As we continue to endure winter-like conditions through the end of March, I am remembering last year at this time – 70 and 80 degree sun, punctuated by a devastating tornado season, including one in our own backyard, in Dexter.
What’s going on?
Surprisingly, this cold spring weather, like last year’s unusually toasty and tempestuous one, can also be traced to changes to our Earth brought by the ever increasing greenhouse gases we are spewing into our atmosphere.
The Weather Underground web site, co-founded by a University of Michigan Meteorologist, publishes a number of blogs and web pages dedicated to the impacts of climate change on the weather. A couple of their recent blogs give good perspectives on how local weather is globally connected.
Surprised by the robust levels of snowfalls this year in the midwest, east, and Michigan’s north? The Weather Underground’s Dr. Ricky Rood gives a good explanation for how climate change can result in larger snowfalls in some areas of the country in his recent blog. It turns out, snow is more likely at temperatures in the low 30′s range than at colder temperatures. So, as northern areas have warmer winters on average, we can expect to see heavier snowfalls. (For all you skiers and other winter sports enthusiastic, don’t get too happy — with the heavier snow events come the higher average temperatures, so that snow is not going to stick around).
How about this meat locker we seem to be trapped in this spring? Dr. Jeff Master’s recent blog explains that, due to arctic sea ice loss, the jet stream has contorted to bring cold weather to the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe and near -record warm weather to Greenland.
Some good news came with Sunday’s New York Times article about the increase in the use of renewal energy all over the world and how it is quite feasible for the U.S. to likewise reduce our dependence of fossil fuels. For instance, countries like Portugal get 40% of their electricity from renewables. In fact, 13 countries got more than 30% of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011. The U.S. number is 12%.
The article goes on to describe a Stanford University study showing that New York State (not known for high winds or sunny days) could easily produce most of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
So, take heart and encourage your state and federal officials to support our transition to clean energy!
Thanks to funding from the Carls Foundation, HRWC has created a set of maps and GIS data the Livingston Land Conservancy (LLC) can use for their strategic conservation planning. Land conservancies throughout the State of Michigan are working on these plans in order to most efficiently use limited funding and other resources to target preservation efforts on the most important natural lands, such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, and also farmland. These plans are also required for conservancies to achieve accreditation.
HRWC began with its Bioreserve Map, which prioritizes natural areas based on 15 different ecological criteria, including size, whether a wetland or waterway is on the site, the potential for the site to be a groundwater recharge area, and connectivity with other natural areas. After discussions with LLC, HRWC added several more criteria, including whether a site was in a headwater area, whether a site harbored especially endangered ecosystems (such as conifer swamp or oak opening), and the existence of glacial features.
LLC will use the maps and GIS data in their day-to-day decision making about which lands to pursue for making land deals to permanently preserve natural lands and farmland, and also to create their strategic conservation plan to submit for accreditation.
Volunteer Vernal Pool Training
Help the Michigan DNR inventory Southeast Michigan’s Vernal Pools!
WHEN: Saturday, March 16, 10 am – 2:30pm (Alternate date if bad weather: March 30)
WHERE: Proud Lake Recreation Area
River Hawk Annex – Meeting Room
3500 Wixom Road, Commerce Township, MI 48382, (248) 685-2433
- Learn about vernal pools and why they are so important
- Become trained to identify, map and collect data on vernal pools
- Learn to identify frogs, salamanders and invertebrates
- Contribute to the state-wide vernal pools database
- This training involves hands-on practice outdoors so please come prepared for weather and mud (boots and rain gear)
- Bring a sack lunch. We will provide water and snacks!
- Volunteers interested in visiting one or more “potential vernal pools” in southeast MI in the following areas:
- Highland Recreation Area – Oakland Co.
- Proud Lake Recreation Area – Oakland Co.
- Pinckney Recreation Area – Livingston and Washtenaw Co.
- Waterloo Recreation Area – Washtenaw County
- Volunteers who can commit to visit one or more “potential vernal pools” at least 2-3 times during spring and summer
- No previous experience required
REGISTER: Please register by March 12th, No cost, but registration is limited to 30 people.
Contact Daria Hyde at email@example.com or 517-373-4815
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Parks Stewardship Program
Funding provided by: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,
with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency
“Mom, will it snow at all this winter?”
My 12-year old daughter has been especially distraught over the lack of snow this (and last) year. She has read about climate change and heard it on the news. She can’t understand why others (friends, other adults) are not also as alarmed as she is, and as sad about the loss of winter and, even more distressing, the imminent loss of beloved creatures like polar bears and other wildlife, innocent victims in her view.
During our last wave of strangely spring-like weather, I asked her if she’d like to go for a walk or a bike ride. She burst into tears. “I can’t do it! Every time I go outside I see the grass and can’t stop thinking about if it will snow again and about global warming!”
I managed to cheer her up, but find it difficult because I share, albeit with a more adult-like reserve, the same alarm and sadness about what climate change will bring to Michigan and the Earth.
Now, with President Obama’s surprise inaugural mention of his intended action on climate change, comes hope!
Here is what he said:
Let’s help the President make good on his word. Now is the time to get something done, before it’s too late.
We can start by simply thanking the President for his words and telling him we support actions to reduce climate change.
For guidance on how to participate in this movement to save the planet from climate change (I know, it sounds dramatic, but it is about saving the planet), see the opportunities below:
Start at home and save energy when you save water and vice versa. HRWC’s saving water, saves energy program has many tips for you to minimize your energy footprint.
Get involved with HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities project. We need your help getting your community involved in getting “climate resilient”!
Join Bill McKibben’s group, 350.org. Mr. McKibben is a respected author of many books on environmental issues. He has dedicated his life in the last few years on reducing climate change.
Join the Climate Reality Project, founded by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore.
A new build out report commissioned by Webster Township will help the township guide future development in a way that preserves its rural character and natural beauty.
The township commissioned Sarah Mills, a University of Michigan doctoral student at the School of Urban and Regional Planning, to perform the study, which shows the expected future level of residential and commercial development given existing allowable land uses in the township’s master plan and zoning ordinance. The study then describes several alternative “build out” scenarios given different changes to the township’s policies.
Under current policies, the township can expect to see a tripling of households, from 2,306 to 6,830. A build out study conducted by HRWC in 1992 showed similar results. Both studies measured resulting impervious surfaces, which is a leading indicator of water quality. Arms Creek, whose watershed is entirely within Webster Township, is currently a healthy creek with very little impervious surfaces covering the lands draining into it. Only about 5% of the creek’s watershed is covered by hard surfaces like roads, driveways, rooftops, or parking lots. The pattern of future development as predicted by current policies would cover up to 15% of the creek’s watershed with impervious surfaces.
However, under various alternative scenarios, using certain zoning tools designed to allow future development to occur, but in a more compact way, impervious surfaces can remain at a healthy level. The most effective of these tools included the use of transfer of development rights (TDR), where development at higher densities is transferred to areas where the community can accommodate increased development, and away from farming and natural areas where the community wishes to preserve rural character. HRWC conducted a study of TDR which also reached similar conclusions about its effectiveness at keeping impervious surface low and preserving water quality.
The township will examine all the alternatives described in the study, and they plan to use the study as a guide in developing policies that will maintain their community’s rural character as well as the health of Arms Creek.
There was a time in America’s history when rivers were so polluted that they caught fire.
A time when Lake Erie was pronounced “dead.”
Even our own Huron River ran different colors, depending on which industry was dumping its waste that day (see HRWC blog post for October 17, below).
We’ve come a long way since then thanks to the Clean Water Act, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. But now the U.S. Senate is considering a bill, S. 3558, that could undo decades of progress and attack the heart of the Clean Water Act.
Our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have made it easy to speak up for clean water through the link below:
The Clean Water Act is an American success story: Our nation’s waters are far cleaner today than they were 40 years ago. More waters are available for fishing, swimming and as drinking water sources. The act also protects wetlands, which help filter pollutants and limit flooding.
But S. 3558 would undermine that progress and jeopardize the health of our waters. This bill weakens the Clear Water Act in two critical ways:
- It limits the federal government’s ability to enforce clean water standards.
- It restricts the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to protect our waters from the most destructive waste dumping proposals.
We simply cannot afford to roll back 40 years of progress by allowing our waters to become increasingly polluted and dangerous.
HRWC has been participating in creating the City of Ann Arbor’s first Urban and Community Forest Management Plan for the last two years.
The plan set goals for increasing the size and maintaining the health of the city’s “urban forest,” which refers to all the trees growing in the city, from the forests in Black Pond Woods and Bird Hills Park, to the trees growing along the street, to the trees growing in residents’ back yards.
Besides the more obvious benefits the city’s trees give its citizens (Ann Arbor is known as “the tree city” after all), the trees and other natural features in Ann Arbor “soak up rain and runoff, stop erosion, and shade the streams and the river as they flow through the city,” says HRWC’s watershed ecologist Kris Olsson, who represents HRWC on the advisory committee overseeing the plan. ”Maintaining a healthy urban forest will keep Ann Arbor a great place to live as well as provide the city with $4.6 million in benefits, including stormwater management.
Draft recommendations for the plan are ready for public comment and input. Citizens can comment using the online survey and through the City of Ann Arbor’s new moderated town forum, A2 Open City Hall. The deadline for feedback is November 5, 2012.
For more details on the planning process and the benefits of the urban forest, see the city’s urban and community forest management plan web site.
An enthusiastic group of HRWC field assessors, who have been volunteering with HRWC’s Bioreserve Project over the summer, were rewarded Saturday, August 18, with a guided walk through one of the watershed’s many high quality ecosystems, the wet-mesic prairie on the north side of South Lake, in the Pinckney Recreation Area.
One of some 27 different ecosystems found in the watershed, a wet-mesic prairie occurs on moist, low lying areas that frequently experience flooding. The South Lake prairie (and South Lake itself) is part of a kettle depression created as the glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago.
Sally Rutzky, HRWC volunteer and Michigan Botanical Club member, led the group and identified over 30 different plant species. The group also encountered a number of wildlife, including praying mantii and a large, very cool looking spider. Any ideas on the species?
This area is considered a very high quality natural area because of the diversity of plant species and the lack of invasive species, partly due to the hard work of Sally and her fellow volunteer stewards, who participate in work days coordinated by the DNR stewardship program to remove invasive species like autumn olive and multiflora rose.
Washtenaw County will receive $2.275 million to purchase a 54-acre parcel of Domino’s Farms land to turn into a park.
Statewide, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants announced last week will support 99 recreation and land acquisition projects.
With a 50% local match from the county’s Natural Areas Preservation Program, the City of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Program, and the Ann Arbor Township’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program, an undeveloped, wooded parcel between Ford and Plymouth Roads in Ann Arbor Township will be purchased from DF Land Development.
The parcel will connect trails at the city-owned Marshall Nature Area to the east with trails on the University of Michigan-owned Horner-McLaughlin Woods and the county’s Raymond F. Goodrich Preserve to the north, creating about 270 acres of land with trails for public use, said Tom Freeman, NAPP coordinator.
The partnerships among the city, county, township, and university will make the trail system a unique one, Freeman said. The protection of this property also ends years of dispute about the future use of the property and it’s potential development.
The property is also in the headwaters of the Fleming Creek watershed, one of the healthiest creeks in the Huron. ”Protecting this property will create a swath of protected land all along these headwater streams, “said Jason Frenzel, HRWC’s Adopt-A-Stream Director, “These natural areas will be able to continue filter runoff water and keep clean, cool groundwater flowing into the creek.”
HRWC’s Bioreserve project field assessment volunteers have witnessed some pretty spectacular landscapes so far this field season! This includes extensive marsh and fen ecosystems in Lyndon Township and south of West Lake in Dexter Township. Volunteers are even taking their ipads out in the field to help with plant identification!
The field assessors are gathering data about natural areas in order to educate landowners about the ecological quality of their property and help conservancies and communities target their preservation efforts towards the most important natural areas.
For more information about the Bioreserve project, and if you’d like to join our field assessors, contact Kris Olsson
If you are a “Plant Person,” who can identify most wildflower, shrub, and tree species in a typical Michigan forest or wetland, we could especially use your help and expertise! You can join teams of assessors on these fun forays into the “wilderness!”