Acid Rain Study Show Substantial Decreases, But More Progress Is NeededWASHINGTON, D.C. -- Measurable improvements in air quality and visibility, human health, and water quality in many acid-sensitive lakes and streams, have been achieved through emissions reductions from electric generating power plants and resulting decreases in acid rain. These are some of the key findings in a report to Congress by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, a cooperative federal program.The report shows that since the establishment of the Acid Rain Program, under Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, there have been substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants that use fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, which are known to be the primary causes of acid rain. As of 2009, emissions of SO2 and NOx declined by about two-thirds relative to levels in the 1990s. These emissions levels declined even further in 2010, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Because emission reductions result in fewer fine particles and lower ozone concentrations in the air, in 2010 there were thousands fewer premature human deaths, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits annually leading to estimated human health benefits valued at $170 to $430 billion per year.“The SO2 [portion of the] program includes the use of a creative emissions cap-and-trade program that combines the best of American science, government, and market-driven innovation,” said Dr. John P. Holdren, director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the President for science and technology.Despite these emission reductions, the report also indicates that full recovery from the effects of acid rain is not likely for many sensitive forests and aquatic ecosystems. For example, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, an especially sensitive region, 30 percent of the lakes were receiving acid rain during 2006-08 in excess of the level needed to prevent harm.Based on models which analyze various emission scenarios, the report concludes that beyond current SO2 and NOx emission levels, future emission reductions would likely promote additional and more widespread recovery as well as to prevent further acidification in some U.S. regions.“The principal message of this report is that the Acid Rain Program has worked. The emissions that form acid rain have declined and some U.S. areas are beginning to recover,” said Doug Burns, lead author and director of the NAPAP and also a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist. “However, some sensitive ecosystems are still receiving levels of acid rain that exceed what is needed for full and widespread recovery. We have every reason to believe that recovery will continue with further decreases in emissions which is why further emission reductions would be beneficial.”The NAPAP reports to Congress on the latest scientific information and analysis concerning the costs, benefits, and environmental effectiveness of the Acid Rain Program, which was established by the Clean Air Act Amendments to reduce the primary sources of acid rain. Member agencies include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Interior and Agriculture, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.Acid rain occurs when emissions of SO2 and NOx react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form acidic compounds. These emissions may be transported hundreds of miles away from their emitting sources, and have the potential to impact large areas and populations.Together these acidic compounds can damage human health, and in addition to degrading air quality and visibility, can cause further environmental damage, including acidification of lakes and streams, harm to sensitive forests and coastal ecosystems, and accelerate the decay of building materials. Adverse ecological impacts from acid rain include reductions in biodiversity, an increased risk of damaging forest fires, and increased susceptibility of trees to pests, disease, and winter temperatures.The report also highlights the need for better information including the costs and benefits to ecosystems from emission reductions, consideration of the role of climate change, and the interactions of multiple pollutants. This report, “National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program Report to Congress 2011: An Integrated Assessment,” is available on the following Web page: http://ny.water.usgs.gov/projects/NAPAP/.
White Nose Syndrome Continues Its Spread, Bad News for Insect-Eating Bats, and for People, Too
On the verge of another season of winter hibernating bat surveys, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and partners estimate that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have now died from white-nose syndrome. Biologists expect the disease to continue to spread.White-nose syndrome (WNS) is decimating bat populations across eastern North America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at many sites. First documented in New York in 2006, the disease has spread quickly into 16 states and four Canadian provinces. Bats with WNS exhibit unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers near these hibernacula.“This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are working closely with our partners to understand the spread of this deadly disease and minimize its impacts to affected bat species.”Estimating the total number of bat deaths has been a difficult challenge for biologists. Although consistent population counts for federally listed endangered bats, like the Indiana bat, have been a priority for state and federal biologists, establishing population counts of once “common” bat species, like little brown bats, was historically not the primary focus of seasonal bat population counts.“White-nose syndrome has spread quickly through bat populations in eastern North America, and has caused significant mortality in many colonies,” said National WNS Coordinator, Dr. Jeremy Coleman, “Many bats were lost before we were able to establish pre-white-nose syndrome population estimates.”More than 140 partners, including tribal, state and federal biologists and bat researchers convened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the 2012 Northeast Bat Working Group (NEBWG) meeting last week to discuss challenges facing bat research, management and conservation. Coordinating with wildlife officials in Canada, the group discussed population-level impacts to hibernating bats and developed the estimate of bats lost to WNS.In addition to the lack of population data for many bat species, there has also been a lack of consistency in how bat population data was reported among agencies. As part of the May 2011 national WNS response plan, which was developed by the Service in partnership with a team of federal, state, tribal, and NGO scientists, agencies are addressing this by establishing methods for consistent data collection.The National Plan for Assisting States, Federal Agencies and Tribes in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats provides a framework for the coordination and management of the national WNS investigation response, and the Service leads an extensive network of partners in implementing the plan.The Service serves as the primary resource for up-to-date information and recommendations for all partners, such as important decontamination protocols for cave researchers and visitors and a cave access advisory that requests a voluntary moratorium on activities in caves in affected states to minimize the potential spread of WNS.In addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land management agencies and other partners to minimize the spread of WNS, the Service has funded numerous research projects to support and assess management recommendations and improve our basic understanding of the dynamics of the disease.The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwswns, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfws_wns, and download white-nose syndrome and bat photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/.
Camp, Play Free In National Forests On Four Weekends In 2012
The U.S. Forest Service has announced eight dates for 2012 when national forests nationwide will waive fees that are usually collected to support forest maintenance and amenities.“We encourage the public to get outdoors in America’s vast and dynamic playground,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We hope that visiting your beautiful national forests and grasslands will help people gain a deep appreciation for natural resources, and create lifelong memories.”Visitors to national forests will not pay fees on the following dates in 2012:• Jan. 14-16 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend• June 9 -- Get Outdoors Day• Sept. 29 -- National Public Lands Day• Nov. 10-12 -- Veterans Day weekendDespite the Forest Service’s fee waivers, the agency does not usually charge for visitors to national forests. In fact, the Forest Service does not charge for access on 98 percent of its land. More than two-thirds of the Forest Service’s approximately 18,000 recreation sites nationwide can be used for free. They include picnic sites, campsites, beach and lake areas, trails, boat launches, and cabins.The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
Volunteers Needed for Summer Campground Hosts The Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division is offering free camping this summer for outdoor lovers who volunteer as campground hosts at Michigan state parks, recreation areas or state forest campgrounds. The Volunteer Campground Host Program allows individuals to camp in a state park or state forest campground at no charge in return for providing visitor assistance in the campground. Campground hosts direct visitors to their campsites, answer questions about the park or state forest, arrange campground activities and perform light maintenance duties and other services, depending on the hosts’ talents and interests. They can be individuals or teams. Retired couples, teachers and students, as well as families, are just some of the volunteers who have enjoyed spending their time as campground hosts. Campground hosts must be at least 18 years old, provide services five days/30 hours per week (including weekends and holidays), serve a minimum of four consecutive weeks and furnish their own camping unit, equipment and personal items. State park hosts must attend a two-day training session the end of April at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon. This training is not required of state forest campground hosts. Campground hosts are chosen by park and forest managers who may require an interview or request additional information. Selection is based on the individual's familiarity with the state park or state forest system, his or her camping experience, special skills, availability, knowledge of the area and the needs of the specific park or forest campground. Hosts are particularly needed during the busy camping season, which can begin as early as April in state parks in southern Michigan. Many of last year's campground hosts will be returning this year; however, vacancies still exist at park and forest campground locations throughout Michigan. Information and applications are available from the DNR's website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers. Those interested in being a campground host at a state park should apply directly to the park of their choice. For more information on campground host positions in state parks and recreation areas contact Pam Ames at 517-467-7401; for state forest campgrounds, please contact Ada Takacs at 989-275-5151, ext. 2049.
New Year’s Resolution: Avoid Holiday Debt by Starting a Christmas Club TodayDid the holidays leave you in the hole for the new year? Will January’s bills ruin your holiday spirit? Are you determined that next year you won’t blow your Christmas budget? Now is the time to plan ahead so the 2012 holidays are merry and bright, not overshadowed by looming debt. Starting a Christmas Club account might be the perfect way to get your finances off to the right start this new year. Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to plan ahead and make the upcoming year’s holiday season easier on the family finances by setting up a Christmas Club account now.Traditionally, Christmas Club accounts have been offered at credit unions and most banks. Customers can set aside a small amount of money every month into a savings account until the fall, when they can then start making withdrawals to pay for holiday expenses. According to the Credit Union National Association, nearly 72 percent of credit unions run Christmas Clubs, and consumer interest in these clubs is holding steady.“In addition to Christmas Club accounts, many banks allow customers to indicate "special purpose" savings accounts so that the purpose for the savings account shows up as a title line on the customer’s statement,” said Al Fifield, Senior Vice President at PNC Bank. “Many customers choose to have a portion of their pay directly deposited into these accounts each week or choose to have an automatic transfer from their checking account to their savings account set up either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to help them save for specific events like Christmas.”Some retailers are also offering their own form of a Christmas Club that pays interest on the money you set aside with them throughout the year. However, unlike setting up an account with a bank or credit union, the money must be spent with that retailer.“Along with taking the time to shop around for the best interest rate, it’s also important to read all of the fine print that accompanies such an account,” said Patrick Bennett, BBB Director of Community Relations. “A Christmas Club account is a great savings tool throughout the year and the perfect way for families to get a hold of their holiday spending.”BBB recommends that it’s never too early to consider budgeting for next year’s holiday season and offers the following advice on setting up a Christmas Club account:Build a budget and stick to it. Consider how much you spent in the previous holiday season to help anticipate how much you will want to set aside every month. To help you budget for the holidays, BBB, along with ClearPoint Financial Solutions, has developed an interactive budget tool that includes a holiday spending calculator.Start saving now. The sooner you start setting aside money every month, the better. By setting up a Christmas Club account in January or February you’ll benefit more from the interest rate and start the year off on the right foot.Shop around and ask around. While the interest rate on Christmas Club accounts is not typically very high, it can vary so shop around for the best deal.Read the fine print. Christmas Clubs are essentially short term savings accounts, but there are a few details that make them different. In some cases, there might be a minimum required deposit to open the account, or a minimum amount you must deposit every month. In addition, there is often a financial penalty for withdrawing the funds before the holiday shopping season arrives.Automate the process. Most Christmas Club accounts allow for monthly automatic deductions from your bank account or paycheck. This helps lessen the pinch. Just make sure that you don’t set aside so much that you run the risk of overdrawing on your accounts.Know the deal with retailer Christmas Clubs. Some stores are now offering their own Christmas Clubs. The money socked away with the business all year long can only be used at their stores, so evaluate your holiday shopping needs before signing up with a specific retailer.For more consumer tips you can trust, visit: http://easternmichigan.bbb.org/bbb-news/ ###The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan is a non-profit organization with the purpose of assisting in the protection of consumers and businesses from fraud and unethical business practices in the local marketplace. In addition to its recognized dispute resolution services, BBB maintains reliability reports on the customer service history of more than 88,000 local businesses and provides consumer education materials on numerous topics. BBB provides its services free to the public and its service territory includes 42 counties within the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula of the state.
Going to College? Students Need to Use Caution When Sharing Info Online
U.P's Lime Island Designated Newest State Recreation Area The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that it has designated Lime Island, a 980-acre, state-owned island in the Upper Peninsula, as its newest state recreation area. The island, located in the St. Mary’s River Navigation Channel in the eastern Upper Peninsula, was previously managed and administered by the Forest Management Division of the DNR. The Natural Resources Commission recently transferred management to the Parks and Recreation Division. The new designation also includes renaming it the Lime Island State Recreation Area, and makes it the 99th facility within the Michigan state park system. “The island has been used as a recreational area, and it made sense that it should be managed as a state recreation area,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. Lime Island has rental cabins, platform tent sites, a small harbor of refuge, historical structures and boat access. These facilities have received various improvements over the years. Fees and details can be found on the DNR website under Camping and Recreation. The island was gifted to the State of Michigan for one dollar by the Consolidated Company in 1982. Accessible only by boat, the island is one of Michigan’s most remote and pristine recreational areas. The cabin and campsites on the island will soon be available to rent through the DNR’s Camping Reservation System on the same terms as state park and recreation areas’ campsites and cabins.
DNR Urges Caution with Campfires Summer heat and sporadic rainfall in the past month is increasing fire danger across northern Michigan, according to the Department of Natural Resources. “A prime example of how a large fire can ignite despite perceptions adequate moisture had been falling, happened early in June when the Howes Lake fire occurred in Crawford County and burned over 800 acres when most of Michigan had been receiving regular rainfall,” said Paul Kollmeyer, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. “Storms had been missing the area for weeks and when a lightning storm did come through, there was a lack of moisture associated with the front, allowing lightning to ignite Michigan’s largest wildfire so far this season.” According to DNR records, debris burning and campfires are responsible for most of the 119 wildfires the DNR has responded to this year, burning a total of 1,391 acres. “Anytime the weather is hot and dry during the Fourth of July holiday, there is a potential for wildfires,” said Lynne Boyd, chief of the DNR Forest Management Division. “With so many visitors enjoying the woodlands and campgrounds during this time, the chances for wildfire greatly increase.” Boyd urged Michigan citizens and visitors to be extremely careful with outdoor fires and fireworks. She offered the following suggestions: Keep campfires small, and do not leave them unattended at any time;Be sure all fires and barbeques are completely extinguished -- use plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet and no steam is produced;Turn over unburned pieces of wood left in a fire pit and wet the underside;Soak unburned pieces of charcoal from a barbeque in a bucket of water before disposing of them; andDo not simply cover a campfire with soil – this is an insufficient way to put the fire out and disguises the heat smoldering beneath, which may lead to burns if someone were to accidentally step on the coals. Boyd also reminds everyone that fireworks will easily start fires in grassy or wooded areas, and that they should only be released in parking lots, driveways or other areas cleared of vegetation. “Fireworks that explode or fly into the air are illegal in Michigan and are the cause of many fires each year,” Boyd said. “We ask Michigan residents and visitors to please use extra care with their holiday celebrations this year and help prevent wildfires.”
Indianhead Mountain wins National Marketing Award Fourth Year in a Row The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) announced the winners for the 2010-2011 Marketing Awards at a conference in La Costa, CA, and Indianhead Mountain again claimed the title for Best Overall Marketing Program for a resort with up to 100,000 skier visits. This is Indianhead’s fourth year in a row to win the National Marketing award. The awards are presented annually to ski resorts nationwide, both large and small, for their successful marketing programs that ultimately help grow the sports of skiing and snowboarding. Barry Bolich, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Indianhead Mountain Resort, attributes the honor to the direction and work of Dave Nyquist, Vice President of Marketing and Sales. “Winning this award once is an accomplishment. Winning four years in a row demonstrates his understanding of marketing in the ski industry.” “Being recognized for having the best overall marketing program out of so many other great resorts, is an incredible honor,” says VP of Marketing Dave Nyquist. “Our goal is to attract as many skiers and snowboarders to our area as possible. They stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and fill there tanks at our gas stations. The economic impact our guests have not only at Indianhead but on the surrounding area is huge.” An in-depth review of this year’s NSAA Marketing Award winners will be highlighted in the August/September 2011 issue of the NSAA Journal.
DNR Asks Park Visitors to Be on Lookout for Unwanted Plants
Visitors to Michigan state parks and recreation areas are encouraged to actively participate in protecting the parks from unwanted invasive plants by becoming part of the Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) initiative. Members of the DNR’s State Park Stewardship Unit say that spotting invasive plants early, before they become widely established, allows for more effective control. In April, visitors can look for garlic mustard, an invasive species plant in both the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Garlic mustard can be found anytime the ground is not snow covered, but especially in April when the plant starts to bolt and flower. “It is crucial that we find invasive plants when they first arrive,” said Ray Fahlsing, DNR Parks and Recreation Stewardship Unit manager. “If we respond rapidly with control measures, we may be able to eliminate the invasive plant before it damages wildflowers and other natural resources.” Garlic mustard crowds out native wildflowers and tree seedlings, changing the ecology of natural areas and impacting the diversity of wildlife. When garlic mustard becomes established in an area, recreation opportunities, such as wildlife watching and hunting, are diminished. Most invasive species are introduced to new areas by humans. You can help prevent the spread of invasive plants by cleaning hiking boots/shoes, clothes, car and trailer tires or other equipment before entering or leaving a state park or recreation area. Reporting invasive plants in Michigan’s state parks or recreation areas protects the natural resources that offer public recreation and educational opportunities. Possible sightings of garlic mustard and other invasive species can be reported at any state park by filling out the Unwanted Plants Detection Card, available at each park or recreation area. Visitors can also mark the location of the detected plants on a park visitor map, or by recording the GPS coordinates. Visitors can turn in the cards, maps or recorded information at any state park or recreation area, fax it to 517-373-4625, or mail it to DNR Parks and Recreation, Attention: EDDR, P.O. Box 30257, Lansing, MI 48909-7757. Sightings can also be reported at www.MISIN.msu.edu. For more information about getting involved in the EDRR initiative, including how to identify invasive plants, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-parkstewardship.