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Don’t forget about mandatory muskie harvest registration


Snowmobile and fishing shanty on a frozen lake. Photo by DNR.

With Michigan’s ice-fishing season well underway, the DNR reminds anglers who harvest a muskellunge that there is mandatory registration. The muskie harvest limit is one fish per angler per license year.

A muskellunge harvest must be reported within 24 hours of the catch. Reports can be made online through the DNR’s Harvest Reporting System at michigan.gov/registerfish, toll-free by calling 844-345-FISH (3474), or in person at any DNR Customer Service Center during normal state business hours and with advanced notice of arrival.

Fisheries managers use the registration information to evaluate muskie harvest across the state, helping them better manage those fish populations.

The general possession season for muskellunge is open through March 15 for all Great Lakes and inland waters and the St. Mary’s River. For more information, check out the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide at michigan.gov/fishingguide or contact Cory Kovacs, 906-293-5131, ext. 4071 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

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Insect Growth


By Ranger Steve Mueller

Kids change as they grow. Some change more than others. 

Monarch butterflies are worm-like creatures when they’re kids but as adults they have bright orange wings with black veins that serve as rigid support between a thin, scale-covered membrane that allows them lift for flight. Its growth process is referred to as complete metamorphosis with an egg, larva, chrysalis, and adult form. Milkweed bugs that feed on the same milkweed plant as monarchs, appear much like adults with the exception that adults develop wings that lay flat on their backs. The youth are called nymphs and have gradual metamorphosis from egg to nymph to adult instead of egg, larvae, pupa or chrysalis, to adult. 

When an aphid comes out of the egg it looks like a tiny version of the adult like the milkweed bug does. The aphid has a sucking mouth part, six legs, oval body, and two tiny spike-like projections rising from its rear end. Its eyes and antennae are like those of the adult’s. It sucks juices from a plant and grows, it will shed its outer skeleton that protects fragile inner body parts as it grows. A new soft skeleton forms inside the more rigid outer one. The rigid one splits allowing the insect to escape the old and the new soft one will expand with air before it hardens allowing room for internal growth. The shedding of exoskeletons will continue as the aphid grows to adulthood when it can reproduce. Gradual metamorphosis results with kids looking similar to adults.

Wooly aphids grow in a similar manner but secrete a waxy white covering over their bodies that hides their appearance. They live in masses like the more typical aphids you might see on plants in the garden or even on plants in your home. Many people have learned to use mild soap water to remove aphids from leaves if they are abundant enough to cause leaf wilting. Soap is a better alternative than insecticides. 

The woolly aphids are a chosen food for harvester butterfly caterpillars. The small butterfly is about the size of a nickel when wings are folded over its back and it lays eggs on alder shrubs where the wooly aphids live. When the egg hatches, the caterpillar crawls among aphids covering its body with the waxy secretion made by aphids to hide among its juicy prey. It has three tiny pairs of legs at its front end and fleshy prolegs farther back on its body that are not true legs. They are fleshy projects that help it move its worm-like body among the aphids it eats. Fluid is pumped in and out of the bulbous prolegs to make them function like legs. 

The harvester has a leathery exoskeleton that will split allowing the insect to crawl out when it gets too tight. The new one will expand from internal air pressure before hardening. When ready to transform to the winged reproductive adult, its growth process changes dramatically from that of an aphid or milkweed bug. It will form a chrysalis under its final caterpillar leathery skeleton and wiggle out of the youthful protective covering.

There it transforms to the winged adult. When the inner body transforms from a caterpillar, it will emerge from the chrysalis with tiny soft wings and a large liquid filled body. Fluid from the body is pumped into hollow veins of the wings causing them to expand like flat plates. The fluid hardens in the veins providing wing support needed for the butterfly to fly through its neighborhood to mate and lay eggs for new generations to continue.

The aphid and milkweed bug have gradual metamorphosis where the youth look much like the adult. The growth of insects that transform with a dramatically different appearance like bees, butterflies, and beetles is complete metamorphosis. A third type of metamorphosis is called incomplete and is seen in insects like the dragonflies where young are dramatically different from the adults, are called naiads, and lack a pupal stage.

Dragonfly naiads live in the water with a body form significantly different from flying adults. The kids breathing apparatus and mouth parts are uniquely adapted to different habitat nature niches than the air flying adults. The naiads are active in streams during winter. Incomplete and gradual metamorphosis are sometimes lumped together with only having egg, nymph/naiad, adult stages. They are different enough to be considered separate forms of metamorphosis. Insects with gradual metamorphosis live in a similar manner to adults as opposed to the greatly different life style of those like dragonfly kids and adults with incomplete metamorphosis. Insect kids grow with gradual, incomplete, or complete metamorphosis. 

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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Armchair Naturalist

By Ranger Steve Mueller

I am becoming more of an armchair naturalist and I expect other senior nature explorers are finding that necessary. I appreciate the inquiries and well wishes I have received. On bird count Saturday I planned to arrive for the intro and head home for a family day celebrating Christmas with relatives. I became quite ill Thursday and could not start the bird count. By Sunday, family convinced me I needed to go to hospital emergency at 10:30 p.m. I had been doing well for three weeks but I spent most of our family gathering in bed ill. Bummer.

The good news is I am rebounding on disgusting drugs. I spend more time birding from my window and saw a male Cooper’s Hawk on January 1. Good start for 2019. My friend Greg Petersen drives us to good birding locations. I continue with productive work even though I am limited in too many ways. I am working on completing Bryce Canyon National Park moth research with specimens I brought home for study and hope to complete the project this winter and present results at University of California Davis in July. There are still several field studies in progress. Like other people, I have too much to complete to die soon but cancer might dictate other plans. We each have our own health issues, whether it be heart, diabetes, or one of the multitude. Mine has a different name but yours might be as challenging to contend with. My best wishes for you for 2019 and hope we each make it through another successful, productive, and enjoyable year exploring nature niches.

When first diagnosed at age 47, survival expectations were 1 to 3 years. My multiple myeloma cancer is not curable but treatments can prolong life. I had ten years of smoldering MM before I was disabled and unable to continue employment. I needed a walker because of 7 spinal fractures and now can walk again. My skull is riddled with holes and bones are brittle. I now have ten fractures and getting out of bed can break bones. My last break was the fibula when I stood up during a butterfly survey. With the two bone marrow transplants and the current clinical trial, I have exceeded the survival mean. Survival is now 7 to 8 years. A couple others have been in the program as long but I am in the top survival group. Doctors count from when treatment begins and consider me in year 11. I count from diagnosis and that is 21 years. I have made it to age 68 and University of Chicago hospital oncology staff regularly comment on my longevity. My message is, work to stay positive and continue productive work that is meaningful for life. Chemo is important but I consider support received from you and my work in the sanctuary to enhance biodiversity equally vital. 

Though Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary is our private property, we open it for visits. I have always disliked “No Trespassing” signs. We ask people to call or e-mail to let me know when they would like to visit and we request respect for creatures whose homes are entered. Donations to assist with biodiversity enhancement are welcome. We have not charged people for access like a business and we are not a tax-exempt nonprofit. We pay for projects with my pension and I hire youth like people hire high schoolers to shovel their sidewalks. Volunteer assistance is welcome. V&V Nursery across the road has allowed parking for sanctuary access.

People are welcome to walk the sanctuary on their own or with me if timing works. Walk the 1.5 miles of trails where I have placed interpretive signs and perhaps hear the Barred Owl or see the Red-tailed or Cooper’s Hawks. Wild turkeys might show themselves. My hearing has gotten poor from chemo and age so I appreciate help from those that hear birds. If you are only up to birding from a stationary location, come and enjoy the dozen + or – bird species we see at our feeders. I watched a Pileated Woodpecker from my window as it drilled a fifth hole in a cherry tree last week. A Great Blue Heron was flushed at the creek a couple weeks ago.

We are not a nature center with a primary mission of natural history education. I was director at both the local Howard Christensen Nature Center in North Kent County where I encourage you to become a member and at the Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center in Lowell. Visit Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids. All provide family and school education programs. Here at Ody Brook our mission is biodiversity enhancement but I lead special focus group programs for a fee.

Enjoy what works for you and the family when exploring the wonders of nature. Bird, insect, and wildflower explorers, deer hunters and anglers are important for helping people learn better ways to enhance biodiversity so a healthy future is present for coming generations of life. 

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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DNR welcomes new director

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Daniel Eichinger, 
new DNR director

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Eichinger most recently served as executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the nation’s most effective state-based conservation organization. In that role, he led MUCC’s return as a driving force for conservation and our outdoor heritage. Under his leadership, MUCC revamped its organizational structure, grew membership and launched new programs to connect people with nature.

From 2007 to 2012, he worked in various capacities with the Department of Natural Resources, first as legislative liaison, where he was heavily involved in passing the innovative Recreation Passport to fund state parks. Later, he helped establish the first Policy and Regulations Unit for the agency’s Wildlife Division.

Gov. Whitmer called Eichinger “a trusted leader in the conservation of Michigan’s abundant natural resources and outdoor heritage” and someone who “has the broad experience needed to bring innovative ideas and also successful implementation of conservation efforts and recreation opportunities here in the state.”

Eichinger, who holds bachelors and masters degrees in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University, as well as a masters of public administration, is eager to get started in this new role.

“Conservation is a team sport,” he said. “I look forward to working with our partners to continue the thoughtful stewardship of the extraordinary natural and cultural resources that so deeply define us as Michiganders.”

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Youth small game hunt in Belding Jan. 19

Looking to get your young hunter out this winter? Join us for a youth small game hunt Jan. 19 at the Flat River State Game Area in Belding.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

This free event will be held at the Belding Sportsman’s Club, located at 10651 Youngman Road. Breakfast will start at 7:30 a.m., and lunch will also be provided. Raffle prizes will be available for youth hunters.

All parties must have at least one hunter under the age of 17. Preregistration is required before Jan. 15. Please call 616-794-2658 to save a spot.

This event wouldn’t be possible without the great partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Mid-Michigan United Sportsmen’s Alliance, Belding Sportsman’s Club, Michigan Squirrel Dog Association and QDMA of Montcalm County.

We hope to see you there!

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Showcasing the DNR: Reflections on 2018

For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2018 has been busy. The DNR, with the help of many partners, has made great strides in its ongoing efforts to take care of the state’s natural and cultural resources and provide outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Here are a few highlights of how the DNR spent 2018.

Brandonn Kramer poses with his state record black buffalo, taken while bowfishing on the Grand River in Ottawa County this past May. Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Providing quality outdoor recreation opportunities

The DNR continued its work to ensure excellent opportunities for hunting and fishing, both of which contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. 

Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. 

The DNR stocks more than 25 million fish each year, in more than 1,000 locations across both peninsulas. Forty percent of all recreational fishing in Michigan depends on stocked fish.

In 2018, the DNR expanded the recently created Fishing Tournament Information System – a statewide, online registration and reporting tool that makes it easier for tournament managers to meet the requirement of having all bass fishing tournaments registered – to include all bass and walleye tournaments. To date, the system has received more than 2,000 bass tournament registrations and results reports.

The DNR is continually improving habitat on the 4.5 million acres of public hunting land it manages. Hunters can explore seven managed waterfowl areas, 19 grouse enhanced management sites (known as GEMS) that allow walk-in hunting, and more than 180 state game and wildlife areas. These locations also offer abundant wildlife watching opportunities.

So far this year, hunters have contributed almost $200,000 to wildlife management by purchasing Pure Michigan Hunt applications that give them a shot at a prize package valued at over $4,000, as well as licenses for elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer, and first pick at a managed waterfowl area. The application period ends at midnight Dec. 31. 

 In 2018, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s 103 state parks continue to provide the scenic spaces, natural resources and access to outdoor recreation opportunities that attract tens of millions of people every year. 

With 12,500-plus miles of state-designated trails and pathways – one of the largest, interconnected trail systems in the country – Michigan is known as The Trails State. This trails system offers plenty of social, economic and health benefits, catering to a variety of users, including bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, paddlers and others. 

The system also includes the Iron Belle Trail, Michigan’s signature hiking and biking trail extending more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

There was renewed interest sparked in 2018 in the Iron Belle Trail Fund Campaign, marked by an event in Ann Arbor where more than $10.5 million in private donations was announced. 

“Quality outdoor recreation resources and opportunities mean a lot to the people who use and value them, and to the communities they serve,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “The Iron Belle Trail offers so many beautiful places where people make memories, improve their health, and recharge their energy. The state and our many partners are on an ambitious timeline to get the remainder of these connected miles in place.”

To date, the DNR and partners have built and engineered more than 100 miles of new trail to complete completed the Iron Belle Trail’s 1,422 miles of existing hiking and biking trails, with just over 600 remaining to be connected. 

In October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced a $100 million investment of parks and trails in Southeast Michigan, including segments of the Iron Belle Trail. 

With the creation of a new State Water Trails program, the DNR announced this month that eight waterways, totaling 540-plus miles flowing through more than a dozen counties, have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan. 

DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson said that water trails are an increasing trend in Michigan and nationally, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow.

Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.

“These state-designated water trails will encourage close-to-home outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles while boosting local economies, giving even more reason to call Michigan The Trails State,” said Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator.

The DNR’s staffed shooting ranges, located in southern Michigan state parks and game areas, made improvements to accommodate a growing number of shooting sports enthusiasts. Updates this year included expanding parking, adding new handgun shooting stations and installing a well to provide potable water, with construction of new accessible parking and walkways planned at three ranges in 2019.

Looking to get outdoors in 2019? Check out michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.

Taking care of Michigan’s woods, waters and wildlife

The “Good Neighbor Authority” allows state natural resource agencies to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management on timber and watershed restoration projects across the country.In 2018, the DNR increased its Good Neighbor Authority efforts from the previous year, preparing 2,400 acres for timber sale and producing 38,500 cords of wood from the four national forests in Michigan – the Huron and Manistee national forests in the Lower Peninsula and the Ottawa and Hiawatha in the Upper Peninsula.

This state/federal partnership will grow to more than 7,500 acres in 2019.

In 2018, oversight of the state’s Registered Forester program transferred to the DNR from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The move was part of a restructuring process for this voluntary program that encourages higher standards for Michigan’s foresters.

Changes to the program include an up-to-date online database and a new complaint review process.

“The new program is the ideal source for landowners to find highly qualified foresters to help them manage their forest land,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. 

Nearly two-thirds of Michigan’s 20 million acres of forest are privately owned; the state manages an estimated 4 million acres of public forest. 

The DNR also manages 360,000 acres of state game areas. At game areas throughout Michigan, DNR staffers have been harvesting timber to create early successional forest habitat.

The selective cutting of mature pine and aspen stands encourages the growth of young forests, which provide vital habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, deer, elk and golden-winged warblers.

“This important work may look destructive while in progress, but the result is outstanding habitat for many game and non-game wildlife species,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason.  

Late in 2018, in partnership with Pheasants Forever and the Hal and Jean Glassen Foundation, the DNR launched its new Adopt-A-Game-Area program, which encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use and value. 

“Grasslands give important benefits to both wildlife and people. In addition to providing habitat and food resources for many wildlife species, grasslands also improve water and air quality,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. 

Stewart said grassland pollinators, like bees and monarch butterflies, help to generate crops that keep the country fed. Throughout Michigan, many grasslands are being converted to agriculture and development. Grasslands now are one of the rarest habitat types in the world.

Expanded support of this program, through sponsorships, will provide valuable nesting, brood-rearing, foraging and winter habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, rabbits, songbirds and pollinators.

This year, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. This fatal disease has been found in free-ranging deer in Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties. 

Following public engagement meetings and surveys, hunting regulations were changed for the 2018 deer hunting seasons to address concerns of CWD. The DNR also provided additional staffed deer check locations as well as drop boxes for hunters to submit their harvested deer for testing. More than 30,000 deer were checked and tested this year. 

The coming year will see continued efforts to maintain the health of Michigan’s deer herd. For the latest information and updates on chronic wasting disease, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

The DNR also keeps a close eye on the health of Michigan’s fish, working continuously with Michigan State University’s Aquatic Animal Health Lab to be at forefront of disease identification, but also regularly analyzing groups of wild fish to test for diseases and performing fish health inspections at state hatcheries and on hatchery-reared fish.

In 2018, the DNR’s Office of the Great Lakes completed restoration of historical environmental impacts on the Menominee River, started the Saginaw Bay Fish Reef restoration project and made strides in implementing goals established in the Michigan Water Strategy.

The OGL staff also worked in communities to protect coastal resources, helped establish an alliance of Great Lakes island communities and facilitated the development of shared harbor visions in waterfront communities. 

As it has each year since its introduction in 2014, the Invasive Species Grant Program – implemented by the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources – provided roughly $3.6 million in 2018 for projects designed to prevent, detect, eradicate and control invasive pests on the land and in the water.

Because of this grant program, more than 285,000 acres of land and water have been surveyed for invasive species; more than 18,000 acres have been treated for invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants; and millions of people have been reached with educational information about invasive species.

“It’s clear that Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program is accomplishing many of the goals set for the program at the very start,” said Creagh. “The fight to stop, contain and eradicate invasive species from Michigan’s woods and water is critical to the long-term protection of these valuable natural resources, and this grant program is helping in that fight.”

Protecting the state’s natural resources and citizens

Located in every county of the state, Michigan conservation officers are first responders who provide lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. They are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by enforcing Michigan’s laws and regulations.

“A conservation officer has chosen to not only protect our people and local communities as first responders – they have devoted their career to being front-line defenders of our natural resources,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

As community first responders, several conservation officers were involved in lifesaving actions during 2018, including saving a woman from drowning, rescuing people involved in snowmobile and kayak accidents and those stranded in Lake Huron and on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. As a result, eight conservation officers received the Michigan DNR Lifesaving Award.

The DNR Conservation Officer Academy graduated 24 new conservation officers in 2018. The new officers were selected from nearly 500 applicants to be a part of Recruit School No. 9 – the DNR’s 23-week training academy based in Lansing.

“Our division selects the most highly qualified candidates to receive additional training that no other law enforcement agency in the state offers,” Hagler said. “Our officers are molded into quality people who are embedded within the communities they serve.”

As Michigan’s oldest statewide law enforcement agency, the DNR Law Enforcement Division continues to expand its abilities to protect our natural resources. The 252 officers budgeted for the 2019 fiscal year is an all-time high.

Connecting people with the outdoors

Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, over 1,000 educators have received the DNR’s free wildlife curricula for their classrooms, information that helps give students an understanding of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats. Kindergarten through high school educators can get these resources for use in the second half of the school year. Featured species include waterfowl, black bears and elk. 

The DNR recently – after two years of mapping and reviewing the condition of the state forest roads it maintains across both peninsulas – completed an initial inventory used to create interactive maps showing where ORV use is allowed on these roads. The maps will be available online at michigan.gov/forestroads and updated each spring. 

Look for an early 2019 “Showcasing the DNR” story detailing the efforts to map state forest roads, a resource to help people get out and enjoy Michigan’s public forests.

The DNR’s work in providing GIS products and services gained national recognition at the annual Esri User Conference, when the department earned a Special Achievement in GIS Award for its innovative application of mapping, data analytics and thought leadership.

“Within the past 20 years, the DNR has implemented an enterprise GIS system to support the growing needs and challenges of caring for Michigan’s natural resources and connecting the public to those resources,” said Dave Forstat, DNR GIS manager and chief data steward.

“As web GIS has become more prevalent, we’ve leveraged the benefits of increased communication and data accuracy to provide customers with the best possible data on trails, water, minerals, trees, wildlife, fish and other areas.”

This includes online tools – like the Open Data Portal, interactive maps, story maps and customized apps – aimed at connecting outdoor enthusiasts and natural resources professionals with the information they need.

This is just a brief glimpse of a year in the life of the DNR. More information about the department’s broad range of work to ensure healthy natural resources and outdoor recreation is available on the DNR website, redesigned in 2018 to make it easier to use, at michigan.gov/dnr.

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Extinction of meaning

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A new year with new hope. Experiencing the fullness of the outdoors has been a constant theme for my nature niche articles. I will write my 500th article for the newspapers this year and many are archived on line. One needs experiences in nature to fully appreciate the natural world that supports us. Getting outdoors with family, friends, children, and grandchildren to spend time with all creatures great and small is essential. 

Essential for what? That discourse will go far beyond the space allowed. Suffice it to say, “Creation Care is Essential.” There is an inalienable right for us and other species to live without us threating many with extinction. We each do our best to live and thrive. With that comes responsibility to live within our means. 

When we excessively use natural resources such as coal, we threaten our own wellbeing and existence. The fundamental question I encourage we ask is, do we live in a manner that shares the world responsibly with the 30 to 50 million species that sustain healthy ecosystems? Dr. Dave Warners, from Calvin College, along with many scientists have informed us that human activities are causing 50,000 species to go extinct annually. There are practical scientific reasons why this should be prevented but they carry little influence with many people. 

Bryan Pfeiffer recently wrote an essay titled the “Extinction of Meaning” with a focus built around the Poweshiek Skipperling. I asked Bryan if I could use excerpts from his article but limited space available for my column does not allow me to do it justice. Please go to his website www.bryanpfeiffer.com to read his article. He concludes, “Without the skipperling, the prairie will be a prairie depleted. And so, will we ourselves be depleted — not just of a butterfly gone forever, but also of a loss of human awareness and restraint, an extinction of what it means to love and live responsibly with nature.” 

Bryan writes, “Ecosystems provide us with tangible “services” to which we can assign dollar values: mangrove swamps and barrier islands protecting us from coastal floods or storm surges, for example; forests sequestering carbon and easing the climate disaster; or even value in the peace of mind we find in the good company of wildlife. These notions don’t find much traction in the Trump administration. What good is a butterfly that doesn’t turn us a profit?”

The Poweshiek skipperling occurred in the annual NABA Michigan butterfly count reports until a few years ago. It is still found in a few other Michigan sites and Great Lakes Region. The species has disappeared from nearly all sites in its range and likely will be another of the annual 50,000 species to pass into oblivion. 

Butterflies and moths have been a focus of my professional research and there is much to be learned. When I began research in southern Utah, 25 butterfly species were documented for the region and my work increased the known count to 72 species. I discovered a new species of virgin tiger moth that is named Grammia brillians

In our region there is are also many unknowns waiting discovery. I found a breeding colony of Northern Blue Butterflies and the Michigan DNR immediately listed the species as threatened and provided a nongame grant for me to conduct life history research. I found its caterpillar feeds on a Michigan threatened plant species called dwarf bilberry. My limited work on Isle Royale added two additional species to the list of known butterflies in the national park. The point is we are not aware of the inhabitants that share the world with us. 

Bryan wrote about the Extinction of Experience and Meaning stating: “What worries me more is that most Americans know little of — and care even less about — the spectacular natural diversity surrounding every one of us. We are ignorant of the rainbow of warblers — dozens of species — passing through in migration each spring.”

He further quoted my friend Bob Pyle, lepidopterist, writer, and conservationist who refers to “extinction of experience”—our estrangement from the familiar. “If we do not know what lives next to us, we will not notice when it’s gone.” My hope for the new year is that every one of us will have personal experiences discovering the natural world around us. Those experiences will develop into meaning that leads to Creation Care. Have a Happy New Year of discovery. My column will highlight nature occurrences that I hope helps us explore outdoors.

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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Birds Collide with Buildings


Ranger Steve

Nearly one billion birds are estimated to die annually by colliding with building windows. Gathering definitive data is a monumental task. Scientists have two ways for analyzing events in nature. 

One is qualitative where numerical information is not present. It includes things such as it is bright outside, leaves are becoming colorful, and dead birds are found by buildings. The other is quantitativewith a numerical measurement. Light meters measure light intensity, 50 percent of leaves have changed color, or 127 dead birds were collected by buildings this year. Quantitative data is needed for scientific analysis.

Under my permit, 127 dead birds were collected in 2018 for a study coordinated with Michigan Audubon and Michigan State University to gather quantitative data for birds killed by collisions with buildings. 

I hold US Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan DNR permits to collect dead birds. Possessing an American Robin or Red-tailed Hawk feather is illegal without a permit. People wonder why. There are people that will kill songbirds to possess a few feathers or to use them in products sold at craft fairs. Conservation officers visit craft fairs to see if illegal nongame feathers are being sold. Possession of game bird feathers is legal.

At the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), birds learned to trust us and to land on our hands to eat seeds. Several birds were shot at the birdfeeders. Someone thought it fun to shoot birds that learned to come close to people. Laws were enacted in the early 1900s to help species survive in nature niches because unregulated hunting was threatening several with extinction. Today hunters help bird populations even though they kill birds. Hunting license fees are used to manage habitats for game birds and the DNR monitors numbers quantitatively to manage population size. Nongame species like woodpeckers, goldfinches, and warblers benefit from habitat management. Duck hunters have helped increase waterfowl populations by maintaining wetlands.

It was a tradition on Christmas Day for hunters to compete to see who could kill the most birds in one day. Frank Chapman began the first citizen science Christmas Bird Count in 1900 as an alternative to encourage people to count birds quantitatively instead of killing them. Bird counts are important for documenting winter bird population numbers and distribution. I have coordinated the Grand Rapids quantitative Christmas bird count 32 years but I also qualitatively enjoy birds daily at Ody Brook without keeping number records. 

My salvage bird permit allows me and the people I list on the permit to collect dead birds for educational and scientific analysis. Many birds at HCNC were collected and mounted in life-like position for visitors to see closely and others were mounted in what is called a study skin. Study skin mounts look like the bird is lying dead on its back. Those specimens were used when I taught ornithology at Grand Rapids Community College and for natural history programs. Visit HCNC to see birds you might not get to see easily in the outdoors.

The salvage project with Michigan Audubon and MSU collects birds that hit buildings and provides data that quantifies bird deaths to learn the dates and species impacted. Monitoring weather conditions, wind direction, and fog conditions helps us understand when birds are at greatest risk. That knowledge is used to help us make recommendations that can reduce deaths by adjusting our human behavior to help bird survive.

It is especially important to darken buildings during spring and fall bird migration above the second floor. Most birds migrate at night but fly toward light in the dark. They collide with lighted buildings in the dark. By closing shades to darken windows we can save birds. Schools were recently closed for fog and there are school fog delays to save our kids from being killed going to school in those conditions. Birds do not stop migration for fog delay announcements but we can help them survive by darkening windows and maintaining dark skies. 

I submit a list of the birds collected each year to the US FWS and DNR. Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Brown Creeper, Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting, Rosebreasted Grosbeak, Nashville Warbler, Ovenbird, Sora, and Pine Warbler are some the casualties this year. To enjoy birds in nature it is important that we each take responsibility for helping bird neighbors survive.  

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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First Michigan waterways designated as state water trails


Eight waterways totaling 540-plus miles that flow through more than a dozen counties have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources announced last week.

The DNR and the Office of the Great Lakes partnered on the effort to finalize this first round of designations, which includes:

woman paddle boarding on Detroit River
Belle Isle, Detroit River.

Central River Raisin Water Trail, 11 miles in Monroe County; Chain of Lakes Water Trail, more than 80 miles in Antrim and Kalkaska counties; Huron River Water Trail, 104 miles in Livingston, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties;  Island Loop Route, 10 miles in St. Clair County; Flint River Trail, 72 miles in Genesee and Lapeer counties; Middle Grand River Water Trail, 87 miles in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Ionia counties; Shiawassee River Trail, 88 miles in Genesee, Oakland, Saginaw and Shiawassee counties; Upper Grand River Water Trail, 91 miles in Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties.

A water trail is a designated route on a navigable waterway such as a lake, river, canal or bay that is designed and managed to create a positive outdoor recreation experience for the user. Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.

“Water trails naturally are an increasing trend in Michigan and throughout the country, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “We are pleased to help advance these opportunities by recognizing model public water trails that set the standard for future of Michigan’s water trails program.”

Over the last several months, the DNR has worked on creating a water trails program with the goal of announcing the first designations in 2018. Local water trail organizations with established water trail plans were invited to submit applications for designation. That outreach process was handled collaboratively with the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee, the Michigan State Waterways Commission, the Michigan Trails Advisory Council and the Nonmotorized Advisory Workgroup.

All applications were scored based on criteria including whether a proposed trail:

*Provides a quality trail experience.

*Offers clear information for users.

*Enjoys broad community support.

*Has an appropriate water trail plan in place that addressed components like safety, stewardship, historic and cultural resources, education opportunities, funding, signage, management and development, local land and water use laws, and marketing and promotion.

Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator, said that Michigan is in a great position to work with partners to create a statewide water trails program that complements Michigan’s broader trails system.

“Outdoor recreation-based tourism is experiencing major growth right now,” Yauk said. “Designating these rivers as official water trails shines an even brighter light on some incredible natural resources. We fully expect that offering and expanding water trail opportunities in Michigan will encourage more outdoor recreation and healthier lifestyles, and also serve as regional destinations that will give a boost to local economies.”

Michigan has more miles of Great Lakes coastline than any other state and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. The use of waterways for transportation in Michigan is not new. Native Americans first used them for sustenance and trade; early European settlers used them to transport goods and timber; and, water resources were the foundation of Michigan’s earliest manufacturing and shipping industries.

“[This] announcement celebrates our state’s connections to the Great Lakes coast and Michigan’s inland waters,” said Office of the Great Lakes Director Jon Allan. “We have made significant investments with community partners to build, market and maintain water trails. This program is the culmination of a commitment to public access and opportunities for recreation on Great Lakes waters are especially important as we see paddle sports gain tremendously in popularity.”

Bob Wilson, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, supported the department’s announcement designating these important water corridors as Michigan water trails.

“With Michigan leading the nation in land-based trail mileage and the unmatched water resources we are blessed with, it is another important step we can take to provide our citizens with a world-class trail system,” Wilson said.

Ribbon cuttings for the newly designated water trails will take place during the 2019 paddling season. Watch michigan.gov/dnrtrails for more information, which will be provided early in 2019, on the application process for next year’s designations.

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Pristine sand dunes part of 100-acre addition to Ludington State Park

Purchase to be funded by state sources, commitments from The Nature Conservancy and the Mott Foundation

One hundred acres of pristine sand dunes, wetlands and forests soon will become part of Ludington State Park in Mason County, Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that it has purchased the land and mineral resources from Sargent Minerals-Ludington, LLC , commonly known as Sargent Sands, a Michigan-based company, permanently preserving this valuable property for public recreation.

The 100 acres, adjacent to Ludington State Park, are comprised of sand dunes—about 60 acres of which have never been altered. The property is located in the northern section of a larger 372 acres that have been mined for sand for decades. Although surrounded by state park land on three sides, the Sargent property is not yet part of Ludington State Park, where mining does not occur.

This purchase will permanently protect a beautiful tract of critical sand dunes, conserving a unique landform and its plants and animals for public enjoyment,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh, who approved the purchase during the Oct. 11 Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing. “We are very appreciative of the willingness of the Sargent family to work with the DNR on this purchase. Their generous actions will leave a considerable legacy for future generations.”

While active mining continues in the holding, much of the remaining land already has been mined and reclaimed by the company. The mining operation is operated on-site under a permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The reclamation of mined lands is a requirement of the permit, which expires Dec. 31, 2021, and can be renewed.

The $17 million acquisition of the 100-acre parcel will be funded by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan State Park Endowment Fund, the Land Exchange Facilitation Fund—sources managed by the DNR or by an independent board associated with the department—and by commitments of $1 million each from The Nature Conservancy and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

“The Nature Conservancy is thrilled to help protect this beautiful property as part of Ludington State Park for all of Michigan’s residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Helen Taylor, the conservancy’s state director for Michigan.

“The Mott Foundation sees this as a unique opportunity to protect land that is truly the front door of Ludington State Park,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the foundation.

The Sargent family previously donated land to the DNR, including a portion of property at the entrance to the park. Discussions continue with the Sargent family about opportunities for the DNR to acquire additional property adjacent to the park.

The Sargent land contains sand resources, an on-site processing plant and two lakes created by the mining operations. The DNR has retained $1.3 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants as part of the cost for a potential future acquisition. Other sources, including private donations, also are being sought.

Part of the 100-acre land acquisition of sand dunes at Ludington State Park

Joe Engel, executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, said the land acquisition is a tremendous gift to the Ludington community and its economic future, and a fitting tribute to the efforts of the Sargent family and the DNR. “We look forward to working with the folks in Ludington, as well as others across the region and state, to secure and preserve the remainder of this amazing, Lake Michigan treasure,” Engel said.

“Ludington is one of the crown jewels of our state parks system. For millions of people who love the Lake Michigan dune coast, it is the epitome of Pure Michigan,” said Glen Chown, executive director of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. “We’re proud to partner with the DNR, other land trusts and the local community on this important opportunity.”

Chown noted that local support is crucial to leveraging a significant amount of public dollars. “We are confident that people with a deep affinity for this amazing park will generously respond to the challenge,” he said. “We are thankful for the Sargent family’s willingness to work with all of us on this important shoreline protection opportunity.”

Ludington State Park is located north of the city of Ludington between the shores of Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. The park comprises nearly 5,300 acres and contains forests, sand dunes and beachfront access to Lake Michigan. More than 1 million people visit the park every year.

According to Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief, the department will establish a public planning process to determine how present and future recreational use of the newly acquired 100 acres fits into Ludington State Park’s overall management plan. Olson said that public input, at every stage, is an important part of the DNR’s statewide park management planning process.

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