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Environment & Conservation

Kirtland's Warbler Conservation Efforts

A number of year ago while witnessing the spring migration of birds coming into Point Pelee, Ontario, word got out that a Kirtland’s Warbler had been seen. The bird group that my wife Michele and I were a part of followed our bird guide for about an hour as we all frantically searched trying to find him. Finally, after listening for the Kirtland’s Warbler call, our guide found him and we were all thrilled that we saw him too.

Now the funny thing about birding is that you do not always have to be in the right place at the right time. Although the Kirtland’s Warbler is not often found in Point Pelee as our bird guide told us, this bird species is still abundantly seen during mating season in the jack pine barrens located in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. But before I talk about the Kirtland’s Warbler in Michigan, I want to look back in history a little bit. When the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973, the Kirtland’s Warbler was one of the first birds to be listed. It is estimated that only about 167 singing males were still alive in 1987. Back then, fire suppression practices and invasive cow birds were two major reasons for the Kirtland’s Warbler decline.

In the past, jack pines relied on wildfires to maintain their ecosystems. The heat from wildfires opened the jack pine cones allowing the the seeds to be released and dispersed by the wind. Today, good habitat management practices now include prescribed burns, jack pine plantings, and monitoring/controlling cowbirds. With these practices, Kirtland’s Warblers have made a dramatic recovery. Estimates in 2015 put the number of singing males over 2,300. In 2019, the Kirtland’s Warbler was removed from the ESA list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service!

Kirtland’s Warblers are very choosy when determing the habitat they breed in. They use young, jack pine forests exclusively. In particular, the jack pines they like are between 5 and 15 years old, between 5 and 15 feet tall, and grow in well drained sandy soil. Scientists speculate that because trees in this range are quite dense on their lower branches, this provides the best coverage for the birds’ nests which are built on the ground at the bases of these trees. As jack pine trees grow older, the bottom branches die and break off. Due to this more open space, Kirtland’s Warblers abandon this habitat in search of more dense cover.

Now, back to the Kirtland’s Warbler in Michigan and the conservation work that is being done here. In 2023, a group of volunteers joined Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, Huron Pines, and Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) On The Ground (OTG) program in planting approximately 3,500 jack pine saplings within the Grayling Forest Management Unit in Crawford County. In 2022, another group of volunteers and these same organizations planted 2,500 jack pine
saplings in the Roscommon Forest Management Unit in Richmond Township.

This year, there will be another “Jack Pine Planting Day” on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Information concerning this event will most likely be published by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs in early April. Look for this information in the volunteer opportunities e-mail I will be sending out in early April. The Kirtland’s Warbler in Michigan is a true
conservation success story!


Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: February, 2024

CO2 and Global Warming

When you inhale, air enters your lungs and oxygen from that air moves to your blood. When you exhale, Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 ) that moves from your blood to your lungs is released into the air. So CO 2 is something all of us produce. When we burn fossil fuels, CO 2 is again produced as part of that process. This includes burning tons of coal to produce electricity. It also includes the barrels of oil we drill for to produce gasoline. Gasoline is burned to provide power for our cars, trucks, motorcycles, jet skis, motor homes, chain saws, lawn mowers, snow throwers, leaf blowers, grass trimmers, and many other manmade devices.

When we look at CO 2 and global warming, the burning of fossil fuels is a significant contributor to the “Greenhouse effect” this world is experiencing. When water vapor and CO 2 exist in the atmosphere, they both are strong absorbers of reflected solar heat from the sun’s infrared radiation. It is this absorbed heat that produces the “greenhouse effect” thereby insulating heat from escaping our atmosphere. As we continue to burn larger quantities of fossil fuels, we are beginning to see global temperatures steadily increasing. Luckily, nature (the trees and the ocean) sequesters a large amount of CO 2 from the atmosphere. Trees use photosynthesis to produce food they need to grow. Tree leaves contain chlorophyll which absorbs sunlight and uses this energy to convert CO 2 from the air and H 2 O (water) from the soil to produce carbohydrates or simple sugar (C 6 H 12 O 6 ). This process also releases free oxygen (O 2 ) back into the air as a byproduct!

The oceans, according to the United Nations, absorb 25 percent of all CO 2 emissions, capture 90 percent of the excess heat generated by these emissions, and generate 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe. This is understandable because the oceans cover over 70 percent of the earth’s surface. As CO 2 is dissolved into the surface water, it sinks into the deep sea where is can remain for hundreds of years. However, increased CO 2 production is warming and acidifying seawater. This in turn is causing detrimental changes to life under the water and on land. Global warming is creating hotter temperatures. 2020 was one of the hottest years on record. Hurricanes are becoming stronger and more intense. Warmer temperature have extended the wildfire season In the west where long term drought in the regions has heightened the risk of wildfires. Changes in precipitation patterns are occuring. The northern U.S. is seeing more rain and snow while southwest U.S. is experiencing more drought. Global sea levels have risen about 8” since 1880.
Projections show they will rise another 12” by 2100.

In conclusion, we need to start reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. The goal is to get the amount of CO 2 humans produce in line with what the trees and oceans can capture and store. Think in terms of using less energy. When you drive, drive with purpose. Think about the shortest distance to get from one store to the next. If you can, participate in car pooling when going to work. Consider purchasing an electric vehicle. From an environmental standpoint, advocate for saving trees and forests rather than cutting them down for farming and development. And where possible, plant more trees!


Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: January, 2024

Forgotten Harvest – An Environmental Organization?

When people hear the name “Forgotten Harvest”, the first thought that comes to mind is a charitable organization providing food to those in need. But when you start to look more closely, you discover that Forgotten Harvest rescues nutritious food surpluses from food manufacturers, grocery stores (i.e. Kroger, Hollywood Market, & Dollar General), markets, restaurants, caterers, and more. These donated food surpluses are then delivered, free of charge, to emergency food providers all throughout the metro Detroit area. Forgotten Harvest has hundreds of volunteers who place boxes of groceries into the trunks of people’s cars at many of these food distributors.

So I know you are saying “Greg, it is wonderful that Forgotten Harvest is helping with the food insecurity issue here in Michigan – a much needed humanitarian effort. But what on earth does that have to do with making our environment better?” I am so glad you asked! Think about where all this surplus food would go if it were not rescued by Forgotten Harvest and doled out to those in need. It would most likely end up in a landfill.

Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans discard more food than any other country in the world. Nearly 40 million tons (80 billion pounds) of food are taken to landfills every year! And did you also know that food is the single largest component taking up space in U.S. landfills. The EPA states that 22% of municipal sold waste (MSW) in landfills is food!

So you say, “Greg, what’s the big concern. Don’t most foods in landfills biodegrade back into the earth which is a good thing?” Well, here are some things to contemplate when you think about food in a landfill. Decaying food generates greenhouse gasses like methane, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons which contribute to global warming. Decaying food also generates nitrogen pollution which causes algae blooms.

Let’s also take a look at the bigger picture. That uneaten food wasted the land, water, and energy it took to produce it. Also wasted are costs, resources, and energies associated with processing, storing, and transporting this food. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), 85% of greenhouse gas emissions come
from these activities prior to this food even entering a landfill! Here is another sombering way of looking at it. The production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars according to the World Wildlife Federation! Now you can better understand the disastrous environmental path we are on when we waste food.

So there you have it. Forgotten Harvest’s primary goal is to help get nutritious, recused food to those experiencing food insecurity. But their secondary goal is reducing food waste and helping the environment by preventing it from being added to our landfills.

Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: February, 2023

Older Articles

Alcona Elementary Fourth Graders Take on

Reducing Marine Debris


What makes this project so noteworthy is that instead of promoting recycling, a good thing in itself, this project will challenge fourth grade students (working with two teachers) to reduce land-based litter before it ever starts! This in turn reduces litter that could make its way via our watersheds into Lake Huron. Can you think of a better way to get the next generation of children involved in helping keep our environment clean. The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) is a network of education and community partners who promote educational opportunities for youth, community, and environment in northeast Michigan. MSU-Extension, a member of this network, will work with the teachers and students around three objectives. Objective one is to learn about Marine debris. Objective two is to collect and analyze lunch trash data. Objective three is to investigate, research, and write a plan to implement reduction or prevention of their targeted trash item. Information collected from this project will then be added to the “Taking a Bite Out of Lunchroom Waste” educator tool kit. The toolkit will then serve as a starting point for future students to also engage in reducing marine debris. Another benefit of this project is that it will train ten additional teachers on how to use the toolkit thereby spreading good environmental practices.

To read more details about this project, click on the link below:

If you want to know more about Michigan State University Extension,
Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: March, 2021

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I saw this article in the Lakes, Streams, and Watersheds - MSU Extension News and knew I had to share it on our Oakland Audubon Society Conservation/Environment webpage. Via a two-year $50,000 “Food for Thought” Marine Debris Prevention Grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alcona Elementary fourth graders ( Alcona is located in Michigan’s northeast lower peninsula between Alpena and Oscoda) are partnering with MSU Extension to study and reduce trash generated from their school lunchrooms. This grant was awarded to the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) working in partnership with Michigan State University Extension.

Lake Huron marine debris. Photo by Rick Houchin Photography

Outstanding Work Being Done

by Six Rivers Land Conservancy


Six Rivers Land Conservancy is a private, non-profit land conservation organization that is currently working with three local
communities to add natural areas and park lands here in southeast Michigan. I received the information below from a Six Rivers email and absolutely applaud their efforts! If you would like to know more about this organization, please visit them at


Six Rivers Land Conservancy has helped three local communities secure funding to add 275 acres of additional natural areas and
park lands in the region.  On Wednesday, Dec 2 the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) awarded grants totaling
$4.7 million to Chesterfield Township, St. Clair County Parks and Oakland Township to help fund their purchases of properties from Six Rivers.  Six Rivers acquired the properties for the communities and is holding them on their behalf while they complete the MNRTF process.

Six Rivers acquired property on the Salt River in Chesterfield Township with a loan from First State Bank. Once Chesterfield
Township receives their grant funds they will purchase the property from Six Rivers to become the Salt River Nature Center.
In the interim period the Township is leasing the property from Six Rivers to begin utilizing it.  Six Rivers’ acquisition of the property was funded by First State Bank with a newly established line of credit.  Once the MNRTF funds come through, the Township will complete the purchase from Six Rivers and Six Rivers will pay off the loan.  This is a priority acquisition for the township as well as a priority in the Macomb County Blueway and SEMCOG Green Infrastructure plans, adding additional access upstream from the Webber Paddle Park and adding to public access and protected acreage along the Salt River.

Six Rivers also acquired a 10-acre parcel for St. Clair County Parks bordering Algonac and adjoining the DNR boat launch on the North Channel of the St. Clair River.  Once the County has received their funds from the MNRTF they will complete the purchase from Six Rivers and turn the property into a public park with beach area, kayak launch and other recreational amenities.  It will be the southernmost park in St. Clair County and will add badly needed recreational access to the St. Clair River. The initial acquisition by Six Rivers was funded with a loan from The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit that specializes in loaning funds for conservation acquisitions. Oakland Township was awarded a grant to add 235 acres to their existing Lost Lake Nature Park.  When the grant funds are received the Township will complete the purchase from Six Rivers.  The property is a mix of rare, high quality natural features and adds significant habitat value and connectivity to nearby Bald Mountain State Recreation Area and Oakland County’s Addison Oaks Park. 

Six Rivers has the property under contract and will close on their acquisition before year-end, and then transfer the property to
Oakland Township once the MNRTF grant funds are provided. One of the ways Six Rivers achieves its mission is to assist local
communities in acquiring land for parks and nature preserves. One way Six Rivers does this is by pre-acquiring and holding a property on behalf of the local government while they go through the process of seeking and securing grants and other funding sources to ultimately purchase the property.  This is often necessary because in many cases sellers do not have the ability to hold on to the property during the process, which can take many months or more.  Six Rivers funds the acquisitions through its partnership with the Conservation Fund and First State Bank as well as other sources. The local community covers all the acquisition and holding costs and pays Six Rivers a facilitation fee for its assistance.  Grant funds typically pay up to 75% of the property purchase price, so the additional costs that arise through the partnership are offset by the grant funds, and securing the property is critical to the success of the project.

Submitted by: Greg Petrosky
Date: February, 2021

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Public Lands Strategy


DNR seeks input on comprehensive strategy for more than 4 million acres of public lands

Complete draft of DNR land strategy now available for review and feedback


The power of public lands. That simple but meaningful idea has been at the heart of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ efforts, over the past year, to update its strategy for nearly 4.6 million acres of state forests, parks, trails, game and wildlife areas, and other public lands.

The result of those efforts – a complete, comprehensive draft of the DNR’s updated strategy to tap into the power of public lands for the benefit of Michigan’s residents, natural resources and economy – is now available for review at

The DNR invites the public and stakeholders to provide input on the draft land strategy through an online survey or via email to DNR- Feedback will be accepted through Feb. 12.

“Through thoughtful, careful planning, public lands can – and already do – have a powerful effect on our quality of life as Michiganders,” said Scott Whitcomb, DNR senior adviser for wildlife and public lands. “Taking good care of the lands the
DNR manages creates ample opportunities for residents and visitors to hunt, camp, fish, hike, ride the trails, and connect with nature and history in ways that are uniquely Michigan. It contributes significantly to the health of our families, our
environment and our economy.”

To provide a framework for conserving and managing public lands to ensure their best use for Michigan residents and visitors and the state’s natural resources, the DNR created a land strategy in 2013.

During the process of updating this strategy for 2021, the DNR has gathered input from people around the state. The comprehensive draft strategy now available for review incorporates input from the public and stakeholders received in the

fall of 2020.

Feedback on the draft will be incorporated, as appropriate, in the development of a final land strategy, which will be submitted to the Legislature by July 1.


The updated public land strategy will guide the DNR in accomplishing goals of:

  •  Protecting and preserving Michigan’s natural and cultural resources.

  •  Providing spaces for quality outdoor recreation opportunities.

  •  Performing responsible natural resources management.


When Should You Prune That Oak Tree?


Some of the lower limbs on my Red Oak trees prevented me from perfectly viewing the birds at my bird feeder this past summer.  Although my first impulse was to trim those branches so I could better see my fine feathered friends, I remembered what a naturalist for Oakland County Parks and Recreation told me during a Trailblazer Walk at Springfield Oaks this past summer.  He said NEVER prune Red Oaks in the summer.  This will help prevent the spread of oak wilt.

Oak wilt is a lethal disease caused by the fungus Bretziella Fagacearum (formerly called Ceratocystis Fagacearum).  This fungus invades and quickly disables the vascular (water conducting) system in Red Oaks and White Oaks.  For Red Oaks (Northern Red Oak, Northern Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, and Black Oak), oak wilt is so deadly that it can kill a tree within three weeks of being infected!  White Oaks (White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Bur Oak, and Chinquapin Oak) are also affected by oak wilt, but have a much better chance of recovering from the disease.

The origin of oak wilt is not known, but this invasive fungal disease was first seen in Wisconsin in 1944.  Since then, the disease has spread to oak trees throughout the midwest and also into many counties of Texas.  See USDA Forest Services 2016 U.S. Counties with Oak Wilt map below.  















Here in Michigan, oak wilt has been gaining significant momentum in recent years.  See Michigan DNR 2016 Michigan Oak Wilt Map below.










So how does a Red Oak tree get oak wilt?  Initially, oak wilt obtains entry into the tree via either root grafts or through wounds.  Wounds come from tree trimming or damaged limbs during storms.  Within weeks of the infection, the tree loses leaves and dies.  The following year, “pressure pads” with spore (fungal) mats grow, rupture the bark, and emerge.  The spore mats exhibit a fruity odor which attracts sap beetles (see photo below).  During feeding, the sap beetles pick up spores and mycelium (fungal body stands) on their bodies.  If a nearby oak tree has a fresh wound, the sap beetle is lured to that tree for more nourishment.  It is during this feeding that the diseased spores on its body are transferred to the healthy tree, thereby infecting it.


According to David L. Roberts, Ph. D., Michigan State University, “it is estimated that approximately 90% of oak wilt transmission is via the underground root graft mode.  However, all new geographical locations of oak wilt outbreaks are due to the overland spread of the fungus to wounds by insects”.  Interestingly, fresh tree wounds are only attractive to sap beetles for 5-7 days after the wound occurs.  If an oak tree is wounded when sap beetles are active, immediate application of a sealant is recommended.  And lastly, it is also important to know that the spread of oak wilt can also be caused by transporting diseased logs and firewood from one place to another.

So, back to my original question.  When should you prune your oak trees?  Well the time is now.  The safest time to prune oaks is from November 1st to March 14th.  See Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition Oak Wilt Risk Meter chart below.  It is during this time that the tree is dormant and there are no active sap beetles. And yes I know it is cold out there, but your trees will thank you in the spring when they come back to life healthy and well!



Written by: Greg Petrosky

Date:  January, 2021

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Spotted Lanternfly Invasive Species Alert

The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive species that was first discovered in 2014 in Pennsylvania. It has since been found in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. This plant hopper is a native insect of China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. See images below.


To date, no established populations have been found in Michigan. However, dead spotted lanternfly adults were found in two areas of southern Michigan this fall! In one instance, a citizen found the dead insects hitchhiking on material that had been shipped to Michigan, photographed them, and sent their photos to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) for identification. The concern with this invasive pest is the damage they do by feeding on as many as (70) different tree species (i.e. American Basswood, American Beech, Bigtooth Aspen, Black Cherry, Black-gum, Dogwoods, Maples, Oaks, Paper Birch, Pignut Hickory, Pines, Sassafras, Slippery Elm, Tulip-tree, White Ash, Willows, etc.), numerous fruit trees (i.e. Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Peach, Plum, etc.), grape vines, and hops vines. When they feed, spotted lanternflies pierce the bark of the host plant and suck the sap from stems and trunks. These wounds can allow pathogens into the plant thereby infecting it. In addition to tree damage, spotted lanternflies excrete a sugary substance know as "honeydew” that encourages the growth of black sooty mold. The  mold can kill plants and foul surfaces. The honeydew also attracts hornets, wasps, and ants to the site.
To identify this pest, see pictures A-E and life cycle image below.















Spotted lanternflies live for only one year and must lays eggs for future generations to survive. Once the eggs hatch, the spotted lanternfly will be black with bright white spots on them for the first three instar stages of their life (Picture B above). During the fourth instar stage, the spotted lanternfly is vibrant red with distinct patches of black and equally distinct white spots (Picture C above). The adult is approximately 1” long. The forewing is grey with black spots and the wing tips have reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black. The abdomen is yellow with broad black bands (Pictures D & E above). Adult female spotted lanternflies lay eggs in masses in late fall on trees, under bark, posts, lawn furniture, cars, trailers, outdoor grills, and many
other surfaces. Each female lays 30-50 eggs! See images below.


So what do you do if you suspect you have seen a spotted lanternfly or egg patch? Kill it by smashing it. Spotted lanternflies are not harmful to humans in that they will not sting or bite you. If you can, take pictures and then contact one of the following and report what you have found:

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development:
Email or call the MDARD Customer Service Center at 800-292-3939.
MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostics: Email or call 517-432-0988.

Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network’s (MISIN) online reporting tool or download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone:

Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: December, 2020

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Posted 4/6/2020

Ways You Can Help Birds

Top 10 Ways You Can Help Birds

1. Protect birds from glass collisions

2. Say “No” to pesticides

3. Donate to a reliable bird conservation group

4. Be a responsible cat owner, keep your pet inside.

5. Take action for birds - become a conservation advocate. Promote Chimney Swift, and Purple Martin conservation.

6. Create a native bird habitat

7. Reduce, reuse, recycle

8. Buy bird-friendly coffee

9. Turn out lights; Safe Passage Great Lakes

10. Plant bird friendly plants

Resources for this list: (American Bird Conservancy)

This article is on Recycling in Michigan, and was inspired by a spot on “Live in the “D”” about battery recycling in Michigan.
I am sure if you are like me you are always looking for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I will start with batteries; remember when you could take your batteries to Radio Shack and recycle them? After their bankruptcy, a search of my

i-phone shows that there are only two stores left in Michigan, some Michigan residents may have a long drive to use that service. A call to Lowe’s and a few other recyclers turned up empty. With these results, we are going to have to be a little more creative in our recycling efforts.


The recycling solution that was covered on the morning TV show turned out to be a pay to recycle solution, with “kits” ranging in price from $50 - $300 depending on the amount of batteries recycled. This is probably not a viable solution for most individuals trying to be good environmentalists.

I tried searching for why battery recycling wasn’t much of an option anymore. I found an article titled, Recycling that typical household battery is not as easy as you think ( Basically most recyclers; since mercury was removed from lithium batteries in 1990 feel that it is not profitable enough to recycle most batteries, and recommend throwing them in the trash. It all comes down to money.


We are not going to succumb to profit. Last year after collecting many containers of batteries (lithium, alkaline, button, etc.), I finally started calling everyone a search of the internet said recycled batteries near me. I decided on Discount Battery stores, because they were near me, and they took my batteries. I am sure there are places near you who will recycle your batteries, 

you just have to be consistent.


Another piece of information from the show, is that Michigan only recycles 15% of its recyclables; lowest in the Great Lakes region, and among the lowest in the U.S.. EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy) was started in 1995. They have an educational program called “Know it Before You Throw it”,, which utilizes, to teach about proper way to use your community recycling. You might ask how does recycling save birds, recycling reduces the plastic that goes into our oceans which chokes and traps seabirds. The landfills poison, birds and take up space, destroying the habitat for land birds.

- Jerry Rogers

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