The Michigan turtle is a profound example of the influence contaminated and deteriorating water systems have on social and culture traditions. The Great Lakes Woodland Indians have recognized and respected the turtle throughout their history. Mackinac Island shows this reverence, for it means, “Great turtle” in Ottawa language. Turtles, according to oral stories and traditions, represent peace, patience, and most often, long life.
But Michigan turtles, in recent years, have become endangered. And the reasons are evident: increased development has allowed for runoff of contaminants into watersheds, increased traffic volumes, and predators.
But turtles only represent one of the smaller issues for Native American communities and culture. Water deterioration continues to affect and destroy many sacred practices of Native American life. Now the issues that remains is how to balance between respect for the Native American tribe’s cultural connection with water, with the mass use of water in the United States by industries, residences, and commercial enterprises alike.
What needs to be implemented in the future is an increased awareness and understanding of the cultural significance of water in native communities as well as more developed collaborations amongst tribal leaders and interested parties. In recent years there has been such improvements in these matters.
One such example is National Geographic’s article on how climate change is linked to waterborne diseases in Inuit Communities. The report found that as global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater. The startling implications, however, is that native communities worldwide are disproportionately affected by climate change because of their intimate cultural and spiritual connections with water. But the silver lining in the article is that a cultural-specific lens is now being applied to such areas of scientific research. This blending of culture and science is making great strides in the ways marginalized communities are able to adapt and survive when such ecological problems are thrown at them.
I remember the early crisp mornings waking up grabbing my fishing pole and heading to Lake Michigan to try and catch that trophy fish I’ve always wanted to catch. As it turns out I never caught that fish but I am still trying to reel in that trophy fish from our natural beauty we call Lake Michigan. But my childhood dreams could end up being crushed by a flying fish that smacks me right in the face! I’m talking about the Asian carp, an evasive species that is a danger to the Great Lakes Region. The Asian carp was introduced into the U.S. in the 1970’s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas when a flood allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980’s. These evasive species originated in Arkansas and now have been found in 23 states and are currently in the Illinois River in the direction of the Great Lakes.
A lot of you might be thinking “what can a little fishy do that could harm our Lakes?” Well the problem with Asian carp is they are a voracious filter feeder, meaning they consume up to 20% of their body weight per day in plankton (small floating organisms that are food for fish and other organisms, essential to our native fish) and these carp can grow up to be 100 lbs. and will strip away all of our natural species food supply, starving them into dwindling numbers. These fish also are known for their jumping ability when a motor boat is running. The sound of the motor drives them hurling out of the water and at boaters causing injury to people. The carp have no natural predators in North America and they lay half a million eggs each time they spawn. The U.S. Geological survey found 22 rivers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes that would provide suitable spawning habitat for Asian carp and the temperature of the great lakes are within the fish’s native climate range making the great lakes a perfect home for them. If this evasive species destroys our native fish we lose a big portion of our food supply and tons of fisherman will go out of business because the asian carpet is an unwanted fish due to its horrible taste
These fish almost seem unstoppable, so how are we to stop them? Well a few proposals have emerged over the years but the U.S. Army Corps of engineers is working on a few solutions that may not be introduced till 2015, but currently have emplaced and maintain three electric barriers to prevent this evasive species from enter the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Council has been in a debate over closing the waterways but Chicago is against the idea due to the amount of business that travels through the waterways and the potential of flooding to occur. I feel that we should continue with the electric barriers for now, but we should add more barriers in tributaries of the Great Lakes and we should bump up the voltage to guarantee that they do not enter. At the same time we can have people set up charter fishing trips where they can hunt the carp with bow and arrows, harpoons, and nets while we wait until the U.S. Army of Engineers have discovered a more promising solution.
On April 1st, a new Michigan law was implemented to help combat the feral swine infestation. The bill recognizes that feral swine have become an invasive species worthy of political action. As some may know, wild hogs and feral swine have been devastating to Michigan’s agricultural business. In fact, it was estimated that 1000s of jobs could be loss due to wild hog consumption of their crops.
On top of the pigs eating crops, they also pose a major threat to ecosystems and to humans. In terms of the ecosystem, swine immediately become one of the top predators in whatever system they choose to roam. Taking away vital food from local animals and pushing them out of their natural habitat. Also, swine carry parasites, and diseases like swine cholera and tuberculosis which obviously can affect various populations. Not only do those diseases affect animals but they also affect us people. The spread of tuberculosis and salmonellosis spread quickly among domesticated animals (farm pigs and cattle) and local agriculture. Which, in turn creates a problem for humans because we love to eat pork and beef.
Alternatively, the passing of the bill has stirred up some political debate of whether or not the law is fair. The law makes it so people can go out and hunt these feral pigs, which the DNR gives incentive to do so. Kind of like the Asian Carp, turning in a wild pig is rewarded in a monetary fashion. Also, the law gives the DNR permission to inspect any farm that they suspect of housing wild hog or feral swine. And, if in fact they are, eliminate the illegal swine on site. This is partially what has caused the debate, because several farmers claimed the DNR has came in and exterminated their whole lot of pigs. As a result, several law suits have been filed against the DNR and are still pending on results. But, more than likely, will not be successful.
Do you agree with the hunting of wild hog and feral swine? Leave a comment with your opinion. Also, here are a few websites that speak more about the subject.
While many people first look at the dangers of climate change that directly affect people, how about the indirect issues involved? I’m talking about the ecosystem – most specifically, the fishing system. Michigan’s great lakes are a source of jobs for thousands of people that live in this area. Many of those jobs revolve around fishing in some way, shape or form. Whether it’s taking care of fisheries, going out on a boat, serving up fresh fish at a restaurant or even supplying the materials to do so; the fish are important. However, as climate change effects our entire planet, Michigan is starting to heat up as well. Projections show that this could mean an increase of about 4 degrees year around, drastically effecting a sensitive ecosystem.
When the temperature takes a change for the hotter, fish and other wildlife have to change their ways – or die. Although we think that most water areas are around the same temperature, fish are very sensitive in their habitats. When there is a change in water temperature, many cold-water species (such as bass and bluegill) have to move northward. Other species that are less adaptive often face death when their ecosystem is disrupted. Also, the plants that feed the fish and keep the water ecosystem intact can also be at risk as the temperatures rise. When these plants become endangered, the fish that rely on them so much have to relocate before it’s too late. Another problem that fish face are invasive species that are brought in with the warm weather. One of the most infamous is the “Snakehead”, which is capable of breathing out of water for extended periods of time and adapting to the warmer waters. Invasive species have been shown to have disastrous effects. How many times have you cut your hand or foot on a zebra mussel? Well, that’s an invasive species, and they are damaging to boats, fish and plants as well.
Climate change is a serious issue to both fish and humans. If we don’t protect our waters how can we expect to protect ourselves?
As many people living in the Great Lakes area have heard, there is a large issue involving invasive species in the Great Lakes, most notably, the Asian Carp. This name refers to any of four species of carp that are native to Asia. They were initially introduced to help control algae in fish ponds in the South. They quickly spread throughout the area and are now threatening to enter Lake Michigan, and thereby all the other Great Lakes from the Mississippi River through the Chicago Canal System.
If the Asian Carp firmly establish themselves in the Great Lakes, they would threaten the natural ecosystem seriously. They can eat up to 20% of their body weight every day and grow up to 110 pounds, and as a result, there is no speices in North America that has the capacity to eat these massive fish. They eat plankton and algae and as a result outcompete the native species for food, growing and reproducing very rapidly.
There are many efforts being made to come up with a solution to this problem. An ecological separation seems to be a necessity. Currently there are electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that are helping to control the issue but they do not prevent all nonnative species from crossing and are not a long term solution. The Great Lakes Commission has come up with 3 alternatives for keeping nonnative species out of Lake Michigan. These are barriers in 3 different areas of the CSSC. The costs and positives and negatives of each of these alternatives were very closely analyzed, and it seems that The Mid-System Alternative would be the best option.
I think that it is very important that this issue be addressed and taken seriously. The Great Lakes are a valuable resource to all of the surrounding areas, if not to all of Canada and the United States. If these nonnative species take over, the entire ecosystem could be changed and therefore the way in which humans and animals interact with it would be different as well. It is difficult to determine what the exact results would be, but nothing beneficial can come from this, and therefore it should be addressed as soon as possible.
More information about this issue and the 3 alternatives can be found here:
For many of Michigan State University’s students, feeding the ducks along the Red Cedar River in East Lansing, Mich. is nothing but relaxing and enjoyable. However, the activity that many students have in common causes problems for wildlife. Normally, ducks do not stick around for a polar Great Lakes winter, but these adamant animals will if they have a steady food intake. While many of the ducks travel south, some brave the cold due to the promise of food from residents. The best thing for their health would be to not feed the animals, according to the land specialist for the Grand Traverse Conservation District, Ben Purdy. Purdy said ducks in the Great Lakes region naturally feed off greenery in the bottom of rivers and ponds. With limited food supply in the river, ducks grow reliant on the scraps people throw them. Feeding the ducks over time causes an unnatural concentration of wildlife and a number of problems concerning E. coli and duck waste. There are many potential impacts that are caused by feeding the ducks. Feeding wild ducks leads to: poor nutrition, spread of disease, unnatural behavior, overcrowding and pollution. First of all, birds eating human foods will suffer from malnutrition by filling up on bread and crackers and not consuming the nutrients they need. This can lead to heart and liver problems. Ducks usually defecate in the areas they eat and this adds to the unhygienic nature of a particular area. Furthermore, ducks who are used to being fed will congregate on the shore, anticipating food and some may even engage in dangerous behaviors to get to a food source. Ducks will also gather in large numbers at a location where food is available, cause overcrowding in that area. In order to reduce the risk of endangering Michigan State’s wildlife, I feel that educating the community about the impact of feeding the ducks would be the most beneficial. To prevent these issues from occurring again, students could post flyers around campus explaining why ducks shouldn’t be fed and even create an online database about it.
By: Frances Allen