Part of the whirlwind of legislation considered during the outgoing Congress’ lame duck session was legislation that would designate the gray wolf a game species.
Opponents of the legislation think the move comes too soon after the wolf was delisted from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s endangered species list in January 2012. But proponents of the measure think that wolves need to be managed for the benefit of farmers and for public perception of the wolf, which might suffer if the wolf population proves detrimental to livestock, pets and people.
“You’re shifting the burden to the farmer. He’s got to figure out a way to stay up all night and keep a visual on animals to legitimately shoot a wolf,” said Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), who introduced the bill. “We’re looking for a balance, and one of the ways to get there is to allow the wolf to become a game animal, to use the hunt to balance it out.”
There are two sticking points for Doug Craven, director of the Natural Resources Department with the Little Traverse Bay bands of Odawa Indians.
First, before the status of an animal is changed, the state is required to consult with the tribes, according to section 26 of the Inland Consent Decree, which covers hunting and fishing rights.
Second, he said, he’s unsure of how solid the science is behind allowing wolf hunts. While Casperson and leaders of several tribes in Michigan, including Craven, met in Brimley recently to decide upon how to estimate the wolf population, Craven is worried about more than numbers. Wolves aren’t like deer or fish, he says.
“These are social groups that really heavily rely on the alpha male or alpha female,” said Craven. “If an alpha wolf is killed, does the group die, does it move, does it fight, does it have more of a tendency to prey on livestock?”
Little Traverse Conservancy’s Bailey inducted into Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame
Tom Bailey, executive director of the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, was inducted into the inaugural class of the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.
Back in 1984, a biologist named Mark Paddock approached Little Traverse Conservancy’s Tom Bailey.
Bailey was just a few months into his job as executive director of the conservancy, and Paddock had a big project for him: to convince his board of trustees to protect a 350-plus acre parcel of land, now called the Colonial Point Memorial Forest.
The forest, Paddock told Bailey, was full of red oak and large sugar maple — “magnificent forests,” he said.
“It was threatened to be cut down and lumbered,” said Paddock, who was then associate director of the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston. “It was the first big project the conservancy was taking on, and Tom, as well as the board, was a little apprehensive about the project.”
In fact, said Tom Lagerstrom, current associate director of the Little Traverse Conservancy, the board shot down the proposal to purchase the land at first.
“It was slightly less than a million dollar property at the time,” said Lagerstrom. Then, Paddock conferred with Bailey.
“Less than a year later, the board approved a fundraising event. Tom spearheaded it, put the pieces into place, and that was the first major project that the conservancy did,” said Lagerstrom.
If you ask Tom Bailey, director of Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, what he’s done for land conservation in Northern Michigan, you might get an embarrassed pause, then a lot of deflection of the conservancy’s accomplishments to the people he worked with over the years.
If you ask the Muskegon Environmental Research & Education Society, Bailey is worthy of the inaugural hall of fame class.
Harbor Springs teen faces life’s challenges with music
When Eddy Walda was 13, he was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy called facioscapularhumeral dystrophy.
The disease affects certain muscles in his body — mainly, the muscles of his lips, shoulder blades and upper arms. When he started being unable to raise his arm above his shoulders, he and his parents started pressing for answers.
Still, his condition is an ongoing, degenerative one, and it was causing Eddy to be unable to raise his arms or do sit-ups. In 2011, Eddy had two surgeries, one in June and the other in October. Doctors took a bone graft from his hip, put it between his shoulder blade and rib cage, then wired a plate to the top of the new bone. Then, over the two surgeries and 12 weeks, the bones fused together. This allowed him to raise his arms again.
But none of this has stopped him from teaching himself to play the piano.
Through the surgeries and recovery, he learned to play a one-handed piano solo that he then played at a state band competition. He earned a grade of 96 out of 100.
And now, at age 17, with 24 original compositions and nine recorded on an album, Eddy felt ready to put on a concert, which took place at the Harbor Springs Performing Arts Center. Half the proceeds raised by the show and the sales of his CD benefitted the Harbor Springs High School Band Boosters.
Eddy said the process of putting on a concert has felt like a job — one he loves. But he’s not invested in pursuing a career only in piano. Basically, he wants to take care of himself first. After all, he said, he can play piano after work.
“I plan to play as long as my body will let me, and I plan to write as long as my mind lets me,” he said.
Small bones spur steelhead research
Among the interesting research being conducted through the Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station on Lake Michigan in Charlevoix is work being done with the ear of a steelhead.
For scientists such as Central Michigan University researcher Kevin Pangle, however, those ears are more like passport stamps detailing the travel history of the fish.
Comprised of calcium carbonate, the otolith grows a new layer every day. Within each layer are embedded elements such as strontium, manganese and barium. The particular content of a layer within the ear bone directly reflects the environment in which the steelhead was born and lived.
“Let’s say we catch a fish out in Lake Michigan, and we can extract its otolith and look at the otolith chemistry,” said Pangle. “We can ask the question, ‘Where did this fish originate from?’”
DNR fisheries research biologist Jory Jonas said she thinks of dozens of ways she can use the research.
“It’s hugely valuable when we think about having to protect an area of critical importance,” Jonas said. “If, while we’re planning, we learn that this segment of the stream produces huge numbers of steelhead that survive, then let’s learn about that and see if we can help that along in other places.”
April Vokey, British Columbia steelhead guide, comes to town
At The Northern Angler Flyfishing Outfitters in Traverse City, one of April Vokey’s fly-tying workshop attendees asked if some material on a steelhead fly was blue heron.
“Yep,” she said. “Good eyes!”
Considering that blue heron is a protected species, the group wondered where the 28-year-old steelhead fishing guide from British Columbia got the material.
She found it, moldering in a marsh.
“I got it after picking off the maggots,” she said.
“Yeah, you are hard core,” one of the guys remarked.
From navigating the fly fishing waters in a sea full of men, to starting a business at the age of 23, to doing battle with a drunk driver, Vokey has had a more interesting career path than most in the fishing industry.
And now, in addition to guiding full-time, Vokey also makes a living telling groups of fly anglers things like “don’t get suckered into buying bad polar bear.”
She was talking about gathering materials to tie steelhead flies. Tying flies is part and parcel of the guiding service, Fly Gal Ventures, Vokey started in 2007, now in its fifth year of operation and on the rise.
Follow @MorganSherburne on Twitter.
2012: Wolf hunt legislation tops year's headlines
2012 year of review (December 26, 2012)