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Archive | Outdoors

We’re still here: what’s happening at Howard Christensen Nature Center

You will see all kinds of wildlife and plant life at Howard Christensen Nature Center. Courtesy photo.

By Kim Gillow

While riding on our float in several parades, I overheard members of the crowd saying, “I thought they closed.” “I remember going there as a kid.” “My sister got married there.” Well, we are still here. Kids still come with their schools and people still get married here. The Cedar Springs Post has been kind enough to list our events in “Hometown Happenings” but that is just part of our story. We are in the midst of a massive renovation and upgrade. Our biggest project is the building of dioramas inside the Interpretive Center to mimic the various ecosystems on the land. We are also planning to restore the planetarium and create an interactive, hands-on area in the former library space. This is all being done through volunteer time, money and energy. As a nonprofit, with no outside funding, we are totally dependent on revenue from our events and donations. We rent the property from KISD but we are responsible for the upkeep and repairs.

Howard Christensen Nature holds many types of events for all ages. Courtesy photo.

Our mission remains the same: To inspire appreciation and respect for the natural world, to increase awareness of environmental concerns and encourage individual’s to maintain earth’s ecology through scientific and educational activities. We have had to institute an admission fee to help with expenses. It is $3 per person for anyone 16 or older. This has led to some disgruntled comments but we do have to keep the lights on. And we want to be able to keep the cost of school trips and other events at a level that isn’t prohibitive.

We are busy staining our tables and benches at the center and are setting up a picnic area near the playground. Volunteers are repairing the boardwalks that have been damaged by weather and vandals. We have a new shed to house our snowshoes and cross country skis, courtesy of  Daniel Mills’ Eagle Scout Project. Fairy doors are appearing along the trails. We dream of paddle boats on the pond and a challenge course.  Plans are in the works for our fall events: Red Pine 5k Run, Fairy Festival, scarecrow and gourd craft day, pumpkin carving and spooky walk, haunted house, pie making, and  wreath making/make and take to name a few. For more information, call (616) 675-3158 or register on our web site: www.howardchristensen.org.

Planning an event? Rent Camp Lily’s, a private retreat center on the north end of the property. There is a large building with meeting space, full kitchen and rest rooms plus a pavilion and camping areas with picnic tables and fire pits. It is the perfect place for a family reunion, graduation party, wedding or corporate retreat. We continue to improve the venue and hope to have an indoor shower by next spring.

Next big thing! We are cleaning out the barn and other nooks and crannies. Mark and Ann Petersen are offering their services for a benefit auction on Sunday, August 27, starting at 3 p.m. The public is welcome to come any time after 1:30 p.m. to get your bid number and preview our wide variety of items that are ready for a new home. And it is a variety: electric clothes dryer, display cases, waders, filing cabinets, fencing, etc. Watch for a complete list on our web site and sale bills around town when we get closer. There will also be raffles of a child’s quilt and baskets of goodies, a bake sale, and hot dogs, popcorn and drinks for sale.

How can you help? Come and see us, become a member, attend an event, volunteer for an individual project or join us to help with an event, rent Camp Lily’s, make a tax deductible donation, wave at us in a parade, let people know—we’re still here!

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Report reptile and amphibian sightings

 

From the Michigan DNR

A Blanding’s turtle, a species of special concern in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

As you are out enjoying Michigan’s natural resources this summer, please take a moment to help collect valuable information on Michigan’s reptiles and amphibians.

Anyone can help by reporting sightings of turtles, frogs, toads, snakes, salamanders and lizards online at www.miherpatlas.org.

There is also a mobile app available for download to make field reporting quick and easy. The Mobile Mapper is available for Android and iOS (Apple) devices.

The Michigan Herp Atlas Project is the first statewide inventory of reptiles and amphibians ever conducted in Michigan. The project’s purpose is to document the distribution of Michigan’s reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as herpetofauna or “herps.”

In addition, citizen scientists around North America are being asked to report any possible disease cases in reptiles or amphibians to the new Herpetofauna Disease Alert System. More information about this new reporting tool and how to submit an observation can be found at http://wildlife.org/new-herp-disease-alert-system-relies-on-info-from-public.

Learn more about Michigan’s herpetofauna by visiting mi.gov/wildlife – click on Wildlife Species and look for Amphibians and Reptiles.

You also can find out more about Michigan’s snake species by watching our 60-Second Snakes videos.

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Catch of the Week

Four-year-old Lucas Harington is shown here with his big catch! He caught the tiny fish while camping with his grandparents, Lester and Pamela Cooke, at Merrill Lake Campground. “He caught it by himself and was so excited!” said Pamela. “But of course we talked about it and set it free.”

Congratulations, Lucas, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Biting flies

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

At our annual Lehr family reunion in the 1950’s, we gathered at a city park. It was an event for my dad’s mother’s side of the family. I always looked forward to it. One year, I ventured away from family to the large swing sets. The swings sets were tall and we could swing higher than possible on neighborhood swings.

While swinging with pleasure, I suddenly started screaming bloody murder. I was too far from family for anyone to notice. Nearby mothers with their children took notice and came to my rescue but had no idea why I was screaming and in tears. They helped me stop the swing. I was slapping at my leg.

Under the right leg of my trousers was something horrible. A woman pulled up my pant leg to discover a horse fly biting me. It was worse than a bee sting but it did not inject venom. Not all experiences in the outdoors are pleasant and some people avoid outings because they fear the unpleasant. Positive events out number negative ones and hopefully bad events do not prevent time among nature niches.

Deer flies are more common than horse flies. They can drive us inside at certain times of the day and during some weeks of the year. Karen and I hiked in a western cattle grazing area on public land. At Deer Creek in Utah, we found it necessary to leave. The cattle could not. Deer could not. Other mammals could not.

They had to endure the onslaught of biting Tabinid flies. Fortunately, cows have long tails with a hair tuff fly swatter. Deer have shorter tails but one can watch them constantly twitching it back and forth.

Selected behavior helps deer and other mammals avoid painful “bites”. The flies do not actually bite. Their mouth parts are saw-like. They saw into the skin and lap oozing blood to nourish eggs in their abdomen. It is the female that seeks blood much like it is female mosquitoes that poke holes in our skin. Males feed on nectar and pollen at flowers.

Horse flies are much larger than deer flies and cause considerably more pain. Both lay eggs near water on vegetation where hatching young drop into a stream or other water body. The maggots go to the bottom where they feed on other insects and invertebrates. They grow and shed their “outer skin” known as an exoskeleton to reach a size for transforming from maggot to flying adult that leaves the water to mate and produce more flies.

Most of the biting flies do not survive to leave the water. They are eaten by other aquatic organisms from fish to insects. As adult flies, they are eaten by dragonflies and even frogs. Despite us not wanting to share the world with them, they are important for maintaining organisms we want to share time and space with like fish, frogs, and dragonflies. Birds pluck them out of the air for nourishment.

There are tricks that help us enjoy the outdoors despite the presence of biting flies. We can use chemical insect repellents and at times they seem almost essential. Effective repellents are often dangerous if applied to our skin. Most should be applied to clothing instead. I rarely use repellent insect creams or sprays.

Appropriate dress is quite effective. Wear light colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants to keep skin covered. Dark clothes attract flies. The deer flies like to circle around our heads and become a major nuisance. My friend Mary Miller taught me to pick a bracken fern and put the stem in a headband or hat so the leafy frond stands above my head. The flies circle the frond instead of my head.

Choosing where and when to spend time outdoors at certain times of the year helps. During fly season, it is better to hike at a distance from streams. There are many trails in the area, so select one away from deer flies. As August progresses, deer flies become less frequent and areas near water become suitable again. Hiking on breezy days sweeps flies away. Wildlife spend time away from water and in open breezy areas. Learn by watching and enjoying wildlife. Discover ways to keep spending time among nature’s outdoor wonders.

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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Enjoy Meteors & S’mores during Perseid meteor shower

Michigan state parks offer great natural spaces for gathering with friends and family and enjoying a variety of special events, like Meteors & S’mores and other seasonal programming that takes advantage of each park’s natural amenities.

At state parks Aug. 11-12

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources invites visitors and campers to catch a view of the Perseid meteor shower during “Meteors & S’mores” in participating Michigan state parks Aug. 11-12.

Day-use visitors and campers at participating state parks are encouraged to bring blankets, seating, bug spray and snacks and enjoy a night of stargazing.

Participating parks will stay open later than their normal closing times. Complimentary s’mores and campfires are part of the celebration. Designated viewing areas and viewing times will be specified at each park.

“Many consider themselves lucky if they catch a shooting star, but the Perseid meteor shower is one of the best opportunities to see them with the naked eye,” said Elissa Buck, a DNR event coordinator. “We encourage those who want to catch magnificent views with fellow parkgoers take part in one of these Meteors & S’mores events.”

The calendar of events can be found online at michigan.gov/darksky and also is listed below.

South Higgins Lake State Park (Roscommon County) Friday, Aug. 11, 9 to 11 p.m.

Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County) Friday, Aug. 11, 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Lakeport State Park (St. Clair County) Friday, Aug. 11, 9:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 8 to 11 p.m.

Fort Wilkins State Park (Keweenaw County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 8 to 11:45 p.m.

North Higgins Lake State Park (Roscommon County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 10:30 p.m.

Leelanau State Park (Leelanau County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 10:30 p.m.

Young State Park (Charlevoix County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 11 p.m.

Clear Lake State Park (Montmorency County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Wilderness State Park (Emmet County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Van Buren State Park (Van Buren County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 11:45 p.m.

Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 p.m. to midnight

Van Riper State Park (Marquette County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Holland State Park (Ottawa County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 10 to 11 p.m.

Indian Lake State Park (Delta County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 10 to 11:30 p.m.

Bald Mountain Recreation Area (Oakland County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 10 to 11:30 p.m.

Seven Lakes State Park (Oakland County) Saturday, Aug. 12, 10 to 11:45 p.m.

Negwegon State Park (Alcona and Alpena counties) Saturday, Aug. 12, 9 to 11 p.m.

About Dark Sky parks in Michigan

Dark Sky Preserves are protected against light pollution and are ideal locations for stargazing. Here in Michigan, six state-designated Dark Sky Preserves are located at Lake Hudson Recreation Area, Negwegon State Park, Port Crescent State Park, Rockport Recreation Area, Thompson’s Harbor State Park and Wilderness State Park. In addition, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers excellent night sky viewing opportunities across more than 15,000 square miles. Learn more at michigan.gov/darksky.

Camp under the stars

To take full advantage of the meteor showers that are estimated to take place Aug. 9-16, visitors are encouraged to make camping reservations throughout the week and sleep under the stars. To check camping availability in state parks and make a reservation, visit www.midnrreservations.com or call 1-800-44PARKS.

For more information about these events, contact Elissa Buck at bucke@michigan.gov or 989-313-0000.

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Showcasing the DNR 

 

Studying Michigan’s massasaugas, the state’s venomous rattler

By Bob Gwizdz, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous snake. It is protected as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

If any creatures ever needed better public relations, it would be snakes.

They have been vilified since the earliest of Bible tales, and their overall reputation hasn’t improved markedly since.

But there are plenty of people who have more respect for snakes—especially those species not well-regarded.

In fact, Michigan has become an important laboratory for the study and preservation of one of them, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous viper that inhabits the state.

Massasauga rattlesnakes were listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 and are thereby protected animals.

By rattlesnake standards, massasauga rattlers are small, averaging about 2 feet long as adults, reaching a maximum of about 30 inches.

The term “massasauga” means “great river mouth” in the Ojibwe language and was likely given to these snakes because of the places the pit vipers are found.

They inhabit wetlands and feed upon small mammals such as mice and voles, frogs, and other snakes. They are ambush predators, remaining motionless and striking when they detect prey through heat, sound, motion or odor. They inject venom that destroys tissue and incapacitates the prey.

Eastern massauagas range from southern Ontario to Missouri and from central New York to eastern Iowa. There are a couple of subspecies found in the American southwest and into Mexico.

“Massasaugas are rare in Michigan, though more common than in most other parts of their range,” said Tom Goniea, a fisheries biologist and herptile expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “There are records of their existence in every county of the Lower Peninsula.

“They’ve never been found on the mainland of the Upper Peninsula, though they have been found on Bois Blanc Island, which is in Mackinac County,” Goniea said. “Like all reptiles and amphibians, they were once more widespread and numerous throughout the state than they are today.”

Habitat destruction and persecution have led to their decline.

“They’re really rare; very few people will ever encounter these animals in the wild,” Goniea said. “They’re pretty docile, not a particularly aggressive animal. In my 14 years as herptile specialist with the DNR Fisheries Division, I’ve averaged being notified of less than one bite a year.”

Rattlesnake bites, while rare in Michigan, can and do occur. Many bites are the result of people handling them, though people walking though tall grass in rattlesnake habitat near and around wetlands without adequate footwear or long pants could potentially be bitten.

Snakebites are less likely to occur when following some basic safety precautions (find out more at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/safety.cfm). Anyone who has been bitten should seek immediate medical attention.

“They can only strike about one-third to one-half their body length, which for a typical Michigan rattlesnake is 8 to 15 inches, so a person has to get really close to be in any danger,” Goniea said. “They are not going to lunge out and bite you from several feet away.”

There are no records of fatalities in Michigan since the post-World War II era that Goniea knows about.

Other snakes are often misidentified as massasaugas.

“Probably 95 percent of the calls we get from people who are sure they have a massasauga are verified with pictures as something else,” Goniea said.

Much of the focus of massasauga rattlesnake study in Michigan is at the Edward Lowe Foundation property in Cass County, where a viable population of the creatures inhabits the wetlands.

Mike McCuistion, vice president of physical resources at the foundation in Cass County, said staffers have found dead rattlesnakes on the roads of the property over the years, and because “conservation is part of the foundation’s charter,” the foundation decided to investigate them.

The foundation engaged a student studying reptiles to survey the area. He found one.

Later, a graduate student’s research involved studying how fire—such as controlled burns—impacted the snakes. He used the Lowe property as his control (non-burned) area, and he found a number of the rattlesnakes.

That information allowed the foundation to conduct controlled burns without affecting the snakes.

“We know where the snakes are and we know where the hibernacula (hibernation locations) are,” McCuistion said. “We can burn when the snakes are hibernating.”

The presence of the rattlesnakes inspired the foundation to get involved with the snake’s Species Survival Plan. The plan, largely a function of zoos and aquariums, is sort of an insurance policy for species—should they ever disappear.

Zoos that have massasauga rattlesnakes have been selectively breeding them for genetic diversity. These zoos would have a population of the snakes available.

The Lowe foundation agreed to host the annual meeting of the Species Survival Plan nine years ago in exchange for team’s cooperation in surveying the grounds annually for the snakes.

“The nice thing about this population is that it’s centrally located in massasauga range,” McCuistion said.

Over the course of the last seven years, the surveyors have identified more than 800 individual massasaugas on the property, with a stable population of about 150 adults.

Specimens are collected, aged, sexed, measured, weighed and photographed. Adults are implanted with PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags and all are returned to where they were found. The tags identify the snakes individually.

Penny Felski, herptile manager at the Buffalo Zoo and a member of the Special Survival Plan team, has been on every survey at the Lowe property since they started.

“The Buffalo Zoo has been working with this species since the 1960s, but our first successful breeding was in 2012,” Felski said. “It took a while to figure out the husbandry.”

Essentially, when potential mates are selected, the snakes are introduced in the fall and kept together until breeding has been witnessed. Young are born live the next summer. The female at the Buffalo Zoo has produced 13 offspring over the years. All are now at other zoos.

Eric Hileman, who recently earned his doctorate degree from Northern Illinois University for his work on eastern massasaugas and is now a quantitative biologist at Trent University in Ontario, said roughly 70 percent of adult massasaugas survive annually, but only 38 percent of newborns (neonates) survive their first year.

“I think freezing over the winter is the big problem,” Hileman said. “They don’t know how to do it.”

Unlike many other rattlesnakes, massasaugas hibernate alone, often using crayfish burrows for hibernacula.

Hileman said massasaugas have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity, which is up to 30 percent longer than they live in the wild.

For more information on the threatened status of the massasauga or for frequently asked questions about the listing, please visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service massasauga information page at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/reptiles/eama/index.html

Identification and life history information, as well as snake safety tips, can be found at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory massasauga rattlesnake information page http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/index.cfm.

To report sightings and learn more about the massasauga, please visit the Michigan DNR’s page on the species at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12201-32995–,00.html.
Learn more by about Michigan’s snake species by watching our “60-Second Snakes” videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz5W-co6itw&index=2&list=PLAt8-P23ZJgvCQGGbnCtdUfRYbqiws-F6.

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Symphony of Sight and Sound

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The Cardinal flower. Photo by Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Fish and Wildlife Service.

Symphony players have honed their music through eons of natural selection. Refinement continues with each generation of plants and animals. Individuals have physical advantages for species survival or have adaptations that are eliminated by predators, parasites, or failure to meet environmental conditions.

Enjoy the sight and sound of the life’s orchestra performing its changing symphony. You can walk among players or sit on a lounge chair with a cool beverage to experience more players than are imaginable.

The regional stage is set with an assemblage of plants on wet to dry soils where nutrients and water meet their needs along with varying amounts of light. The Cardinal Flower is one of the most beautiful flowers for my eye and has recently begun blooming. Each animal has favorites. The swamp milkweed is gorgeous and is more beautiful to many insects. It brings insects to the wetland stage better than cardinal flowers. Hummingbirds prefer the cardinal flower where we can enjoy their sound portion of the symphony.

Hummingbirds hover at the flowers with wings moving in a figure eight that allows them to hang stationary like a helicopter. Bees and Hummingbird Sphinx moths hover at milkweed flowers with their own unique buzz. Bees land and probe the unique flower structure with mouthparts that sometimes get trapped and held. One can find dead butterflies or other insects that were unable to break free.

Death is common for symphony players. Bird love songs often come from hidden locations that do not betray their presence and would expose them to predators. Their song announces breeding territory limits to prospective females that inspect male’s habitat suitability for rearing young. The singing male moves around the territory perimeter in earlier morning announcing to other males they are not welcome.

Each bird produces music in varying sized territory space that is adjusted to resource requirements. In the big woods at Ody Brook, Ovenbirds (a warbler) sing from low branches in the mature forest and build a Dutch oven shaped nest on the ground. Once in my lifetime, I found a well-hidden nest with the help of another naturalist.

Ovenbirds are abundant and heard throughout Michigan. Their music keeps rhythm with its repeated “teacher, teacher, teacher” song like our symphony’s drums. High above in tree tops, the Red-eyed Vireo sings its melody, “Here I am, where are you?” Like all orchestras players, species begin and end at specific times during the performance. Most birds make music during peak breeding season of May and June.

Sight, sound, and players change as one moves from forest to drier field and shrubland. Field Sparrows cannot be found in the mature forest but are loud musicians in open shrub habitat. They make introductory music notes followed by a trill that resembles a ping-pong ball bouncing on a table with accelerating speed as the ball loses energy with each bounce of less height. The Chipping Sparrow has a more evenly spaced trill without introductory notes. Close your eyes and recognize wild orchestra instruments in nature niches. You might not see the players but you can enjoy and recognize different sounds.

As summer progresses in forest, field, and wetlands, bird sounds become less frequent. Insect orchestra members increase the sight and sound beauty. Crickets of various species pick up the tempo. The Snowy Tree Crickets play a uniquely beautiful instrument. Cicadas have a tympanum at the base of their abdomen that resonates deafening volume. Katydid grasshoppers repeat their name during dark hours to attract mates.

Flowers and leaves feed insects, attract birds, predatory insects, and spiders that eat insects. The arrangement of color and species distribute players in nature like the stage for human orchestras. The multitude of players is greater than can be learned in a lifetime and they are dressed in interesting attire. Discover the magnificent sight and sound orchestra. To enjoy it, wild habitat is necessary. Less grass will allow more “nature,” save gas, and extend mower life. Spend more time hearing nature’s orchestra instead of a mower engine’s roar.

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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Catch of the Week

Alexei Morrissa-Jo Eadie is shown here fishing with her G-Pa, on Watermill Lake near Baldwin, with her new Barbie pole. She thinks it’s a keeper!

Congratulations, Alexei! You made the Post Catch of the Week!

 

It’s back—get out those cameras!

It’s that time of year again when anglers big and small like to tell their fish tales! Send us a photo and story of your first, best, funniest, biggest, or even your smallest catch. Include your name, age, address, and phone number, along with the type and size of fish, and where caught.  We can’t wait to hear from you! Photos published as space allows. Photos/stories may be sent by email to news@cedarspringspost.com with Catch of the Week in the subject line, or mail to: Catch of the Week, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

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Shifting Sands

A sand dune at Silver Lake swallowed up a house in April. Photo from woodtv.com.

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Reading the landscape is a development skill taught in middle school Earth science. It is taught to preschoolers by parents. Young minds are open to learning.

The local news reported advancing sand dunes are burying homes. An Earth science lessen is easily forgotten without experiential learning. The dangers of building or buying a home too close to the big lake can be seen during family or school outings. It is a gamble to determine exactly which homes will get buried.

A trip to Lake Michigan’s shoreline dune complex for a swim will be a fun outing where one can see trees buried by moving sand at Hoffmaster State Park or in other parks. Some of the trees have adaptations allowing them to produce adventitious roots from tree trunks as their original roots get buried too deep to survive. The new roots give the tree continued life under tough circumstances.

At some future date, the sand dunes will shift and uncover tree trunks, exposing the roots developed from the growing trunk that was previously high in the air before being buried. If fortunate, the tree will have lived and died before sand is blown away to expose its skeleton.

One might refer to sand dunes as a living, moving, entity, but by reading the landscape, we discover they are not. Moving dunes bring life or death to species by the lake and will crush buildings. Contractors build and sell homes close to the shoreline. They arrive, construct and leave with a profit. The buyer that did not learn to read the landscape might lose their home to the crushing weight of sand depending on where the home was built.

The news showed a cottage that collapsed under the weight of moving sand. People were interviewed about nature’s destroying power. Owners are hiring bulldozer operators to move sand to save homes and resorts. The reporters hoped the home owners would win the fight against nature’s forces.

A fight is not necessary. If the people refused to buy homes close to shore or on shifting dunes, their homes would not be endangered. Many want the shoreline view and are willing to gamble their home’s future. The result is their home might be buried or washed into the lake. A Go-fund-me account has been established to help save homes because people cannot afford to hire contactors to keep moving sand.

Learning the school lessen might have resulted in choosing to live in a safer location. In the 1980’s I observed homes falling into Lake Michigan when high lake levels undercut foundations. I witnessed multi-million dollar homes fall into the Pacific Ocean as erosion undercut cliffs. The homes were too large to move and should not have been built close to the ocean.

Homes are built on barrier Islands along the Atlantic Ocean even though barrier islands are known to move and wash away. Classroom education is valuable but field trip experience is essential for learning to read the landscape. Book learning requires supplemental practical experiences to learn to read the landscape. That is the purpose of places like the Howard Christensen Nature Center and for parents to take families to natural areas.

I began as director at HCNC in 1986 when an Environmental Education Advocacy Council and School administrator agreement required some Kent ISD teachers to bring students to HCNC. I was told HCNC was securely funded by property taxes. As time passed, and shifting sands of education politics changed. I was told environmental education was no longer a priority in America after the early 2000’s presidential election. The Kent ISD stopped funding HCNC. An impact of that decision might result in students losing their homes to nature’s forces when they are grown. We are in a phase of political temperament again when many want to focus only on the present without considering the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental impacts for the future. Economic health cannot be sustained without social and environmental sustainability. Security in our personal nature niche depends on the shifting sands of politics and how well people learn to read the landscape to protect their wellbeing and investments.

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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Catch of the Week

It was a team effort for the four kids to bring in the 27.5-inch dogfish and 18.5-inch bass. Sienna and Eli Wolfe and Lincoln and Jaxson Trolla had to take turns fighting the fish to land while recently camping in Empire. Grandpa Wolfe was on hand to keep them calm.

Congratulations to Sienna, Eli, Lincoln, and Jaxson for a great Catch of the Week!


It’s back—get out those cameras!

It’s that time of year again when anglers big and small like to tell their fish tales! Send us a photo and story of your first, best, funniest, biggest, or even your smallest catch. Include your name, age, address, and phone number, along with the type and size of fish, and where caught.  We can’t wait to hear from you! Photos published as space allows. Photos/stories may be sent by email to news@cedarspringspost.com with Catch of the Week in the subject line, or mail to: Catch of the Week, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

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