eliminated.

How to stop it: One way to do that, according to study.com, is to reduce tailgating, especially by young drivers.

The Hartford Courant found the most common “contributing factor” noted by police in crashes caused by new drivers was following another vehicle too closely.

Most crashes where tailgating was the primary causal factor happened between 2 and 3 p.m., about the time high school classes are done for the day.

In other words, the typical crash caused by a 16- or 17-year-old driver doesn’t involve a car careening off the road during a boozy, late-night joyride.

The Cause: Tailgating is so high on the list of accident causes because stopping involves more than just applying the brakes. It also includes perception time (realization that you need to stop) and reaction time (moving your foot to the brake pedal). At 60 mph, by the time the vehicle begins to slow down, it will have traveled more than 130 feet.

Most drivers know they should maintain a minimum of three seconds between a car and the vehicle in front. However, depending on factors such as vehicle condition, size and type, speed, time of day, road and weather conditions, and visibility, the time it takes to fully stop can vary dramatically. For example, a wet road can quadruple the time required to fully stop, and increasing speed from 35 mph to 55 mph nearly doubles the required stopping distance.

What you can do: If you find that another vehicle is tailgating you, remain calm and don’t let ego get in the way of safety. Do not slam on your brakes, honk your horn or use angry gestures. Instead, if there is an alternate lane, safely move over so the other car can pass. If you can’t move over, slowly increase the distance between your car and the one in front of you. That way, if the tailgater hits you, you’re less likely to hit another car.

Learn More: For further information on what to do if someone is tailgating visit www.accidentattorneys.org.

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Tips for taming back-to-school stress

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What you can do to help your anxious student

(BPT) – Do you or your child have the back-to-school blues? If so, you’re not the only ones. Saying goodbye to slower summer days can be difficult. For almost three months, you have felt free from the structure of the classroom and the accompanying homework. When the upcoming school year rolls around, it’s common to feel some sadness. For children who suffer from anxiety, this stress may be harder to handle, and it may stem from more than just pop quizzes and earlier bedtimes.

These children need extra attention as the new school year draws near. The best thing you can do to prepare your child is to give the gift of your time and attention. Instead of dwelling on things like tests and homework, talk about how to make the transition into the exciting new school year the best it can be.

Lauren Zimet, director of the Early Insights Healthy Foundations Program, is a mother herself and has pinpointed the top four back-to-school tips and tricks to make the transition easier. These tips will help to reduce the stress and tension felt by you and your child, not only for the first weeks of school (the hardest time to adjust) but throughout the year as well.

1. Connected communication. Engage in a conversation with your child and ask what he or she is excited and concerned about for the upcoming school year. Give your child the freedom to speak openly and avoid asking too many questions at once. You’ll know you are connecting when he starts volunteering information. When you listen to your child, and he can see the genuine interest and attention in your eyes and through your body language, he will feel more comfortable discussing the upcoming year.

2. Creative calendars. Planning ahead makes adults feel prepared, which is a huge de-stressor. The same goes for your child. Younger children only need a day or two to look forward to their big day. Older children may benefit from discussing the year weeks before the first day, especially if those conversations include working on things like organization, planning, prioritizing, and sequencing (those important executive functions of the brain).

3. Visualize the goal. Get specific and help your child visualize the first day of school. Have your child tell you or draw out the sequence of the day, from waking up in the morning, to dressing in an outfit chosen the night before, to what she’ll be enjoying as her brain-boosting energy breakfast. The more your child can visualize her routine(s), the more she will be at ease when the big day finally arrives.

4. Load up on brain food. Breakfast is coined “the most important meal of the day,” and rightly so! Food is the fuel for the brain and body, and the quality of the fuel matters. Whatever you choose to give your body and brain each morning will enable you to do a certain level of thinking. American breakfasts are often unbalanced, heavily favoring carbs, which are only a tiny part of the good breakfast equation. Encourage your child to pick a protein each morning, as well as fruit, veggie, and healthy fat and carb options. From there, complement his or her diet with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement from a reputable fish oil company like Nordic Naturals. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to help soothe anxious brains as well as support the entire nervous system, so don’t miss out on this simple improvement opportunity. Research on omega-3 fatty acids can be found at www.omega-research.com.

The new school year is on its way and while this time of year may cause some children to feel anxious, there are things you can do to help. Employ any of the suggestions above to help your child start feeling more excited about the new school year with each passing day.

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Back to school food safety tips 

 

Back to school, back to the books, back shuttling students to and from extracurricular activities. The new school year likely means back to packing lunches and afterschool snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One “back” you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is foodborne bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this temperature range, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels in just two hours, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those for whom you pack, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Packing Tips

If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly, so perishable food transported without an ice source will not stay safe long.

Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquid should be thawed and ready to drink.

Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.

If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot at 140 °F or above.

If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.

If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.

After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by “following” @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by “liking” Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times of food or beverages, download USDA’s new FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

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School’s Open – Drive Carefully

 

Source: AAA Exchange

Every fall, over 55 million children across the United States head back to school. With 13 percent of those children typically walking or biking to their classes, AAA warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous; over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Launched in 1946, AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign was created as a way to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Here are several recommendations from AAA regarding ways drivers can help to keep kids safe:

Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.

Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.

Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.

Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com

In addition, AAA, in partnership with Richard Scarry’s Busytown Mysteries, offers safety information for children, including coloring pages, games and car seat safety videos, at SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com.

Stay Safe. Drive Smart.

The mission is to move Toward Zero Deaths on Michigan Roadways. The statewide interim goal is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all roadways from 889 and 5,706 respectively in 2011 to 750 and 4,800 in 2016.

www.michigan.gov/zerodeaths.

 

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Social Security tips

 

By Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Labor Day isn’t your only reward for hard work

On Labor Day, many Americans enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work they do the rest of the year, as well as those who support working people. With barbecues and ballgames, beach trips and fireworks, this annual holiday often marks the unofficial end of summer. Established in 1882, Labor Day has become a timeless American tradition that many look forward to all summer.

Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one. If you work 10 years, and receive four credits each year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

The best way to see what those benefits might be is to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses your actual earnings history to compute a benefit estimate.

In the past, applying for benefits could be laborious, requiring you to drive to a Social Security office, wait, and fill out paperwork. Now, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline to apply online for retirement benefits.

In most cases, after you submit your online application electronically, that’s it. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases, we’ll need additional information, and a representative will contact you.

Labor Day might mean something a little different once you’re retired. Spend a few moments considering what your hard work has earned in the form of Social Security protection for you, your family, and working people everywhere.

Stephanie Holland is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov

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