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Where are the Mudpuppies?

mudpuppy2The University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and the Herpetological Resource and Management are asking for help in collecting dead specimens of Mudpuppies. Due to the extreme weather conditions this year, herpetologists are anticipating a large winterkill, which provides a unique opportunity to assess population health.

What is a Mudpuppy?

• Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander

Why Are They Important?

• “Bioindicator” species: Due to their sensitivity to pollutants and poor water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems

• Are the only intermediate host to the Endangered Salamander Mussel

• Great Lakes populations are declining, and the true abundance is currently unknown

How Can I Help?

Place the whole Mudpuppy(s) in ziploc bag, seal, and freeze the bag. Tissue samples may be placed in storage tubes containing ethanol.

Include the following information on a 3×5 card placed within the bag (using pencil) and on the outside of the bag (using permanent marker). In the case of tissue samples, label outside of tube with permanent marker.

1.) Observer

2.) Date

3.) Precise Collection Location

Contact one of the following people:

1.) David Mifsud 517-522-3525 DMifsud@HerpRMan.com

2.) Maegan Stapleton 517-522-3525 Stapleton@HerpRMan.com

3.) Amber Stedman 815-761-8941  AStedman@EMich.edu

4.) Greg Schneider 734-647-1927, 734-763-0740 ES@UMich.edu


Ann Arbor Unveils Plan for its Urban Forest

A2ForestAfter three years of study and gathering input from residents, businesses, forestry experts and stakeholder groups (including HRWC), the City of Ann Arbor is taking final public comment on their draft Urban and Community Forest Management Plan.

The Plan describes the status of the city’s “urban forest,” which includes all trees within the city, from the forests in Bird Hills and other parks, to the trees lining its streets and in back yards.  One of the findings of the plan is that trees provide $4.6 million in benefits each year to the city.  These benefits include reducing stormwater runoff , improving water and air quality, moderating summer temperatures, lowering utility costs and contributing to property values.  HRWC was a member of the Advisory Committee that provided input on plan development and fully supports the goals of the plan.

The City is accepting public comment on the plan until March 28, 2014.  Comments may be submitted via:

email:  kgray@a2gov.org
fax:  734.994.1744- attn: Kerry Gray
mail:  301 E. Huron St., PO Box 8647, Ann
Arbor, MI 48107- attn: Kerry Gray

Paper copies of the draft plan are available upon request.  Please contact Kerry
Gray at kgray@a2gov.org or 734.794.6430 x

Kris Olsson

Kris directs the Bioreserve Project, which aims to identify and protect the watershed's most ecologically important remaining natural areas, and works with local communities in the Portage Creek watershed to keep the creek healthy. Kris enjoys being outdoors and cuddling on the couch with her three dogs (and her two daughters, oh yeah, and husband too!)

Latest posts by Kris Olsson (see all)

Snow: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Bucking the conventional feeling this winter, I have been loving all of this snow — this is how every winter should be!  Avid cross country skiers everywhere agree.

Lest the record snow and polar vortexes (vortices?) distract us, or worse, make us wonder how we could be in the grip of global warming, take a look at the latest

New York Times article on the topic.

The article describes the alarming long term trends in snowfall and snowpack worldwide, and it reminds us all that, taken alone, local weather events on any given day or month cannot support or refute global climate change.

Among many alarming trends the article points out is that Europe has lost half its glacial ice since 1850; 2/3′s of Europe’s ski resorts could be closed by 2100; and the American West may lose 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by then.

In the Great Lakes region, the number of days with snow cover has decreased by 5 days per decade, since 1975. The average snow depth has also decreased.  Future projections predict later arrival of winter and earlier arrival of spring resulting in more precipitation falling as rain than snow  (GLISA, Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region).

Of course, global warming is not just about inconveniencing a bunch of skiers.  Those winter snows provide drinking water for us all and drought protection for farmers and forests.

So, next time you curse the snow delaying your morning commute, think about the likely future if current trends continue, and when you eventually get to the office or other workplace, give your Senator or Representative a call.

Get out and enjoy the snow while it's here!

Get out and enjoy the snow while it’s here!


Unadilla Township creates Green Infrastructure Plan

Joining Dexter and Lyndon townships in Washtenaw County and all communities in Oakland County, Unadilla Township has created a Green Infrastructure Plan that provides a map of its natural areas — woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, and waterways — and connections and pathways connecting them.  At a workshop facilitated by the Huron River Watershed Council as part of our Portage Creek Project, residents and officials from Unadilla Township studied maps of the township’s natural areas, topography, master plan designations, land use, and other natural assets, and drew over them onto transparent mylar natural area hubs, links connecting them, and special natural features such has Heron rookeries or rare plant communities. HRWC used the sketching to create the map and plan.

The township will use the plan to inform their land use planning and policy development, directing future development in a way that is in concert with their natural infrastructure.

HRWC will will hold a similar workshop for Stockbridge in January.  The Dexter and Lyndon township green infrastructure planning processes were also part of our Portage Creek Project.  Oakland County Planning and Development completed its Green Infrastructure planning program in 2009 — all of their communities now have plans and maps that inform their planning and policies.

Development Heating Up in Southeast Michigan

We need less of this....

We need less of this….

....and more of this.

….and more of this.

As this article in Crain’s Detroit Business describes, as Michigan rises from the Great Recession, housing and commercial development is coming back to Southeast Michigan and our watershed.

What does this mean for our watershed?  Should we “rouse the troops” and rejoin the fight against the development that raged throughout the 90′s and 00′s?

Here at HRWC, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to address the issue of development as it returns.  The greatest threat to our watershed is the altering of the watershed’s ecology and hydrology due to runoff pollution caused not by any particular sources, but by buildings, pavement, lawns, and farm fields.  And so, this is a very important issue for the watershed.

The typical development patterns of the recent past consumed large areas of farmland and natural areas and created large amounts of impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and rooftops.

To maintain the Huron Watershed’s health into the future, we need to encourage a different land development pattern; one that consumes less land per person and creates as little impervious surface as possible.  This means higher density where built infrastructure already exists, and the preservation of natural areas where “Green Infrastructure” (i.e. wetlands, forests, creeks, lakes, etc.) exists so those lands can continue to provide ecological services necessary to maintain quality of water, air, land, and life.

Here are some resources to check out to learn more about how Smart Growth can help preserve water quality:

HRWC publications related to Smart Growth


Protecting Water Resources with Higher Density Development

Protecting Water Resources with Smart Growth

Smart Growth Online





Osprey to wear backpacks in Southeast Michigan


A female osprey brings a fish to her fledging at Kensington Metropark.

A female osprey brings a fish to her fledgling at Kensington Metro Park. Photo: Jane Purslow , used with permission

Nearly absent from much of Michigan due to the effects of DDT and other pesticide use, Michigan’s Osprey population continues to recover year by year.  In Southern Michigan, monitoring efforts are in place to track the revitalization of this species. (See the Fall 2012 issue of The Huron River Report to hear about HRWC’s staff outing to visit ospreys nesting at Kensington Metropark).  Historically, Osprey chicks have simply been banded each year as part of a National effort to monitor the species.

This year, in addition to banding, three osprey chicks from area nests will be outfitted with “Backpack” satellite telemetry units.  These units were funded by grants from DTE Energy and American Tower Corporation and will help scientists track the young birds’ daily movement and seasonal migration patterns.

The exciting part is that anyone can follow along and find out where the birds are at any time on the DNR’s website. The DNR plans to use this website for educating youth and bringing wildlife into the classroom.

Please contact Holly Vaughn to schedule an osprey education program in your classroom: (248) 359-9062.

See where Michigan’s Osprey population is currently located >>

Anyone who observes a nesting pair of osprey is asked to contact Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan (OWSEM) or email osprey@owsem.org.



What is Your Green Infrastructure Vision?

GreenInfrastructureGeneralSEMCOG is partnering with HRWC and other members to develop a regional green infrastructure vision for Southeast Michigan. Green Infrastructure is both a network of green space and natural areas in our communities, along with built techniques such as rain gardens and bioswales that preserve the function of the natural ecosystem to benefit residents of the region.

For example:

Parks can add recreational opportunities.

Rain gardens along roads can clean the rain water before it enters our rivers and lakes.

Community gardens in urban areas provide a positive use for vacant land and a local food source.

Boat access sites can meet tourism and local needs to better use our nationally recognized lakes.

Results from this short survey will help support the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan and provide a basis for future natural resource planning. “Communities in Southeast Michigan are realizing the value of a strong natural resource base as a mechanism to provide recreational opportunities for citizens, increase tourism, and protect water quality,” said Amy Mangus, SEMCOG Plan Implementation. “The Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan helps create a roadmap for getting there.”

The brief survey asks questions pertaining to:

  1. The most important outcomes of green infrastructure
  2. What kinds of green infrastructure citizens would like to see (e.g., parks, rain gardens, trails)
  3. Where these natural areas should be located

HRWC’s own Green Infrastructure projects (focusing on both natural areas and built GI) will benefit from SEMCOG’s work on this regional vision. HRWC’s work will inform SEMCOG’s regional vision, which will aid in planning and securing funding for natural areas protection, greenway and trail development, and construction of green infrastructure for control of stormwater runoff.

You can give your input on green infrastructure planning to SEMCOG at http://bit.ly/15LhVQa

I Saw An Otter!

Photograph by Nicole Duplaix

Photograph by Nicole Duplaix. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/american-river-otter/

What a day on the river and around the watershed!

After a week of stupendous, gushing thunderstorms, Sunday, July 7 brought a beautiful Michigan summer day not to be spent inside.  My first treat was a 31-mile bike ride through 5 of the watershed’s some 26 creeksheds (5 of our 63 communities) in Washtenaw and Livingston counties, along rolling country roads winding by green farms, shady woodlands, and beautiful wetlands and lakes.

Next, a paddle down the river itself, from Delhi Metropark to Barton Dam.  The muddy, fast flowing river was practically spilling from its banks from the week’s storms, but the river carried our kayaks safely through rapids, runs, and stillwater, and it provided a zoo-ful of faunal sightings, including an osprey, a red-tailed hawk, which lazily circled back and forth over our kayaks, dozens of turtles (including little babies hiding in the reeds), a black-crowned night heron, a muskrat, kingbirds pirouetting over us catching flying insects, damsel and dragonflies frantically hooking up, and, yes, a river otter!

But wait, there was more!  A raccoon skittered across the Delhi Metropark entry drive; to cap off the trip, a red fox sauntered along Huron River Drive as we were on our way home!

These sites reminded me how fortunate we are to have the Huron River watershed, and why it is the prime recreational gem that it is:

  • The large areas of farmland, open space and natural areas that still remain in our watershed provide cool, clear, constant water to the river by absorbing rainwater and polluted runoff and slowly releasing it after cooling it down and filtering out dirt, excess nutrients, and other pollution.
  • Most of the river’s adjacent lands are part of the Huron Clinton Metroparks system, keeping it and its riparian area natural.
  • For much of its length, the Huron is a Natural River Zone, meaning any building along its banks must be set back 125 feet from the river, including a 50-foot buffer of natural vegetation.  The value of this regulation was clear to us as we paddled through the Natural River Zone.  Though we were surrounded by private lots on either side of the river, from our kayaks it lookedlike we were up north in a wilderness area.  The minute we left the zone, the scene changed.  Large homes loomed over the river, their treeless, manicured lawns (mowed right down to the riverbank) leaving no doubt that we were in a City.

The Huron River is the cleanest river in Southeast Michigan thanks to those who work to protect it by preserving open spaces and natural areas throughout its watershed and by enacting policies and regulations to preserve its quality.


Hope for Change on Climate Change?

Future impacts of climate change include heavier storms, which may over tax our stormwater systems.  Photo: http://www.isustainableearth.com

Future impacts of climate change include heavier storms, which may over tax our stormwater systems. Photo: http://www.isustainableearth.com

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a three-pronged strategy to address climate change.  The plan would cut emissions from power plants, fund alternative energy, and help communities enact measures to adapt to rising temperatures that are already occurring as a result of excess greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by human activities in the last century.

The plan would enact a set of rules that would result in reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17% from 2005 levels by 2020.

HRWC welcomes this development.  As described in HRWC’s  special climate change edition of the Huron River Report, global warming is predicted to have many impacts in our watershed, including stronger storms (resulting in increased polluted runoff), extinctions of native fish species, and hotter drought periods.

Through the Climate-Resilient Communities project, HRWC has been working with communities and local water managers to adapt and become more resilient to predicted changes in climate in our own watershed, so President Obama’s announcement is welcome.

Through the Saving Water Saves Energy project, HRWC has been raising public awareness of the water-energy nexus and teaching homeowners how water efficiency can actually help reduce the energy that is needed to pump, heat and treat water supplies thereby reducing carbon emissions too.

To show your support for federal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consider contacting the White House to express your views.

You can also check out the following national groups who are working for more action on climate change:

Natural Resources Defense Council


The Climate Reality Project

HRWC Kicks off Bioreserve Field Season

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently.  The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.

This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.

The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks.  For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake.  While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north.  The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.

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