February 2, 2018
Lake Michigan Clearer Than Ever, But at a Cost
By Tony Briscoe/Chicago Tribune
Photo by Roman Boed/flickr
Decades ago, Lake Michigan teemed with nutrients and green algae, casting a brownish-green hue that resembled the mouth of an inland river rather than a vast, open-water lake.

Back then, the lake’s swampy complexion was less than inviting to swimmers and kayakers, but it supported a robust fishing industry as several commercial companies trawled for perch, and sport fishermen cast their lines for trout. But in the past 20 years, Lake Michigan has undergone a dramatic transformation.

In analyzing satellite images between 1998 and 2012, researchers at the Michigan Tech Research Institute were surprised to find that lakes Michigan and Huron are now clearer than Lake Superior. In a study published late last year, the researchers say limiting the amount of agricultural and sewage runoff in the lake has had an immense impact. However, the emergence of invasive mussels, which number in the trillions and have the ability to filter the entire volume of Lake Michigan in four to six days, has had an even greater effect.

“When you look at the scientific terms, we are approaching some oceanic values,” said Michael Sayers, a research engineer at Michigan Tech and co-author of the study. “We have some ways to go, but we are getting a lot closer to Lake Tahoe.” 
EPA Reverses Course on
Bristol Bay Mining Plan
By Dasha Eaton/npr.org
Photo by Emma Fosburg/flickr
The Environmental Protection Agency said in a surprise announcement that it is putting on hold a plan to do away with Obama-era proposals to restrict mining at a southwest Alaska watershed. But the EPA also said it would continue to consider permit applications from those hoping to extract copper and other minerals from the proposed Pebble Mine.

The proposed Pebble Mine is located about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage and roughly 100 miles upstream from the Bristol Bay watershed, one of the world's most important sockeye salmon fisheries.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said  in a statement  that Bristol Bay fisheries deserve protection and that the proposed Pebble Mine may pose an "unacceptable" risk. In the announcement, Pruitt said, "any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there."
Logging Crackdown Offers Hope for World’s Forests
By Richard Conniff/The New York Times
Photo by Esperanza/flickr
Strange as it may sound, we have arrived at a moment of hope for the world’s forests. It is, admittedly, hope of a jaded variety: After decades of hand-wringing about rampant destruction of forests almost everywhere, investigators have recently demonstrated in extraordinary detail that much of this logging is blatantly illegal.

And surprisingly, people actually seem to be doing something about it. In November, the European Court of Justice put Poland under threat of a 100,000-euro-per-day fine for illegal logging in the continent’s oldest forest, and early this month Poland’s prime minister fired the environment minister who authorized the logging.

In Romania, two big do-it-yourself retail chains ended purchasing agreements with an Austrian logging giant implicated in illegal logging there. And in this country, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, normally dedicated to free trade at any cost, has  barred a major exporter  of Peruvian timber from the American market after repeated episodes of illegal shipments.
As Louisiana Land Recedes, Tabasco Fighting Back
By Tristan Baurick/nola.com
Photo by Louisiana Sea Grant/flickr
The McIlhenny family fortune is hidden in barrels black with age, encrusted with salt and draped in cobwebs. They sit in a warehouse, stacked six-high in rows of 150 or more. Fiery peppers and a salty brine are aging inside the barrels, turning into one of the world’s most popular hot sauces: Tabasco. 

A giant wave nearly swept it all away. In 2005, Category-3  Hurricane Rita  blew in from the Gulf of Mexico, grabbed hold of Vermilion Bay and pushed it into Avery Island, Louisiana, home base of the McIlhenny Co. since 1868. 
It might be a good time for the McIlhenny Co. to move. Family members admit that day may come. But not without a fight.  

The company is mounting an expensive and ambitious effort to protect its ancestral homeland and corporate headquarters. It’s poured millions of dollars into a large levee, pump system and backup generators. In the marshes, the company is taking a multifaceted, almost obsessive approach to restoration, planting grasses to reclaim land, filling in canals and re-engineering the flow of water in and out of the bayous surrounding the island. 
Interior Opens More Land to Public Access
By Joel Webster/TRCP
Photo by BLM New Mexico/flickr
As we round the corner into year two of the Trump administration, there is plenty to debate about the Interior Department’s track record on conservation and how the agency plans to safeguard some of our best places to hunt and fish.

I think what we can agree on is that DOI is moving things in a positive direction on public access to our nation’s public lands.

The Interior department’s focus on expanding access has been building since March of 2017, when Secretary Ryan Zinke signed the first of two hunting-and-fishing-focused Secretarial Orders. The first directed the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service to develop reports that (among other things) would identify ways to expand recreational access to public lands.

Then, in August, DOI went forward with acquiring 4,176 acres of private land adjacent to the 16,000-acre Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico, which until that time was completely landlocked by private ranches. Because of this acquisition, the Sabinoso area is now open and accessible to all Americans.
"The silence of nature is very real. It surrounds you, you can feel it."

- Ted Trueblood
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