Earth Month, Day 9: Great Lakes Duo

As Earth Month continues on The Nooze, we bring you two stories this Tuesday,(Twosday?) looking at some big issues and big names in the Great Lakes Basin. Gary WilsonFirst, Gary Wilson with the Great Lakes Echo sits down in a rare one-on-one interview with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to talk about Asian carp, an aging oil pipline, and pet coke storage:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: 'Atmosphere of Crisis' Needed for Stronger Action on Asian Carp

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder brought his Great Lakes message to Chicago today as the region’s governors gathered in Chicago for an annual meeting.

Snyder co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The two executives revived the dormant governors group on Mackinac Island last year and the Chicago meeting is an attempt to maintain momentum.

I sat with Snyder at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium overlooking Lake Michigan and he shared his thoughts on physical separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, the 60-year-old Enbridge pipeline that transports tar sands oil through the Straits of Mackinac and the volatile pet coke storage issue... Read more.


john flesherAnd from John Flesher with the AP, a closer look at the Enbridge pipeline, and the higher-ups who are pressuring the company to prove that the pipeline is safe:

Officials Seek Assurances from Enbridge on Pipeline

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan’s attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge and obtained by the Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

“Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects,” their letter said. “And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes.”... Read more.

Workers pull oil-soaked absorbing booms from the Kalamazoo River near Marshall on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010. (Photo by Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press)



Earth Month, Day 3: Mongolia and the Mekong

josh zaffosFor today's Earth Month installment, we bring you a two-fer: A pair of essays from Colorado-based writer Josh Zaffos, who traveled to the other side of the globe to report on some big stories from some beautiful places. An hour’s drive east of the city of Ulaanbaatar, a steel statue of Mongolia’s legendary warrior Genghis Khan rises 131 feet above the country’s 68 million-acre grassland steppe. © Nick Hall

Giant Steppes: Protecting Mongolia's Grasslands in the Face of a Mining Boom

 Amar Purev, a square-jawed ranger with a no-nonsense demeanor, peers through binoculars from the window of an SUV as it bounces along a double-track path through a green-and-golden sea of hip-high grass. He spots only a few gazelles in the distance, but when the vehicle crests a hill, it halts: Fifty yards away, hundreds of gazelles and their calves graze on stipa, or feather grass. Before Purev can open his door, the animals take off, coursing 40 miles per hour across the flat and boundless expanse that reaches to the horizon.

This grassy ocean is Mongolia’s Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve, a protected area of more than 1 million acres. It is part of a 68 million-acre expanse of grasslands that stretch from forests to desert across the country’s Eastern Steppe. The steppe is the largest intact temperate grassland on Earth, and this reserve protects calving habitat for the Mongolian gazelle, whose herds can eclipse the horizon with thousands of animals. Scientists estimate the gazelle population here at a million, rivaling the wildlife herds of Africa’s Serengeti... Read more.


Life on Mekong Faces Threats as Major Dams Begin to Rise

A villager washes in the Mekong, with Xayaburi Dam construction in background. (Photo courtesy International Rivers)

In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.

The giant catfish, among the planet’s largest freshwater fish species, is now rare throughout the entire Mekong River Basin. While overfishing and past practices, such as dynamiting or electroshocking pools in the river, contributed to the species’ decline, a much larger threat now looms for aquatic life and human populations along the Lower Mekong River: dams... Read more.

Now accepting applications for our 2014 North Carolina Institute!

Highway 12 on North Carolina's Outer Banks, washed out following Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo by Tom Mackenzie, USFWS IJNR invites applications for its North Carolina Institute, an expenses-paid learning expedition that will cover natural resource, economic and human health issues from the research triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Content of the fellowship program will not only be relevant to journalists along the Eastern seaboard but also throughout North America. Radio, television, print and online journalists of all ages and experience levels are eligible to apply.

On the North Carolina Institute, journalists will:

  • Observe the EPA’s ongoing clean up efforts at the Ward Transformer Superfund site, considered one of the first cases in the U.S. environmental justice movement.
  • Visit the lab of world-renowned toxicologists working to understand how industrial chemicals affect human health and the environment and how early life exposures may lead to later life consequences.
  • Tour large and small-scale farm operations to talk about the trade-offs involved in producing food and protecting freshwater resources.
  • Slog through the muck of a saltwater marsh at low-tide to observe cutting edge experiments in oyster reef conservation.
  • Stand where the eastern U.S. meets the Atlantic Ocean to discuss controversial infrastructure projects, including a billion-dollar bridge along NC Highway 12, as communities struggle to plan for rising seas in a state that prohibits them from using the latest climatological projection

These are just some of the stops planned on an Institute that will travel from the Raleigh/Durham area to the Outer Banks and back. The trip will also include programming on wetland restoration efforts, North Carolina’s struggling commercial fisheries and using digital media to tell environment stories better.

Curious to find out more? Click on this great interactive map to find out where we're headed and what we'll be doing! Be sure to check out the info and photos at all the different stops:

NCI map workaround

Sound good? Apply now!

Alumni Speak Up! Chris Engle on Why You Should Support IJNR

 This year, IJNR brought more than 50 environment journalists out into the field to learn firsthand about critical natural resource issues.

Over the next few weeks some of our newest alumni will share their thoughts on their Institute experiences - and why you should support IJNR!

Chris Engle boatChris Engle Gaylord Herald Times Asian Carp 2011, Mining Country 2013

My best work as a news, environment and outdoors reporter comes from what I call "field trips" - days spent immersed in my subject rather than basking in the glow of my computer screen or fluorescent office lighting.

Nowhere else have I found field trips as inclusive and engaging as those through IJNR. I got my first taste in 2011 by dodging, then eating, flying Asian carp, and visiting "ground zero" for their invasion: an electric barrier on the Chicago River with a tendency to flicker on and off.

I eagerly climbed back on the bus in 2013 to tour the mines and boomtowns of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin. We descended 600 feet toward the richest nickel rock in the world, walked through Hell on Earth (aka a taconite pellet plant) and howled with wolves under a full moon.

IJNR connected me, on professional and personal levels, to the people and places that make the story come to life. I am a better reporter for it, and my community is better  informed because of it.

- Chris Engle


Help IJNR continue its work, and help more journalists like Chris cover the nation's most important environment stories. Please consider making a one-time, tax-deductible donation, or even better, pledge to make a recurring donation - monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

Prefer not to donate online? Checks can be sent to:

IJNR P.O. Box 1996 Missoula, MT 59806

Paige Engle says, "I love getting out in the field! Please donate so more journalists like my dad can get out in the field too!"

Help Keep the IJNR Bus Rolling!

donate_button It's that time of year again folks: Annual Appeal time!

This year, we've unveiled our "Keep the Bus Rolling" campaign. IJNR alumni know the much-loved and ever-important role that the bus plays on each of our Institutes. That's why we're asking alumni and friends to pitch in, and help pay for the bus costs for our three 2014 Institutes (more on those coming soon!).

Help us fill the bus by the end of 2013!

The bus costs for each Institute are roughly $5000. Won't you help us raise $15,000 by the end of 2013, to make sure dozens of journalists get to hit the road next year?

Help make sure it doesn't come to this!


Ocean Acidification, Climate-Impacted Open Space, EPA Rules, and Front Range Floods

Some great new stories for your Tuesday reading!

Craig WelchFirst, an incredible series from Craig Welch and his colleague Steve Ringman at The Seattle Times, about ocean acidification. They traveled to the ends of the earth to create this multimedia piece, and it's not to be missed! Stunning photos, great video, insightful, top-notch reporting.

Sea Change: Ocean Acidification

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away... Read and see more.



lauren sommerNext, from Lauren Sommer with KQED Science in San Francisco, another great multimedia piece investigating how warmer global temperatures will impact that city's landscape. Great interactive maps and charts!

Warming Climate Could Transform Bay Area Parks and Open Space

Sommer_blue oak

Now, with temperatures on the rise, land managers and scientists are beginning to ask how the Bay Area’s landscape will withstand climate change. As plants and animals are forced to shift, some of the Bay Area’s iconic parks and vistas could look dramatically different.

Scientists say signs of those changes may already be appearing in places such as the hills east of downtown San Jose.

“This is a blue oak,” says Nature Conservancy ecologist Sasha Gennet, examining the small, dark leaves of a towering tree on the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, part of the University of California Natural Reserve System.

She pulls the branch down to eye level. “You can tell because they’re a little bit bluish or grayish,” she says. “They’re probably the hardiest of the oak species in the California. These are the ones that you see in those hottest, driest places, hanging on through the summer.”

“But even these have their limits,” she adds, “and we’re starting to see what those limits are.”...Read more.


Tiffany SteckerFrom Tiffany Stecker with ClimateWire, writes for Scientific American about some new rules for power plants:

EPA Announces CO2 Rules for New Power Plants

U.S. EPA will unveil a proposal for the first-ever technology standards to rein in power plant emissions of carbon dioxide today.

As rumored, EPA will require that all new natural gas-fired plants emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and coal plants no more than 1,100 pounds per megawatt-hour. Although a combined cycle natural gas plant could easily meet the standard, even the most efficient coal plant would have to cut about 40 percent of its CO2 emissions.

To do this, facilities would have to incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in their construction, a promising but relatively new method of capturing CO2 and either storing it underground or using the gas for industrial purposes... Read more. 


Cally CarswellAnd Cally Carswell with High Country News weighs in on the recent disaster in Colorado:

Why flooding on the Front Range is an inevitable disaster

Excuse my language, but: Holy. Shit. That's what all of us natural disaster-curious Internet voyeurs were thinking last week, our jaws giving in to gravity as we clicked through images from Colorado's Front Range of people trudging through baseball fields covered hip-high with waterroads sliced apart by whitewater, and cabins transformed into riverine islandsWeather Channel CEOs were, no doubt, rubbing their hands together and cackling, while the usually staid National Weather Service called the rains "biblical." "There’s no scientific definition of 'biblical,'" reported Climate Progress, "but the flooding has been unlike anything local residents have ever seen before."... Read more.



Mining Country Follow-up

Here are some final posts from our 2013 Mining Country Institute, and links to some of the many stories that the journalists on the trip are already cranking out! IJNR's own Adam Hinterthuer reports from the road:

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Mary Catherine O'ConnorFrom Mary Catherine O'Connor, a story for Outside Magazine online about the status of wolves in the public eye:

Wolf Tourism: So Hot Right Now

It's hard to be stealthy in a 40-foot motor coach. But Phil, our fearless driver who had been schlepping the 20 of us journalists around Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin all week, did his best as we ventured deeper into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in search of wolves. 

Our secret weapon was Dave MacFarland, carnivore staff specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Wildlife Management. He had scouted the area earlier and had found some signs of the local Pembine pack. But the scat was days old so he wasn't very confident that any wolves would be close enough to hear his howls... Read and hear more.

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chris engle and raccoonChris Engle with the Gaylord Herald Times and Petoskey News covers the region's wolves from a different angle:

Wolf hunt on for 2013, up to voters in 2014

UPPER PENINSULA — Michigan’s first wolf hunt in 50 years could be its last, at least for the foreseeable future, as referendums will put the fate of further hunts in the hands of voters.

Licenses will go on sale late this month for the 2013 season, the first state-sanctioned wolf hunt since Michigan stopped paying a bounty on wolves in the 1960s. 

A total of 1,200 licenses will be available starting Saturday, Sept. 28 and hunting opens with Michigan’s rifle deer season Friday, Nov. 15. 

A harvest quota has been set at 43 wolves.

Brian Roell, a wildlife biologist and field wolf specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Marquette, said Michigan’s wolves are a “success story,” re-establishing themselves in the Great Lakes State after earlier attempts to transplant them to the Upper Peninsula failed... Read more.


Chuck QuirmbachAnd from Chuck Quirmbach with Wisconsin Public Radio, a whole handful of stories that came from the Institute:

DNR Says Wolf Hunt Quotas Will Adjust Population

Pipeline That Would Send Crude Oil To Superior Still In Planning Phase

Lake Superior's Ongoing Transformation, Courtesy of Climate Change

With its Legality in Limbo, Harvest Camp Begins Planning for Winter Occupation

Mining in Upper Peninsula: A Window into Northern Wisconsin's Future?

One State Over, A Soon-To-Be Mine Stirs Up Controversy of its Own

Chuck Quirmbach interviews Lake Superior. (Photo by Mary Catherine O'Connor)

Plastic in the Great Lakes, Pesticides in India, and New Mexico Bears in Trouble

New Nooze from a handful of great IJNR alumni this morning. john flesherFirst, from John Flesher with the AP, a look at a new threat to the Great Lakes:

Masses of Plastic Particles Found in the Great Lakes

In this 2012 photo provided by 5gyres.org is a sample collected in eastern Lake Erie showing tiny bits of plastic on a penny. Scientists discovered masses of floating plastic particles in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they’re widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario. They are trying to determine whether fish are eating the particles, which may come from city wastewater, and passing them up the food chain to humans. (AP Photo/Courtesy 5gyres.org, Carolyn Box)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Already ravaged by toxic algae, invasive mussels and industrial pollution, the Great Lakes now confront another potential threat that few had even imagined until recently: untold millions of plastic litter bits, some visible only through a microscope.

Scientists who have studied gigantic masses of floating plastic in the world's oceans are now reporting similar discoveries in the lakes that make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh water. They retrieved the particles from Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they're widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario, skimming the surface with finely meshed netting dragged behind sailing vessels.... Read more.


From Meera Subramanian writing for the New York Timesmeera subramanian, a story about India's ongoing - and sometimes tragic - struggle with biocides:

Bihar School Deaths Highlight India's Struggle with Pesticides

India is still reeling from the deaths of 23 schoolchildren in the village of Dharmasati Gandawa in Bihar on July 17 after they ate a free school lunch that was made with cooking oil tainted with the pesticide monocrotophos. The police say that the cooking oil might have been kept in a container that once held the pesticide.

The devastating event in Bihar reveals a larger problem in India that stems from the wide use of biocides in myriad forms, in cities and villages, in homes and fields. The organophosphate monocrotophos is widely used in India even as other countries, like the United States, have banned the chemical because it has “high acute toxicity,” according to the World Health Organization. In fact, the W.H.O. pressured India to bar the use of the pesticide in 2009. 

In 2011, India’s Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar acknowledged that 67 pesticides prohibited in other parts of the world were widely being used in India. If they are cheap and effective, these chemicals often remain legal, though their specific instructions and proper use are often flagrantly disregarded or simply unknown to the users. There is evidence that even pesticides banned in India continue to be used... Read more.

A farmer sprinkling pesticide in his paddy field in Visalpur village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on July 30, 2012. (Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters)


sarah gilmanIs a "fed bear a dead bear," as the adage goes? Not necessarily. Sarah Gilman with High Country News explores the idea that it all depends on where you feed the bear:

Can feeding bears in the backcountry reduce bear-human conflict?

It’s been a hairy summer in New Mexico. In late June, a black bear attracted by birdfeeders tore into a tent at a campsite near Raton. The two women inside managed to escape and scare the bear off with their car alarm. Earlier that month, north of Cimarron, a 400-lb bear clawed its way into the room of a bedridden 82-year-old woman, who sustained minor scratches on her face. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officials killed both bruins.

Meanwhile, bear sightings have become de rigueur in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and within Albuquerque. An extraordinary drought has gripped the state, and a late frost hammered bears’ natural food sources. The combo has left them with little choice but to roam for calories, which are often easily available in and around human homes in the form of unsecured garbage, pet food and birdseed... Read more.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Conservation Officer Kyle Jackson inspects a bear suspected of attacking an elderly Cimarron woman Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy New Mexico Game & Fish)

Dispatches from the Road: Crown of the Continent, Day 3 - Native Science, Species Reintroduction, Protecting Sacred Spaces

IMG_0344 - Version 2 On Friday, the group began the morning with a discussion about multimedia journalism with embedded multi-media guru Mike Scott.

Following the discussion, the journalists headed north to Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, where they gathered at the Blackfeet Community College to learn about the Native Science Field Center, where traditional knowledge of plants, animals, places, stories, and language in taught alongside western science to students of all ages. The group also heard about natural resource education and management on the reservation, concerns and ambiguity about oil and gas development, and the Iinnii Initiative, a multi-agency, inter-tribal, transboundary working group that is attempting to bring free-ranging bison back to the Front Range.

Members of the Native Science Field Center and the Iinnii Initiative discuss traditional knowledge, western science, and bison reintroduction at Blackfeet Community College.

Panelists in this discussion included Helen Augare-Carlson, director of the Native Science Field Center; Melissa Weatherwax, also with the Native Science Field Center; Terry Tatsey, director of USDA programs at Blackfeet Community College; Keith Tatsey, USDA equity project coordinator; Keith Aune, senior bison conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and coordinator of the Iinnii Initiative; and Leroy Littlebear, Native American Studies professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.

Beaver pond in the Badger-Two Medicine, looking north towards Glacier National Park.

The journalists next visited the Badger-Two Medicine, a unique parcel of land adjacent to the Reservation and Glacier National Park. This area is culturally important to the Blackfeet, and is ecologically important as well, but has been threatened by oil and gas development and ATV use in the past. Motorized vehicle use is now banned in the area, and oil exploration has largely stopped, but not all subsurface leases have been relinquished, and the possibility of drilling in the future remains very real.


After hiking into the Badger-Two Medicine, the Fellows heard from Jack Gladstone, Blackfeet tribal member, about the tribe's origin stories and traditional beliefs. He also treated them to an impromptu, trail-side concert. Gladstone was joined by Kendall Flint, president of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance; Mary Riddle with Glacier National Park; Lou Bruno, also with the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance; and Steve Thompson, with the Cinnabar Foundation.

The Badger-Two Medicine.

Dispatches from the Road: Crown of the Continent, Day 2 - Collaboration, Predators, Working Landscapes

Day two of the Institute dawned sunny, and fellows gobbled up an early breakfast at the Flathead Lake Biological Station before boarding the bus for the Swan Valley and a long day of programming.

Melanie Parker, executive director of Northwest Connections, talks to the group about grizzlies, loggers, recreation, conservation, and collaboration.

At Northwest Connections in Condon, Montana, the group heard from executive director Melanie Parker about grizzly bears, conservation, and the area's long history of natural resource extraction, especially logging and hunting. She explained how, over several years, a community at odds came together to preserve the most important parts of the landscape, ecologically, culturally, and economically. She was joined by Chris Bryant with The Nature Conservancy, who explained the Montana Legacy Project, an ambitious program to conserve 310,000 acres formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber.

Gordy Sanders, research manager with Pyramid Mountain Lumber.

The group also heard from Gordy Sanders, resource manager with Pyramid Mountain Lumber, about how a family-owned mill has survived the changing economic climate and land management policies of the past few decades.

Eric Graham, range rider for Blackfoot Challenge, Jim Stone of Rolling Stone Ranch, and Greg Neudecker, Fish and Wilidlife Biologist, meet with the journalists at the DOT's composting facility in Clearwater Junction.

After spending a glorious morning in the Swan Valley, the group traveled south to the Blackfoot Valley, where they heard from a number of parties invested in protecting not only the area's predators - grizzlies and wolves, specifically -but also the livelihood of the area's ranchers, many of whom run cattle on land that has spent several generations in a single family. Seth Wilson with the Blackfoot Challenge led conversations about a carcass composting program facilitated by Montana DOT, as well as new efforts among ranchers to take a more pro-active management approach to their property and livestock. Joining him were Jim Stone of Rolling Stone Ranch, Bruce Friede with MT DOT, fish and wildlife biologist Greg Neudecker, rancher Bob Rawlins, range rider Eric Graham, and wolf biologists Ed Bangs and Mike Mitchell.

Jim Stone talks with journalists about management practices on Rolling Stone Ranch in the Blackfoot Valley.

Finally, the group boarded the bus for the 3 hour drive up the Front Range. Two episodes of road construction later, they arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, where they all agreed the view from the deck was well worth the wait. Over a spectacular home-cooked dinner, they heard from Randy Gray, former mayor of Great Falls, Montana, and rancher Karl Rappold about the history of the Front Range, and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.

View from the deck of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, looking west into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.Northwest Connection's dairy barn-tunred-classroom.The Swan Valley.