Tuesday, July 31, 2007

AZ ecologist views on lake wonders and concerns

BURT LAKE MI -- As a native Michigander who’s been in the Sonoran Desert of Tucson for 13 years now, I love and cherish Burt Lake and the Great Lakes region more than ever. It is a wonderful, special and fragile part of the earth, our only home.

This summer my family and I enjoyed the lakes very much, but as an ecologist I also considered and worried some about their future. Burt Lake and other Great Lakes region waters must be protected more strongly to thrive. Some of my top concerns are:

Global warming pollution and related climate change: In late July, the University of Michigan Biological Station on Douglas and Burt Lakes hosted the first ‘Challenges of Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region’ conference. It was an important event focusing on the science and what we can expect in the future. There is reason for concern.

There is very likely to be less winter ice on the lakes in the future, and what ice does form will come late and leave early. This is a big bummer if you like to ice fish. Less freeze and ice could also aid more invasions from harmful non-native species, damaging the natural web-of-life.

Lake levels also will very likely drop more. Scientists predict the Great Lakes themselves will very likely drop another meter or more in the not so distant future. Shallow areas may be exposed. Plan on laying out a lot more dock.

We can help curb global warming climate change by using less energy and gasoline, and demanding that our President and Congress act now to cut global warming pollution by 80% in 20 years by getting off coal and using less and cleaner energy. We have the technology and clear need to do it. This is America, and we can solve the global warming pollution crisis. It is our moral responsibility for our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Off-road vehicles: Abuse of public and private lands by off-road vehicles is a growing national problem, and I saw some evidence this summer that it is a growing problem in Northern Michigan. Far too many off-roaders are going off the trails. Some even drive past clear signs and barriers to speed down beaches, including on protected lands and endangered species habitat.

Cheboygan, Emmet and other counties don’t need all these seasonal roads. A lot of seasonal roads cut across the landscape, and are too often abused by off-roaders. Many should be closed and abandoned. Lathers Road through the Indian Point forest is an especially appropriate candidate to be changed to non-motorized use.

Overdevelopment and exploitation of natural resources: As a hunter and outdoorsman, I support sustainable management of wildlife and natural resources. I am concerned that too much open space is being paved.

Almost all of the Burt Lake shore is developed, which can be okay if people live responsibly. The positive movement for more greenbelts along Burt Lake helps protect water quality. These un-mowed areas are attractive, and help filter pollutants out of water run off before it goes in to the lake. If you don’t have a greenbelt yet, grow one, and also talk with your neighbors about it. The lake wins, wildlife wins, and you win for these reasons and because you’ll have less to mow.

The Burt Lake Preservation Association and others are wise to work on road end docking, fishing and other essential political issues that affect the Burt Lake watershed.

Everyone has a right to use our public lakes, but no one has a right to abuse them. Throwing up a dock or other semi-permanent moorings at road ends is an abuse and should be stopped statewide.

Commercial-type heavy fishing also should not be allowed on Burt Lake, and all fishing should be closely managed by DNR to best protect fish and habitat.

I hope to spend significant special family time on Burt Lake for the rest of my life. I support BLPA to help the organization protect this great place. I give a special big thanks to everyone who is on the lake all year and works to protect it every day.

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