Friday, March 18, 2016

Park Service to focus on Isle Royale wolf management issue; public comment period extended

By Michele Bourdieu

Isle Royale wolf. (Photo © and courtesy Rolf Peterson)

HOUGHTON -- Last year the National Park Service (NPS) began considering a broad range of management actions as part of determining how to manage the moose and wolf populations at Isle Royale National Park for at least the next 20 years. Following public comments and additional internal deliberations, the NPS has determined that it will revise and narrow the scope of the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) to focus on the question of whether to bring wolves to Isle Royale National Park in the near term, and if so, how to do so.

Over the past five years the wolf population on the island has declined steeply. There were three wolves documented on the island as of March 2015 and recent surveys confirm only two wolves as of February 2016. At this time, natural recovery of the population is unlikely. The potential absence of wolves raises concerns about possible effects on Isle Royale’s current ecosystem, including effects on both the moose population and Isle Royale’s forest/vegetation communities.

In an article published in the Winter 2015 UP Environment Newsletter of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC), Rolf Peterson, Michigan Tech research professor and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, states that the virtual absence of wolf predation on Isle Royale since 2012 has resulted in rapid increase in both the moose and beaver populations on the island. He adds, however, that moose populations on the mainland have recently declined.

"Mainland moose populations have always dealt with predators, both black bears and wolves, and climatic warming is not appreciably different between Isle Royale and the mainland," Peterson writes. "What is different is that white-tailed deer do not inhabit Isle Royale, and it is well known that deer in the Midwest harbor an endemic parasite known as the brainworm (Paraelaphostrongylus tenuis) that is fatal to moose. Fully one-third of the adult moose radiocollared by the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa on their reservation at Grand Portage, Minnesota, have died of brainworm. With moose not doing well in the upper Midwest (there is a petition for federal listing of moose as Threatened), Isle Royale may be an important reservoir for a brain-worm-free population of moose. Of course, if Isle Royale is a last reservoir for moose in the Great Lakes region, then it will be critical that the population stay healthy. The best assurance of health in a moose population is the presence of wolves."

Peterson will be one of the speakers at UPEC's Celebrate the U.P. event TOMORROW, Saturday, March 19, at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga. At 10:30 a.m. he will present documentary filmmaker George Desort's film Counting Wolves, in which Desort provides a behind-the-scenes look at the annual Winter Study of wolves and moose in Isle Royale National Park.*

The NPS held public meetings last summer and received thousands of comments from the public and stakeholders. Feedback was received from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 19 other countries. Many commenters urged the NPS to bring new wolves to Isle Royale as they fear the present population of wolves will die off. Others opposed management of the wolf and moose populations.

Following the presentations at the July 27, 2015, NPS Open House on the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose-Vegetation Management Plan/EIS, both Peterson and John Vucetich, Michigan Tech wildlife ecologist and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, told Keweenaw Now they favored restoring the wolf population on Isle Royale to assure the health of its ecosystem.**

A Detroit Free Press article posted Wednesday, March 16, 2016, comments on the NPS plan to narrow the scope of its EIS to consider the wolf question. The article quotes Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters' reaction as follows:

"'I remain concerned that the wolf population on Isle Royale is dangerously low. Not only are the wolves a part of Isle Royale’s heritage, but their presence can help control the moose population and preserve the ecosystem,' said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. 'While the Park Service must base their decision first and foremost on science and provide a full analysis of their plan, I believe narrowing the scope of the (study) is appropriate given the dire circumstances of the current wolf population.'"***

Public comment period extended

As a result of the revised scope, the NPS is offering an additional public comment period that will close 30 days after an amended notice of intent is published in the Federal Register.

"All comments already submitted have been posted online; however, we welcome additional input at this time," said Superintendent Phyllis Green.

The park encourages everyone to visit the project web page http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ISROwolves to review comments already submitted, read the newsletter, or provide additional comments. The newsletter includes four revised alternatives for wolf management. To read the newsletter with the revised alternatives being considered, go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=140&projectID=59316&documentID=71605 and click on the link to the pdf newsletter at the bottom of the page. Then you can click on Comment Now or go to the form at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=71605 to comment. 

The new Comment Period closes May 16, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. Mountain Time.

The public may also mail or hand deliver written comments to:
Isle Royale National Park
800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Editor's Notes:

* Click here for more info on Celebrate the U.P. (Inset photo: Rolf Peterson. Keweenaw Now file photo courtesy Rolf Peterson)


*** See the Detroit Free Press March 16, 2016, article, "Park Service limits Isle Royale study to wolves' future," by Todd Spangler.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Celebrate the U.P. with UPEC March 18-19 in Baraga

Celebrate the UP poster courtesy Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC).

BARAGA -- The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary (2016) at their Seventh Annual Celebrate the U.P. event Friday and Saturday, March 18-19, at the Ojibwa Community College in Baraga.

The event kicks off Friday, March 18, with the Quarterly UPEC Board Meeting from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and UPEC's Annual Meeting at 6 p.m. All are welcome at these meetings. At 7 p.m. the film Ojibwe Drum Songs, by Michael Loukinen, will be shown. Featuring several local Native drummers, the film blends story, song and dance and profiles an Elder from the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, his interpretations of stories, and the songs that come to life around the drum.

On Saturday, March 19, an opening ceremony with Native Drummers will be held at 9 a.m., followed by 12 speakers on various UP topics (3 per time slot: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.).

Children’s activities will be held from 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday.

At 3:30 p.m. UPEC will host featured speaker Trevor Thomas, the only blind professional long-distance hiker, who has hiked nearly 20,000 miles on America’s long trails including both the Appalachian Trail (2,180-mile journey from Georgia to Maine) and Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington) with his service dog. Don’t miss this exciting talk along with all the others throughout the day Saturday!

A Meet-n-Greet Reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

All events are FREE and open to the public!

Presenters include the following:
  • Chris Swartz, KBIC Tribal Council Chairman, Opening Ceremony, Welcome
  • Bill Rose, geologist. Keweenaw Geohistory and Geoheritage
  • George Desort’s new film, Counting Wolves, with Rolf Peterson, Michigan Tech wildlife biologist, to put things in perspective
  • Joseph Youngman, expert birder. Birds of the Keweenaw -- Migrants and Breeders
  • Joe Bouchard, Baraga County Trails in Motion. Happy Birthday Baraga Trails!
  • Doug Welker, North Country Trail in Baraga County.
  • Chris Burnett, Forester and UP Land Conservancy. Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk
  • Maria Janowiak, US Forest Service. Climate Change and Upper Michigan’s Forests: Risks, Opportunities, and Ways to Adapt
  • Carolyn Peterson, Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Study and Community Volunteer. Reaching Over the Fence (to people who are different from us)
  • Jerry Jondreau, KBIC Tribal Forester. Mending an Ancient Relationship: The Story of the Anishinaabeg From Wiikwedong. A History That Shaped the Present Landscape and a New Way Forward
  • Nancy Langston, Michigan Tech social sciences professor, Sustaining Lake Superior (and what we can learn from the past)
  • Evan McDonald, Keweenaw Land Trust, and Whitey Soli. Private Land Conservation: Benefits and Effects Now and in the Future
  • Gene Mensch, KBIC Fisheries Department. The KBIC Fisheries Program
  • Nancy Mannikko, Baraga County Historical Society, History of Industrialized Forestry and the paradigm shift from crosscut saws and hand loading to no man on the ground, no hand on the tree
  • Featured Speaker, Trevor Thomas, World’s only Blind Pro Hiker. Check out his website.
Click here for the schedule of presentations and room numbers.
Learn more about the speakers and their presentations here.

Directions: Just west of the Casino on M-38 in Baraga turn north on Beartown Rd., go north ¼ mile and turn right. Click here for a map.

Conservation District to hold Public Meeting on Torch Lake Watershed MARCH 23 in Lake Linden

This map shows the extent of the Torch Lake Watershed. (Image courtesy Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District)

UPDATE: Because of inclement weather, the Torch Lake Watershed Project meeting has been POSTPONED to Wednesday, March 23. It will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lake Linden-Hubbell School auditorium.*

LAKE LINDEN -- The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) will host a public informational meeting on the Torch Lake Watershed Project from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, MARCH 23, at the Lake Linden-Hubbell School auditorium.

Carol MacLennan, Michigan Tech professor of anthropology, presents a history of pollution problems in the Torch Lake Watershed at the Feb. 10 Torch Lake Watershed Project meeting in Lake Linden. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

This meeting will provide information on previous restoration work along Torch Lake and additional water quality information. Guest speakers will review the history of Superfund work, current sediment mercury levels, fish consumption recommendations, an update on the state and regional Area of Concern meeting and next steps to take to continue remediation of Torch Lake.

This meeting is open to all interested individuals. RSVP is appreciated but not required. Please call (906)482-0214 or email meral.jackson@macd.org to notify Meral Jackson of HKCD that you will attend.

Funding is provided by the Areas of Concern Program, Office of the Great Lakes (OGL), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

*Editor's Note: We originally announced the date of this meeting as March 16. We have updated it to March 23, as requested by Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Carnegie Museum to present "Small Streams and Great Lakes" Natural History Seminar March 15

Carnegie Museum will present "Small Streams and Great Lakes," by Amy Marcarelli, Michigan Tech associate professor in biological sciences, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15. (Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum)

HOUGHTON -- "Small Streams and Great Lakes" will be the subject of the Carnegie Museum's Natural History Seminar at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15.

Amy Marcarelli, Michigan Tech associate professor in biological sciences, will discuss what we do and don't know about the small streams ringing the Great Lakes, focusing on those surrounding Lake Superior, including historical and current stresses and restoration efforts.

Refreshments and introductions will be at 6:30 p.m. and the talk and discussion from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the ground floor Community Room. All seminars are free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible.

March's Natural History seminar is sponsored by Statewide Real Estate of Houghton.