Forests FOR fish, BY fish!

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Forests and rivers, bears and fish…how are they related, and why is it important?

The rivers heading through the midImage result for animals eating salmondle of a forest are teeming with life! Frogs, fish, muscles, river otters, and ducks are surviving off of that water. The forest has many animals that feast off of these fish (in this scenario, specifically salmon) that run through the woods. Typically when you think of salmon jumping up a river, you’ll picture the bears that eat them; however Image result for salmon in the treeseagles, wolves, bobcats, and river otters also take advantage of the salmon runs. You see, the salmon start off in the inland springs, but as they mature they make their way to the sea to finish growing. The ocean offers a special isotope that the fish then bring back to the forests. By the time the salmon are ready to spawn, they return to the inland rivers to lay their eggs and then die. As the fish decompose, the forest thrives from that isotope and produces massive trees that shade the rivers to keep them further cool (which the fish like), stabilize the shoreline and river banks, and cleans the waterRelated image for the fish. While you wouldn’t think that trees and fish are connected in a cycle, they are! To better learn how the trees thrive off the fish,  watch this video!

Are you an educator interested in raising salmon with your class to then release into your local rivers? Then I encourage you to check out the Salmon in the Classroom project! It’s beary cool!Related image

In case you need a break on a slow day at work, Explore.org has a ton of ‘live’ camera feeds on different wild animals and natural areas. Now, I say ‘live’ only because if the camera goes down, or if there is nothing happening on camera, they will play a previously recorded chunk of video so you can watch real animals. Image result for animals eating salmonMy personal favorite is to watch the bears! Once they capture a salmon, you’ll often see them leave the screen to presumably eat the salmon and then poop out its nutrients later. Or maybe the bear will take it’s lunch into the forest to consume it, and leave behind the fish remains. Either way, the nutrients from the fish are now available for the trees to utilize!

Want to know what you can do locally to protect the water, and therefore protect the fish that live in it, the animals that eat the fish, and the forests that these animals call home? The Michigan Water Stewardship Program is a great resource to learn how to protect your local watersheds! Keep an eye out for their new website that is expected to be launched this fall!

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Michigan’s Big Tree Hunt

Releaf MichiganWhile you’re waiting around for the fireworks to start this weekend, or maybe you are headed up north to get lost in the woods, take a look around you at the trees! Trees are pretty amazing and, like people, come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention color and texture too! ReLeaf Michigan is a statewide volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) tree planting and education organization.

ReLeaf Michigan’s mission is to educate the public on the value of trees and how to properly select, plant, and maintain them. Their board is made primarily of arborists and tree experts who are passionate about preserving one of our state’s greatest resources: our trees! ReLeaf Michigan has worked with over 400 communities across the state. Working with community volunteers, they have planted nearly 30,000 trees on public property in Michigan’s cities, townships, and villages! Unlike most other volunteer-driven tree planting organizations, ReLeaf Michigan plants trees that are already substantial in size, at least six-feet tall and 1.5″ to 2″ trunk caliper, resulting in much higher rates of survival.

But the best part is that the ReLeaf Michigan’s 14th Biennial Michigan Big Tree Hunt Contest is underway! Can you find the biggest tree in your county – or maybe in the State of Michigan?! Grab your measuring tape, a friend or family member and head into the trees!

​Big trees are everywhere: in parks, along sidewalks… even your backyard! Take some time to enjoy fresh air and the majesty of the trees that surround us. By identifying and measuring big trees, you will be taking part in a statewide effort to track these vital, historical, living monuments. For every four trees that die due to old age, disease or development, only one tree is typically replanted. Why do we need trees? Tree provide us with air, water, soil, energy, biodiversity, and economic diversity, not to mention that trees also reduce noise pollution, encourage neighborhood interactions, reduce graffiti and crime, reduce speeding in residential areas

​Mail in your completed form or submit online by September 3, 2019 for a chance to win contest prizes and have your tree named the largest in the Michigan Big Tree Hunt! [Applications/brochures can also be found at the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance office, located at 551 Courthouse Dr, Suite 3, Charlotte MI 48813.]

Who Should Participate? Anyone can! The Michigan Big Tree Hunt is a great activity for families, groups of friends, fun dates, or solo adventurers.  By identifying big trees you can take part in a statewide effort to track these living landmarks. You could find the largest tree in your county or even the state! The biggest trees are nominated for the State Champion Tree List and can even be entered into the official National Register of Big Trees.

Contest Rules:Image result for big tree hunt

  • Tree must be living and accessible for verification
  • Tree size is determined by circumference (measurement around trunk)
  • All entries must be postmarked or submitted online by September 3, 2019

Contest Prizes:

  1. Largest tree found by a Big Tree Hunter age 16 or older
  2. Largest tree found by a Big Tree Hunter age 15 or younger
  3. Largest White Pine (Michigan’s State Tree), any age
  4. Largest tree found for each county in Michigan
  5. Tree (of any species) that is larger than the current registered Michigan State Champion​

Please note: Trees already listed in the Michigan Big Tree Register are not eligible for prizes.

All participants are invited to the awards ceremony in late 2019. Details will be announced on the website, and on ReLeaf Michigan’s Facebook page.

What tree will YOU find???

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Why You Should Not Move Firewood this 4th of July

Image result for don't move firewoodFriends, warm weather, lake property, cook-outs, and fireworks…the backbone of Independence Day! While you are planning what to bring with them on your camping get away, one thing you can leave behind is firewood. While it may sound like a good idea to bring your own logs for the campfire, it’s actually a really bad idea. Do you know what kind of Image result for don't move firewoodtree it was? Do you know why it died? Did you kiln dry it? Can you guarantee there are no bugs or larvae or eggs on it?

Why does any of this matter? Moving firewood is the easiest way for invasive species and diseases to travel. Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorned Beetle, Beech Bark Disease, and Oak Wilt are just some of the few pests that can hitchhike on firewood and move wherever you go. Just one piece of contaminated firewood can destroy millions of trees in Michigan! Why is moving firewood such a bad idea? Tree-killing insects and diseases can lurk in or on firewood. These insects and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when people move firewood they can jump hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy our forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control.

But don’t worry! You can still have a roaring campfire, if you know how to burn safe! Don’t risk starting a new infestation of an invasive insect or disease. YOU have the power to save trees! Don’t take firewood with you on your camping trip, RV adventure, or up to your hunting camp. Don’t bring firewood back from your second home to your place in the suburbs. Don’t bring it with you on your scout’s camping trip. Instead:

  • Buy firewood near where you will burn it- a good rule of thumb is only using wood that was cut within 50 miles of where you’ll have your fire. Regulations vary in each state, so visit the Firewood Map to learn more.
  • Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs, or microscopic fungi spores, that will start a new and deadly infestation. Always leave it at home, even if you think the firewood looks fine.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Just because it is dry doesn’t mean that bugs can’t crawl onto it!
  • Tell your friends not to bring wood with them- everyone needs to know that they should not move firewood!

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Now you may say “My firewood has no bugs, holes, burrows, sawdust, or other weird looking stuff on it. Is it OK to transport it?” Even the experts can’t always see a couple of pin-head sized insect eggs, or a few microscopic fungus spores, in a pile of wood. These tiny threats are enough to destroy an entire ecosystem. Never assume wood that “looks safe” is OK to move- it is next to impossible for anyone to inspect firewood that closely.

It may seem logical to think that if you burn all of the wood completely, is it OK to bring it from far away. While this might seem reasonable. the answer is still no. You should not be moving firewood far distances. There are simply too many unknowns. What if a little chip of bark falls unnoticed onto the forest floor- and that chip contains invasive insect larvae? Or what if there is a sudden rainstorm, washing fungus spores off the wood, out of the back of your pickup, and into the grass? Even if you intend to burn all the wood completely, you still need to make sure it is local wood. The risks are simply too big.

You can still burn firewood, brush, and debris from the trees and woods on your property that poses no threat to your trees, or to anyone else’s trees, as long as you don’t move it very far. Letting it rot is totally fine. Chipping it on site to use as mulch under your shrubs is a good idea. Burning it in your stove or fire pit is fun and practical. Even bringing it to a nearby landfill or composting facility is OK, as long as that facility is right in your town. The problem would be if you take it to your cabin a few counties away, or if you stack it on the roadside for strangers to pick up and take it to who-knows-where. That’s what you want to avoid- moving it far poses a risk to the trees in that new location.

For more information about the Don’t Move Firewood campaign, or to look at more frequently asked questions, check out their FAQ Page!

 

 

 

Did you celebrate #NationalPollinatorWeek?

Image result for parts of an insect pollinated flowerThis week the entire nation has been celebrating pollinators. A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains. While bees are typically the first creature to come to mind, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, ants, bats, monkeys, birds, and even some lizard species are pollinators!

So why are pollinators important? They pollinate the majority of the worlds plants! Did you eat today? Thank a bee! Bees are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites you consume! No bees, no food. And we’re not just talking about honey here! Did you know that there are 20,000 known species of bees in the world, but only about 800 of them make honey?! Not only that, but it takes a hardworking worker bee her entire life (about 6 weeks) to make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. It would take over 22,000 individual bees to make a jar of honey…good thing Honey Bees are team players!

Speaking of Honey Bees, they make beautiful hives filled with rich honey comb. However, they are in the minority. Out of the 4,000 US native bee species, only about 3% of them live in hives. Nearly 75% of all the worlds bee species are solitary and live in ground tunnels. An easy way to help out these little guys is to build a native bee house; Mason Bees and Leafcutter Bees are big fans on these homes!  Honey Bees, while not native to Michigan, have wings that stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz! A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour. On a typical day, a honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a single collection trip! If you build any sort of bee house, for any species of bee, be sure to place it within 300 yards of flowers, water, and mud!

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If you and your family want to learn more about these buzzing pollinating machines, head over to East Lansing on Sunday June 24  from 1:00pm to 4:00pm to celebrate the Bee Palooza event! This annual event is sure to beeeeee fun for the entire family! Bee Palooza is a free, fun and educational event organized by volunteers to provide an afternoon of interactive activities centered on understanding the wonderful world of pollinators. Stations are set up around the gardens and can be visited in any order. On display are active honey bee and bumble bee colonies, examples of wild Michigan bees and wild bee hotels, plants and gardening practices to support pollinators, as well as demonstrations about how important bees are to food production. Guided wild bee tours and other hands-on activities are offered throughout the afternoon event. Get ready to interact with some bees, and maybe even hold one!

 

Watersheds, Stewardship, and You

Michigan is home to 11,000 inland lakes, tens of thousands of miles of rivers, streams, and creeks, 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, and (most impressively) 63 major watersheds.

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What is a watershed? Picture a topographic view of Michigan…you’ve got hills and valleys, ridges and low spots. Now if you were to trace the highest elevation (ridges) throughout the entire state, you would eventually get some strangely shaped ‘bowls’ – the high ridges on the edge, and the low spots in the middle. These 63 bowls are each a watershed, and whenever it rains, the water in it flows over and under land from high elevation to low elevation.

What’s important to remember about a watershed, is that within it, every backyard, every parking lot, every city park, every agricultural field or pasture, every roadway, and every storm water drain are all IMMEDIATELY connected! If there is an major oil spill in an abandoned parking lot, the entire watershed is now at risk of being polluted.

Now, I’m hoping you’re thinking to yourself “Wow! That’s crazy. I wonder how I can help do my part to protect my watershed?” GREAT QUESTION! Besides your basic elementary answer of don’t pollute, pick up litter, etc., you can try to build a rain garden, or a rain barrel system to keep runoff from your house on your property. By slowing down the water before it reaches the storm water drain, you’ll slow down the discharge of the river and hopefully prevent some catastrophic flooding.

Looking for more ways to be a water steward and keep the watersheds clean? Luckily, there are tons of organizations that are willing to help protect our waterways!!!
-An excellent source to find resources and to learn about water is at MI Water Stewardship. They have programs specifically for kids, educators, and homeowners, and they even have a Pinterest page too!
-The Michigan Lake Stewardship Association is a great resource to learn about your local watershed supporters.
-At the Michigan DEQ, they have an entire hydrologic data collection section where you can learn about point and non-point source pollutions.

Want some hands on stewardship? Check with your local Conservation District to see if they are hosting a watershed or river clean up day. See if any of the rivers in your area have an organization dedicated to keeping it clean, and offer to join it. Don’t have one? Gather a group of like-minded friends and start your own. Encourage scout groups and school groups to assist you! You’re never to young or old to protect your watersheds, so start today!

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Celebrating World Oceans Day…in Michigan?

June 8, 2018 is national World Oceans Day! It also falls during the Michigan Great Lakes Week, and is only a few days past national Wetland Month! So if today is all about the oceans, and Michigan’s claim to fame is ‘unsalted and shark free’, you may be wondering why we should care?

Well, for starters, we should care a lot! Michigan is home to 11,000 inland lakes, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, 6.5 million acres of wetlands, 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 74,000 acres of coastal dunes, a vast ground water system, 4 of the 5 great lakes that hold 20% of the worlds available fresh water, and all this Great Lakes industry supports over 660,000 jobs. The amazing thing about the Great Lakes is that they are all interconnected, and they lead to the ocean. Therefore, if I pollute the ground here in Charlotte MI, and a rainstorm comes and washes the pollutants into the Thornapple River, and the current carries it to the Grand River, which drains out into Lake Michigan, which flows through all the Great Lakes, and the rivers, and gulfs until eventually it ends up in the Atlantic ocean….you still think we shouldn’t care? Now, in hindsight, this may take a while. After all, it takes a freight about 8 days to travel from Duluth to the ocean, so for my litter from Charlotte to reach the ocean, it will probably take a LONG time. But that shouldn’t matter!

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Covering more than 70 percent of our planet, oceans are among the earth’s most valuable natural resources. They govern the weather, clean the air, help feed the world, and provide a living for millions. They also are home to most of the life on earth, from microscopic algae to the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. Yet we’re bombarding them with pollution at an alarming rate! In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that ocean-based sources, such as cargo ships and cruise liners had dumped 14 billion pounds of garbage into the ocean. Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year. And leading back to the idea of runoff pushing my mid-Michigan pollution into the rivers and oceans, studies suggest nearly 80% of the marine pollution comes from land.

The world’s largest collection of ocean garbage is growing. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic, floating trash halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Texas! The patch is not a solid mass of plastic. It includes about 1.8 trillion pieces and weighs 88,000 tons — the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The new figures are as much as 16 times higher than previous estimates.

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The fate of our seas is not only up to the government or industry. Our individual, daily actions matter, too. You can start by reducing water pollution and runoff at home, being more mindful of your plastic consumption, or organizing a cleanup of your local waterway. You can also support the work of your local Conservation District and other environmental advocacy groups as well as other businesses and organizations that work to preserve our coasts and waters.

 

Rain Gardens

I’m in love with the fact that the new gardening trend is for native plants and pollinator friendly plants! We have also seen some people (*where municipal ordinances allow) have let their lawns grow ‘wild’ and homeowners are not mowing on a regular basis to let there be more habitat for insects, thus attracting birds to their yard. If you’re looking for a way to add beauty to your property, and help insects and birds, AND help the environment, then you should plant a rain garden!

At a school event earlier this week, a child suggested a rain garden is a ‘special garden where it rains constantly and the rain is only allowed to fall there, and no where else’…. I like the thought process, but it’s not quite right. A rain garden is indeed a special garden that is typically located in a low area where water naturally drains to. A rain garden is an area created to collect run-off water with a coarse or porous soil mixture of sand or gravel beneath a bed of native plants. Run-off water collects in the rain garden, soaks quickly into the soils or is absorbed by the plants in the garden. As run-off water soaks into the ground, pollutants like sediment fertilizers and oil/grease are filtered out, and litter is all collected in one central area. This means that when groundwater reaches a lake or stream, it is cleaner!

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The idea behind rain gardens is to hold and collect the water so it can be slowly released at a later time – whether that is through soaking into the ground, evaporation, transpiration from the leaves, or released through the roots. Rain gardens also help hold the soil in place, and the native plants use their long roots to burrow into the soil, allowing the run-off water to soak further into the ground. As seen in the diagram below, most native plants have a much larger and more intensive root system. The first plant shown to the far left is your common Kentucky Blue Grass which is a popular lawn grass. The root system of this grass is less than an inch, whereas other plants have roots over a foot deep. Plant a young water loving tree in the rain garden, like a Cottonwood or a Willow, to extend those roots even further! You can find many species of water-loving plants will offer plenty of colors, aromas, and are helpful for our pollinator friends.

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So if you’re looking to find a new garden for your yard, or if you have a low spot where you couldn’t previously plant a garden, try planting a rain garden! Contact your local municipality to see if they can install one in a parking lot, or at the bottom of a road that is near a body of water. See if your neighborhood association or a local school would be willing to build one to service as a learning tool! A few days of hard work can turn into a permanent natural structure to help the environment!

If you live on the coast, and wish to restore your shoreline, you can find useful information here.
For more information about backyard rain gardens, click here or here.
To view the MSU Extension information about rain gardens, click here.
Or you can look at the MDOT suggestions for rain gardens here and DEQ’s nonpoint source program here!