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Archive | Outdoors

Fish and cooler fall overturn

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Chilly fall air settles upon lakes and cools surface water. As water cools, it becomes denser and the heavier water sinks. Water is unique in that after reaching 39 degrees F its molecules begin to expand again making them lighter. This is extremely important for wildlife survival for lake nature niches.

Water molecules can hold the greatest quantity of oxygen at 39 degrees F.

The weight of water molecules and its ability to hold oxygen is a life and death process for fish and other aquatic organisms. During warmer months, the sun warms the upper lake. Warm water allows fish to become more active and their oxygen consumption increases. Warm water with less oxygen passing over gills might cause fish to suffer from lack of oxygen.

Fortunately, algae and other aquatic plants replenish oxygen during the day and this aids fish survival. At night the plants consume oxygen and over abundant vegetation might deplete oxygen during the night killing fish or other gill feeding organisms.

In the depths of lakes below the sun lighted portion, water remains cold but oxygen becomes depleted during the summer months. Colder water at depths does not mix with the upper warm water and in effect two lakes are created in one. Deep-water oxygen gets consumed by bacteria and other organisms.

Fish find it necessary to move to the upper warm lake layer. Variation in oxygen content in the upper layer allows fish to move, creating interesting challenges for people trying to find them. The warmer upper lake is called epilimnion and the lower colder lake is called hypolimnion. Epi for above lake, and hypo for below lake. The dividing point between upper and lower lake is known as a thermocline, separating a lake into two bodies of water that do not mix easily during warmer months.

Fish can cool their bodies by entering the hypolimnion but might suffocate if oxygen has been depleted too much during the summer. They can swim high in the epilimnion but their warmed bodies might require more oxygen than is available because warm water holds less oxygen. Some fish can survive in lower oxygenated water and others like trout need more oxygen available.

By hanging out near the thermocline, they can cool their bodies and reduce oxygen needs.

In fall, cold air settling on the lake surfaces cools water that captures the greatest amount of oxygen before sinking to the bottom of the lake. The sinking water destroys the thermocline that separated upper and lower lake bodies during summer. It replenishes oxygen to a maximum level throughout the lake. It also creates a phenomenon known as lake overturn.

If you are fortunate, you might get to see a lake full of churned up gunk when overturn occurs. Lakes with mucky bottoms show this best. Visit Chrishaven Lake at the Howard Christensen Nature Center on Red Pine Drive between Kent City and Cedar Springs to witness the event. Invite friends to come promptly to see it because the murky water will only last a few days. Nutrients will have been stirred, spread throughout the lake and will provide floating plant nutrient needs. While visiting HCNC, visit the interpretive center to purchase a membership and to learn about the activities for all family members.

Growth of plants and animals will be slowed during winter months but life persists in wait of the next year’s warm season. When spring arrives, a spring overturn will occur after ice out and before a new epilimnion and hypolimnion are separated by a thermocline. Fish go where they want but it is determined in part by food availability, temperature, water oxygen content, and sheltered hiding locations.

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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Michigan rattlesnake listed as threatened 

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Photos by: Dan Kennedy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it has listed the eastern massasauga rattlesnake as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, stating that nearly 40 percent of the snake’s historical populations are now extirpated (no longer exist) and an additional 15 percent is of uncertain status.

The final rule listing the eastern massasauga appears in the Sept. 30, 2016, Federal Register and has an effective date of Oct. 31, 2016.

Under the Endangered Species Act, threatened species are considered plants and animals that may become endangered in the foreseeable future. Across the eastern massasauga rattlesnake’s range, nearly 40 percent of the species’ population has declined. Habitat loss is considered the primary threat driving the snakes’ decline; however, as their numbers decline, other threats such as direct mortality or collection play a more significant role.

Eastern massasaugas currently are found in scattered locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. In Michigan, the eastern massasauga (the state’s only venomous snake) currently is state-listed as a species of special concern, but will be protected under Michigan’s Endangered Species Protection law once it is federally listed.

Most massasaugas are located within the southern portion of Michigan, with none occurring on the Upper Peninsula’s mainland.

“Conservation of this rare snake is critical because it plays an important role as a predator of small mammals,” said Dan Kennedy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources endangered species specialist. “The DNR is currently working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other partners to develop a reasonable approach to conserve this rare snake in Michigan.”

These snakes live in wet prairies, marshes and low-lying areas along rivers and lakes, and may also live in uplands during part of the year. They often hibernate in crayfish burrows, but they also may be found under logs and tree roots or in small mammal burrows.

Those who live in areas with massasaugas can take steps to keep the snakes away from their yard, such as keeping their grass cut short and removing structures like leaf and brush piles, dead logs and stacks of firewood that snakes or their prey (primarily small rodents) might use.

Kennedy emphasized that “human safety comes first, and the federal Endangered Species Act allows anyone to take action to protect yourself or others if you feel threatened.”

The massasauga is a small snake with a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils. The average length of an adult is about 2 feet. The snake’s tail has several dark brown rings and is tipped by gray-yellow rattles. They eat small rodents such as mice and voles, and will sometimes eat frogs and other snakes. They are docile, secretive snakes that will try to escape rather than defend themselves or fight. For more information on this snake and many others, see the “60-Second Snakes” video series on the DNR’s YouTube channel atwww.youtube.com/michigandnr.

For more information about the eastern massasauga and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final rule to list the snake under the Endangered Species Act, visitwww.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/reptiles/eama.

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Flames in the tree tops

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Flames are in the tree tops and red reflections are on the clouds. It is fall with color beginning to abound. Red maples are among the first to redden. Tree top leaves are exposed to greater temperature extremes and are among the first to show color. Red maples in swamps begin color change in August. Life there is more difficult but the red maples seem to survive. Those experience a shorter growing season than those in upland but manage to live.

In the upland forest surrounded by many other trees, temperature is more stable in the lower canopy. A multitude of insects find refuge in the more protected thicket of leaves and branches as they continue their work late into fall. Trees are busy moving sugar and nutrients from leaves to roots for winter storage. Birds and predatory insects glean insects as the last days of the season approach.

All species are in preparation for a long winter’s hiatus. Some insects will overwinter as hibernating adults, pupae, larvae, or eggs. Each species has its own unique nature niche adaptations to survive the cold season. Many birds will migrate south or in the case of many waterfowl they will migrate east to the Atlantic Coast. Others will stay for the winter. Birds like Black-capped Chickadees that were here all summer might shift southward and be replaced by some from northern Michigan to spend the next many months in our yards.

Mammals will vary in how they respond to shortening days, longer nights, and colder weather. The woodchucks will hibernate, chipmunks will spend long periods in their burrows with a large food cache and only make an occasional appearance above ground during warm spells. Squirrels will stay active smelling locations where they stashed morsels of food for harsh season recovery.

Plants unable to move have their own methods to help them survive to spring. Some will overwinter as seeds and the rest of the plant will die. Some die back to the ground and will sprout new growth from underground when conditions are suitable.

The woody plants must have a way to keep the above ground stems alive through the harsh conditions. The evergreens drain much of the fluid from needles but will be able to continue photosynthesis late into fall provided tissue temperatures are above 40 F and they will be able to become active earlier in spring than deciduous plants.

The deciduous plants like the red maple are completing activity in late September and October. Now is the time we take pleasure in the demise of this year’s leaves as they become red in their final days of life. As the sun was nearing sunset and peaked through breaks in the clouds, it shined its spotlight on tree tops making them burst flame red above green leaves below. Cloud bottoms shined red and orange glowed, making the evening a pleasure to spend outside. Life will appear to drain from trees as leaves fall leaving a dead appearing skeleton but spring will demonstrate a resurgence to life.

Soon other trees in fall will change to yellow, brown, red, and mixtures of color. A spectacular few weeks of change will progress in a manner determined by adaptations suitable for each species survival. Pay attention to which trees change first and the species sequence as each prepares for winter. Notice those struggling to live. We had a Black Cherry that became red weeks earlier than other cherries for a few years and died. Its skeleton stood at the edge of the backyard where birds found a wonderful perching location for about 25 years. Last year it finally blew down. Birds found a new viewing perch next to it in an ash tree that was killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. Life and death provide a dynamic of constant change in our yards.

The seasonal flame of color reoccurs annually around us. Do not let it pass without notice.

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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Fourth annual ladies’ guided pheasant hunt 

out-pheasant-hunter-web

Oct. 23 in Belding

The Department of Natural Resources, along with Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsman’s Club and the Grand Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever, will offer a guided ladies’ pheasant hunt Sunday, Oct. 23, at 3329 Johnson Road in Belding, Michigan.

Beginners are welcome. Space is limited to 12 ladies, 18 years of age or older, and preregistration is required. Please call Scott Brosier at 616-874-8459 to reserve a spot.

The cost for the day is $45 per person. Firearms are available for beginners, if needed. All participants will go home with memories and a special gift.

Registration and coffee begins at 9 a.m. The day’s events will include warming up by shooting clay pigeons on the skeet range, hunting with a guide for three pheasants, learning to clean the birds, and enjoying a gourmet lunch.

“The hunt was such a success last year and all the ladies had a great time. Some had never shot a gun before, and were shooting birds out of the sky by late morning,” said Donna Jones, wildlife technician at Flat River State Game Area. “We look forward to making this experience available again to ladies who want to try out pheasant hunting.”

Established in 1975, Pine Hill Sportsman’s Club offers its members some of the finest upland bird hunting anywhere, on four farms totaling over 600 acres. Pine Hill’s intensive land management program not only benefits the population of free-ranging upland birds, but also enhances habitat for deer, turkey and waterfowl.

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have 140,000 members and more than 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, making it the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.

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Tips for safe bowhunting

out-bowhunting-deer-web

Michigan’s bowhunting season opens October 1, and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are sharing tips for a safe bowhunting experience.

“Bowhunting is enjoyed by thousands of hunters every year in Michigan, and we want to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable hunting season,” said Sgt. Steve Orange, supervisor of the DNR’s hunter education program. “With the season upon us, every hunter should follow some common sense safety tips before heading to or being in the woods.”

The top safety tips for bowhunting include:

*Before you go out, inspect equipment, including your tree stand or other raised platform. If anything is worn, frayed, cracked or peeling, replace it or get it fixed.

*If using a compound bow or crossbow, make sure the cables and pulleys are in good working order.

*When sharpening broadheads, be careful and take your time.

*Practice tree-stand safety. The DNR recommends using a full-body safety harness to get into and out of your tree stand.

*If using a raised platform, always use a haul line to raise and lower your gear.

*Keep arrows in the quiver until you are ready to use them. A common injury is to stab or injure yourself or a hunting companion while carrying arrows in your hand or nocked on your bow.

*When heading out to the woods, hunt with a friend or family member or make sure you tell someone reliable where you are going and what time to expect you back. This information is valuable in helping conservation officers or sheriff’s deputies to find you if you are lost.

*Also, think about carrying a cell phone, compass, flashlight and other small safety items in when in the woods.

Other important reminders include:

*Obtain permission from landowners before hunting on their land or using their land to access public land.

*Never take a shot at a deer that is beyond the maximum effective range of your equipment and your shooting ability.

*If you are successful, field dress your deer and cool its meat immediately. Michigan’s unpredictable weather means October days are sometimes warm, and warm temperatures and can cause the meat to spoil quickly.

For more information about Michigan’s conservation officers, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. For more information about hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/hunting.

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Small Sparks

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”—Margaret Mead Cultural Anthropologist

In the 1960’s when in college, I subscribed to American Museum of Natural History Magazine and first encountered Mead. The quote above has been a main stay and guide in my life. I frequently encounter small committed groups that effect change for the betterment of the community.

I remain active in many local, state, and national organizations and often wonder if my activities are too broad to be truly effective. Balance has always been a struggle but I work with small committed groups locally for success. Activities of others in the community accomplish wonderful feats beyond what I contribute.

My career as environmental education consultant for the Kent Intermediate School District’s 20 public school districts, private schools, charter schools plus being director at the Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) kept me spread far, wide, and thin. Detractors thought education that integrates community social, environmental and economic sustainability lacked value and wanted HCNC closed and me gone.

Recently, I read about a small committed group of 25 people in a Michigan Audubon Chapter in the Oscoda area. They work with the US forest service, DNR, Chamber of Commerce, and schools. They affect community change to maintain a healthy environment and have a natural area that supports community health.

I have presented many programs in schools in the Oscoda, Mio, Roscommon, West Branch area and for Kirtland Community College as well as in other regions of Michigan. My contributions seem minor and I wonder if they effect positive change like that committed group’s or those in Cedar Springs and Rockford.

Then Margaret Mead comes to mind again with a quote: Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. She reminds us there is a place for each of our contributions. Each of us can offer greatness for our community and its environmental health if we receive a spark and the right bit of knowledge.

I see the obvious greats in our local community like Sue Harrison, Red Flannel Grand Marshal (and Librarian) Donna Clark, recently deceased Jack Clark, and school superintendent Laura VanDuyn. Recognize how each is building a better community for adults and children through unique positive efforts. I support and commend them for the challenges they face trying to meet everyone’s expectations despite detractors. My employment was to bring about energy conservation in schools, healthy farm sustainability, ecosystem health, improved water quality, student appreciation and excitement about the natural world and the list goes on but detractors opposed the efforts.

It all seemed so overwhelming but “unique” individuals saved the day. A fifth grader grew, acquired his Ph.D. in botany and works for the MI Natural Features Inventory. He was the keynote speaker at a statewide meeting of the Michigan Botanical Club and told the program organizer I was the reason he went into the profession. I did not know him and asked him how I was responsible for his career. He said his dad brought him to Ody Brook for a 5th grade school assignment and he was impressed with my insect research activities and collection. That was the spark that guided him. Until then he was unaware scientific natural history research like that existed.

Recently, I commended Denny Brooks from Midland for his Michigan efforts with Monarch Watch and how he guides people to help Monarch butterflies survive. He responded by telling me that a couple decades ago I presented a program in Jackson at the Dahlem Environmental Education Center and that was the spark that got him started with Monarchs. My efforts often seem superficial and ineffective but my role is unique and effective in its own way. Your role with children, grandkids, and neighbors is unique and will help community environmental health thrive in ways you might never know. Be the committed spark for natural history and encourage teachers to take their classes to HCNC to learn and discover.

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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Kids find success in annual Youth Hunt

 

Last weekend, September 17-18, was the annual Youth Hunt here in Michigan. At least three area youth bagged a deer last weekend, all for the first time.

Hunter Hankiewicz

Hunter Hankiewicz

Spencer Township youth gets first deer

Ten-year-old Hunter Hankiewicz, of Spencer Township, pictured right, went hunting for the first time on September 17, in Mason County, and got his first buck. It was an 8-point with a 14-1/2 inch spread. Good job, Hunter!

Brothers both get first deer

Coty Youngs Jr.

Coty Youngs Jr.

Coty Youngs Jr., 10, of Ensley Township, went hunting with his dad, Coty Youngs Sr., on the first day of Youth Hunt, September 17, and got his first deer. It was a nice 8-point buck. He was hunting in the Hardy Dam area, on his Uncle Bill’s place, in Big Prairie Township.

Andrew Youngs

Andrew Youngs

Later that day, Coty’s younger brother, Andrew Youngs, 8, also shot his first deer at Uncle Bill’s place. The boys say thanks for a great place to hunt

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European frogbit detected in West Michigan lakes

 

Frogbit leaf: European frogbit leaves, shown here, are similar in shape, though much smaller than those of the water lily.

Frogbit leaf: European frogbit leaves, shown here, are similar in shape, though much smaller than those of the water lily.

Invasive species alert

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of European frogbit, a prohibited aquatic invasive plant, in Reeds and Fisk lakes in the city of East Grand Rapids. European frogbit was first verified in Michigan in 1996 along the Great Lakes waterways in southeastern Michigan and has since been found in areas along Lake Huron and the eastern Upper Peninsula. The detections on Reeds and Fisk lakes represent the westernmost known locations of this invasive plant in Michigan and the Midwest.

Frogbit colony: Dense colonies of European frogbit can develop quickly in shallow, slow-moving water.

Frogbit colony: Dense colonies of European frogbit can develop quickly in shallow, slow-moving water.

Staff from PLM Lake and Land Management Corporation initially identified the plant during a routine lake inspection and reported the finding through the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN), triggering a notification to the DNR and the Department of Environmental Quality’s Aquatic Invasive Response Team. The team currently is assessing the risk level of the situation and working with partners in the community, including the city of East Grand Rapids, Kent Conservation District and the West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, to develop an action plan.

What is European frogbit?

A native of Europe and parts of Africa and Asia, European frogbit is an aquatic plant with small (half-inch to 2.5 inch), heart-shaped leaves resembling miniature water lilies. Unlike similar aquatic plants, European frogbit does not anchor its roots in the lake or stream bed but remains free-floating. Three-petaled white flowers with yellow centers appear briefly sometime between mid-July and mid-August.

Why is it a problem?

The plant quickly forms dense colonies or mats in shallow, slow-moving waters. These thick mats prevent native plant growth, make movement difficult for ducks and large fish, and cause problems for boaters, anglers and swimmers.

European frogbit is spread by plant fragments or by turions—small, quarter-inch buds that break off the plant and overwinter in lake or stream beds. Plant parts easily can be transported to new water bodies on boat motors or trailers, fishing gear and other recreational equipment.

What can be done?      

“Detecting European frogbit in West Michigan is a call to action to all lake, stream and wetland users to clean, drain and dry boats and gear,” said Kevin Walters, an invasive species aquatic biologist with the DEQ. “Take the simple steps of removing all plants and debris from boats, trailers and gear and draining bilges and live wells before leaving a site. Allow boats and equipment to dry for at least five days before moving to another water body.”

Walters said that even waders, fishing nets and inner tubes can harbor invasive species and should be thoroughly dried in the sun or cleaned with a 2-percent bleach solution before being used at a different location.

What if I see European frogbit?

Anyone can help by reporting suspected European frogbit. The easiest way to report this harmful invasive plant is through the MISIN website, at www.misin.msu.edu or by downloading the MISIN app to a smartphone.

First, become familiar with identifying the plant. MISIN offers a short identification tutorial which helps distinguish between European frogbit and similar aquatic plants.

If you encounter European frogbit on the water, take some photos. These can be uploaded on the MISIN website or attached to a report via the MISIN app. Reports are directed through MISIN to DNR and DEQ aquatic biologists.

For more information on European frogbit and other invasive species, visit Michigan’s invasive species website at www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies.

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Insect or wind pollinated

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Showy attractive flowers tend to be insect pollinated. Flowers that do not capture our attention are typically wind pollinated. The size of pollen is a critical factor between the wind and insect pollinated flowers. Large pollen weight causes it to fall to ground near the parent plant when dislodged. An insect or bird is needed to carry heavy pollen from flower to flower in order for the plant to have successful fertilization. Tiny pollen is easily carried long distances by wind to improve chances for pollination.

When a bee, butterfly, beetle, other insect, or hummingbird carries pollen from one flower to another, the pollen sticks to the top of a pistil if it is ripe and receptive. Male pollen is equivalent to sperm in animals. When it is released from a flower’s anther, an animal carries it to another flower. Animals that carry pollen improve the chances for pollination because pollen on their bodies has the best chance of reaching a flower of the same species. Wind carried pollen rides the wind wherever it goes.

We notice yellow pollen on a honeybee’s body. Showy flower petals attract the attention of insects. When insects approach a flower, they see “lighted runway” landing strips. They are not as noticeable to our eyes because petals reflect ultraviolet light we do not see. Insects see a broader visible spectrum. We might see dark or light lines on the petals that lead toward the center of the flower.

Those lines are runways that direct the travel of insects like airport runway lights help a plane’s pilot on the landing strip. As the insect walks toward the center of a flower to probe for nectar, it brushes against an anther that sits atop a thin string-like filament that bends when bumped. If the anther is ripe, pollen will be released onto the body of an insect and sticks to its “hairy body.”

The female part of the flower usually ripens later than its flower’s anthers and is not receptive when the pollen is released. This helps prevent inbreeding. The part of the flower pistil that captures pollen has a sticky top called the stigma. Pollen on it digests its way through a long neck called the style and when it reaches the ovule (egg) in the ovary it will fertilize it. The fertilized ovule becomes a seed.

The same process occurs in wind-pollinated flowers like corn, grass, sedges, and ragweed. Ragweed blooms at the same time as showy yellow goldenrod flowers in a field. The pollen on goldenrod is large and fewer in number than minute pollen cells released from ragweed. Goldenrod pollen will not be carried far by wind and falls to the ground. It is insect dependent for pollination. Ragweed pollen, like corn pollen, can float in a gentle light breeze. It will go wherever the wind goes and is less efficient at reaching a flower of its own species. More pollen is produced by wind-pollinated plants and compensates for the lower efficiency.

Pollen from the nondescript green ragweed flowers makes it to our nose and sinuses where it causes an allergic reaction we call “hay fever.” People unjustly blame goldenrod for “hay fever.” Goldenrod pollen is unlikely to get in our noses unless a bee enters our nose. If that occurs, the bee will be of greater concern than the pollen.

Some insect pollinated flowers are green but the insects find them. I wonder if they reflect ultraviolet light. Some flowers can utilize both wind and insect pollination. How I wish I knew more about the secret workings in nature niches. There is always something new to discover outside. Do not blame the insect-pollinated goldenrod for “hay fever.”

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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Rare butterflies make news

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Human health is aided by rare butterfly protection. Long term human economic interests are protected by aiding endangered butterflies. There are short term economic expenses that create concerns whether effort should maintain healthy habitats that serve people, butterflies and other organisms. Maintaining components of an ecosystem does not make sense to some people.

Paul Ehrlich described the importance well. He said if you are flying on a jet and a rivet pops off, it is not too concerning. When additional rivets holding the plane together come off, passenger concern increases. When enough rivets disappear the plane will dismember and crash, killing all on board.

Species in habitats are like rivets on a plane. There is little concern when one species disappears. As more disappear, our human economy and health falters when ecological services fail. Many cases document ecosystem simplification that caused human economic loss and death. The famous potato famine is just one example causing massive human death and a country’s economic collapse.

In 2000, a West Michigan Butterfly Association member, Kathy Bowler, discovered a population of the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly along the White Pine Trail in Algoma Township. Kent County was not known to have this species. Mo Nielsen and I verified the identification. Successful efforts by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan established the Maas Preserve to protect the habitat.

The Grand Rapids Press interviewed Leon Uplinger and me. Leon was Algoma township supervisor at the time. The press reported Leon thought all the fuss over a few butterflies is a waste of time and he did not expect the township to join any preservation efforts. He further stated, “I take the position that I would rather help a human life rather than another creature.”

I was invited to address community members in the Berrien Springs area regarding a different endangered species back then. The least expensive highway construction would likely impact the survival of the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly and possibly push it to extinction. An alternative that protected the environment costed more money but protected the environment, sustaining human community health. Some people felt like Leon did about the Karner Blue and some thought the habitat needed protection.

When our focus is narrow, we do not recognize how other creatures and the environment maintain economic, social, and environmental health for us, our kids, and future generations. The Karner Blue and Mitchell Satyr are rivets in the local ecosystem. Losing them is like losing two rivets from a jet. Environmental components needed by butterflies are also needed by humans. Nature Niches are connected in ways that are not obvious but they serve humans and other creatures.

The Mitchell Satyr depends on groundwater instead of surface water to support its habitat. The water picks up minerals and carries them to surface wetlands that support a unique variety of fen organisms that would not otherwise survive. The fen water feeds surface streams maintaining water quality. The wetlands serve human uses beyond simply saving a few butterflies. The least expensive highway proposed would damage surface habitat and groundwater with negative impact on human communities.

The short view was that greater expense to protect the environment and butterfly hurt people economically. The long view was that a greater expense protected the butterfly, community groundwater supplies, filtered pollutants from getting into surface water, enhanced fishing and hunting habitat, protected farmland, maintained pristine habitat for human enjoyment and maintained essential ecological functions provided by many species. Do you support the short or long view? Protection of the Endangered Species Act takes the long view. Efforts continue to undermine and eliminate the Endangered Species Act. Political parties are now separated by short and long view efforts.

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

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