Muskegon River Lodge Blog

Conservation, Recreation and Life on the Muskegon River

Another bipartisan push for conservation

The House Natural Resources Committee voted to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act on a strong bipartisan vote, according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. More:

H.R. 3742, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) of 2019 was introduced by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice-Chair Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI) and would provide additional funding to state fish and wildlife agencies for on-the-ground, proactive conservation. If signed into law, the bill will allocate $1.4 billion annually for state agencies and tribal nations to conserve nearly 12,000 fish and wildlife species that are in the greatest need of conservation efforts. This bill is a top conservation priority for the sportsmen’s community as it will give states much needed financial resources to address conservation challenges identified in State Wildlife Action Plans.

At the same time, the Foundation reports, “the Committee also voted to pass the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (H.R. 877), an important bill for the future of wildlife conservation funding, which was introduced by CSC Co-Chair Rep. Austin Scott (GA).  

The National Wildlife Association applauded the move:

“Right now more than one-third of all wildlife species in the United States are at heightened risk of extinction — and demand immediate conservation attention. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the most significant piece of wildlife legislation since the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Grijalva and Reps. Dingell, Fortenberry and Huffman, and the bill’s more than 150 bipartisan cosponsors, this historic bill is making important progress in the House and is showing that even in these divided times, wildlife conservation can bring all Americans together.”

In February, the U.S. Senate “passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes including Civil War soldiers and a civil rights icon.” The bipartisan measure is designed to create more than 1.3 million acres of Wilderness in western states, add three national parks, and expand eight others.

The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to dealmaking that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill. Senators from across the ideological spectrum celebrated home-state gains and congratulated each other for bridging the partisan divide.

Read “The Senate just passed the decade’s biggest public lands bill. Here’s what’s in it” in the Washington Post.

Roll up sleeves. Grab shovel. Plant tree.

A friend sent me a link to this #teamtrees project that aims to fund the planting of 20 million trees by Jan. 1. As of today, the organizers have raised enough to plant more than 17 million trees and have attracted a huge following on social media. According to an October report in The Verge:

The halfway point came quickly, thanks to some large donations from tech executives. Tesla CEO Elon Musk donated $1 million on Tuesday; Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke donated $1,000,001 on Wednesday; YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki donated $200,000 on Wednesday; and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey appeared to make two separate donations, of $150,000 and later of $200,000.
[ … ]
Major YouTubers also made some of the top donations. Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, who was the driving force for organizing Team Trees, made two separate donations adding up to $200,002. Mark Rober, another organizer, donated $50,000; Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg donated $69,420; and Jessica and Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, donated $15,000.

The initiative had a number of goals for YouTubers. For one, it was supposed to be a belated celebration of Donaldson passing 20 million subscribers. There was also the obvious goal of planting trees to improve the environment and contribute to combatting climate change (although planting trees is more complicated of a charity route than it sounds). And YouTubers saw it as an opportunity to prove that they could be a force for good, too, following a couple of years of chaotic drama around high-profile creators like Kjellberg and Logan Paul.

So far so good. But it’s one thing to plant a tree, another thing to nurture its growth. Mark Huxhum writing in The Conversation today:

… a lot can go wrong with planting. Take mangrove forests. More than 45% of them have been cleared around the world in recent decades for everything from agriculture to fish farming to tourism to charcoal production. This is an ecological disaster because they are truly extraordinary carbon sinks. At the field site where I have been stationed in Kenya, their waterlogged soils hold more than 1,500 tonnes of carbon per hectare, most of which is vulnerable to oxidation and release if the forests are removed. 

For these reasons, there have been numerous large-scale efforts in different countries to restore these trees, but they have often failed. In Sri Lanka, for example, a survey of 23 sites where planting had been attempted showed that in more than half, none of the mangroves survived – and over 50% of seedlings survived in only three sites. In another survey of mangrove replanting across 74 sites in Thailand and the Philippines, only 20% survived.

Getting the incentives right is essential:

To turn this situation around, international charities and scientists, including me, have been working on a project with local people in the south of the country. It allows donors from around the world to pay locals to maintain and reforest the area as a means of carbon offsetting while helping them develop other income streams that rely on the forest such as beekeeping and ecotourism. 

This has helped several villages to flourish, among other things by providing more money for education, clean water and healthcare. Since 2014, the project has seen 10ha of mangroves planted and another 117ha restored and conserved, while paying more than US$60,000 (£45,800) to the community.

While there’s good news about an increase in global forestation (up more than 7% since 1982) there’s still a net loss in the tropics. But if the tree planting movement tells us anything, it’s that private initiative, philanthropy and an ethic of conservation are potent forces for reforestation.

So get out there and plant some trees today. And don’t forget to give them enough TLC over time.

Video: Lodge and river flyover

Enjoy the gorgeous fall colors and this bird’s eye view of the Muskegon River Lodge and the Muskegon River.

When do brown trout rise?

Answer: When they’re good and ready. Over at Hatch, John Juracek does some Vulcanic mind melding with the brown trout.

Rainbows, cutthroat, brook trout—they all exhibit feeding patterns that pretty much correlate directly with the availability of food.  When food’s plentiful they can be counted on to eat it, and eat it well. When food’s sporadic, so too is their feeding.  But not the brown trout. They feed according to their own schedule.  (A Henry’s Fork rainbow can be fickle like this too, but still fails to rank in the same class as a brown.)

What implications does this behavior have for fishing?  For one, it suggests that patience is often going to be a key to success.  Don’t give up too soon if fish aren’t responding early in a hatch.  Brown trout can take what feels like forever to come on to a hatch.  Even then, they frequently give the impression that rising is something of a bother, practically more trouble than it’s worth (uh, easily acquired, abundant food?  Who cares?).

Read “A brown trout quirk” at Hatch.

Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Pubic domain.

An attitude of gratitude

Just because we’re nearing the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend, why stop now? The video below from the John Templeton Foundation gives a quick roundup of the benefits of gratitude. More here:

Throughout history and around the world, religious leaders and philosophers have extolled the virtue of gratitude. Some have even described gratitude as “social glue” that fortifies relationships — between friends, family, and romantic partners — and serves as the backbone of human society.

Over the past two decades scientists have made great strides toward understanding the biological roots of gratitude, the various benefits that accompany gratitude, and the ways that people can cultivate gratitude in their day-to-day lives

All of us associated with the Muskegon River Lodge are counting our blessings. We’re grateful to those who have enjoyed the accommodations, the fishing, the incredible beauty of the Muskegon River. We’re grateful to our business partners who have helped us make the Lodge a first rate experience. We’re grateful to the community and all those who have worked to conserve and protect our natural resources. Thank you.

Test your (wild) turkey IQ

Once on the verge on the verge of extinction in the early 1900s, with only about 200,000 birds left, wild turkeys have made an incredible comeback. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service credits “conservation efforts over the past century, with funds derived from the Pittman-Robertson Act … and thanks to sportsmen and women, there are approximately 6.5 million wild birds in the United States today, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation.”

Did you know? That Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey should be our national bird, not the eagle? That turkeys “can clock 18 miles per hour on foot and up to 50 miles per hour in flight.” And can you guess how many feathers are on this bird?

Read “Wild Facts about Wild Turkeys” at the USFW site.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), photographed in Eastern United States. Public Domain image,

Video: Protecting Great Lakes’ coastal wetlands

Via PBS (ht: Muskegon River Watershed Assembly) Follow the work of Great Lakes researchers as we travel 5,000 miles and talk to more than 40 experts on the vital role coastal wetlands play in keeping the Great Lakes healthy. Learn more about this small but mighty ecosystem and the importance of preserving them for future generations in “Linking Land and Lakes: Protecting Great Lakes’ Coastal Wetlands.”

#OptOutside on Black Friday

The Michigan DNR has stuff for you to do (we’re not talking about walking around the mall) on Black Friday:

  • Adventure into one of Michigan’s 103 state parks, and use the outdoors as your gym or a place to experience nature.
  • Seek out one (or a handful) of the 100 new geocaches that are all part of the Centennial GeoTour.
  • Hit the water and experience some of the best cold-weather fishing around.
  • Run, walk, hike, bike, snowshoe, cross-country ski or ride on more than 13,000 miles of state-designated trails and pathways.
  • Find a new hunting spot on Michigan’s public lands, including state recreation areas, state parks, game areas and forests.
  • Visit a historic site and discover Michigan’s fascinating backstory.
  • Explore Michigan’s public lands for birding or wildlife viewing. 

More here.

Salmon, food and technology

Here’s an interesting analysis of salmon farming and how it has created some unintended consequences for aquaculture in salt and freshwater:

Salmon are a “keystone species” in both the North Pacific and North Atlantic meaning that they play a unique role in the ecosystem. Connecting salt and freshwater, they bring the nutrients of the oceans far inland and are an irreplaceable source of food for animals like orcas and grizzly bears.

“They are a natural barometer for the health of the planet,” writes journalist Mark Kurlansky in his upcoming book Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate(published by Patagonia). That’s why the survival of wild salmon is such an important environmental challenge: it’s our relationship with nature that is at stake.

In Artifishal, ecologist and writer Carl Safina recounts the Greek myth of Icarus, the overambitious man who died because he flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax and feathers. “Humans believe they can do anything and everything all the time and this can-do attitude has gotten us very far […] but there are limits and we don’t understand anything about those limits,” comments Safina. In other words, aquaculture risks of becoming today’s myth of Icarus.

Read “How Salmon Became The Symbol Of Our Broken Food System” in Forbes.

Check out the Artifishal trailer below:

What’s behind the decline in fishing in Michigan?

MLive took a deep dive into the state of hunting and fishing in our state. The numbers should concern anyone who loves the outdoors.

… in Michigan and nationwide, hunting is on the decline. In the 1970s, ’80s and into the ’90s, Michigan had as many as 1.2 million hunters. By 2018, fewer than 675,000 individuals had at least one hunting license.

That decline can be traced to multiple factors: The Baby Boomers who fueled the popularity of hunting as a recreational activity are aging out. Today’s young adults are more likely to be minorities and/or urbanites, groups much less likely to hunt. Hunting now competes with a wide variety of recreational activities.

“There really isn’t one single thing that we can point to this, say, ‘Oh, you know, we just fix this, then everything will be fine,’ ” said Dan Eichinger, director of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Fishing also is on a downward trend, although its decline has been less steep. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of individuals obtaining a Michigan fishing license dropped 5% compared to a 18% drop in hunting licenses during that same period.

Eichinger said those trends should concern all Michigan residents, whether or not they hunt or fish.

Read “Hunting is on the decline in Michigan — which is a problem” on the MLive site. Have any ideas on how to turn this around? Leave us a comment below.

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