Lester Graham

Lester Graham is with Michigan Watch, the investigative unit of Michigan Radio. 

He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report/Great Lakes Radio Consortium, the environmental news service based at Michigan Radio, starting with the service in 1998. 

He has been a journalist since 1985.  Graham has served as a board member of Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association(RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups. 

Graham received more than 100 awards at the state, regional, national and international levels for journalistic excellence, including four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

Facebook link

email:  llgraham@umich.edu

Environmental groups are demanding Canada stop opposing the shutdown of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5.

The group Oil and Water Don’t Mix and its supporters are calling on the government of Canada to go along with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down the pipeline.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) monitors six different forms of air pollution at locations across the state. In its 112 page Air Quality Annual Report for 2020 it reports periodically some spots exceeded the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Michigan state conservation officials say boaters, anglers, and hunters are spreading an invasive aquatic plant.

The European frog-bit has been messing up Lake Erie and Michigan coastal areas and inland lakes in the central Lower Peninsula for almost 30 years, but it’s popping up in new areas such as Lincoln River, north of Ludington and in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

The invasive plant floats on the water and spreads quickly in lakes and slow moving rivers.

When you visit one of the Great Lakes, whether it’s a sandy beach or a rocky coastline, it’s hard to imagine how something so big could be affected so profoundly by alien invasive species, or pollution, or climate change. This Environment Report special looks at each of these threats.

Democratic lawmakers have announced a plan to fund repairs to Michigan’s aging infrastructure. They’re calling a “bold” climate resilience plan and water infrastructure investment.

“Today we are proposing a $5 billion investment to focus on upgrading our clean water, storm and wastewater management systems to meet this increasing load brought about by our ongoing climate emergency,” said Senator Roesmary Bayer.

The Obama administration enacted regulations to protect some sensitive bodies of water, but the Trump administration removed those protections.

Now the Biden administration plans to protect them again.

Changing the Waters of the U.S. protections under the Clean Water Act meant about 25% of the waterways were no longer protected. Some headwater streams and wetlands don’t have water all the time, but when they do, they need to be protected from pollution and silt. Keeping them pristine is important to wildlife such as fish and frogs downstream.

On Thursday, environmental groups and Native Americans plan to present Enbridge Energy with symbolic eviction notices. They want Enbridge to abide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

There’s been a lot of news about the amount of plastic debris in the oceans. But plastic pollution is also affecting the Great Lakes. A study out of the Rochester Institute of Technology estimates 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes from the U.S. and Canada each year.

Voters are going to the polls Tuesday in some communities in the state.

The May 4 elections are a hodge-podge of local issues. A total of 189 issues will be voted on in 63 counties across the state.

Most of the decisions will be about school millages or bonds.

The Census Bureau’s apportionment report has been sent to the President.

Michigan will lose one seat in Congress. That brings it to 13 Representatives in the House, the lowest number since the 1920s. Michigan has been losing seats in Congress since the 1980 Census.

The official resident population for the nation is 331,449,281. That’s up by nearly 23 million (up 7.4%) from the last Census held in 2010.

About 11,000 people who’ve been getting extended unemployment benefits will lose them this week.

Michigan qualified for the federal extended unemployment benefits because its unemployment rate was so high. But Michigan has had three months below the threshold and the feds put the state on notice.

A former employee of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is facing embezzlement charges.

The Attorney General’s office filed charges against Joseph Pettit. He worked in EGLE’s Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division. One of his jobs was to make sure when an oil or gas well changed hands, the original owner got back the conformance bond money that was required by the state before drilling or operating a well.

Right now, scientists are on a ship taking samples and measurements of the Great Lakes. They’re trying to determine how the lakes will fare this year and watching for trends.

One trend, the warming climate, could mean changes for the base of the food web in the lakes. But, the researchers are not yet sure what those changes might be.

When you think of a daiquiri, you might think of summer. Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings thinks the daiquiri has a place in fall too.

“We're in that transitional season. We're still getting hot days but cool nights and so I went with an Autumn Daiquiri today,” she said.

A half-century ago, within the span of two years, three of America’s rivers caught fire. One of them was in Michigan. Those fires ignited the environmental movement. 

On this date, October 9th, 50 years ago, the Rouge River caught fire. 

It’s fall and there’s a hint of it in the air.

“It’s definitely getting into the season where I like to think about fall flavors in my cocktails,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Among the bottles in front of her was one of moonshine.

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

On Friday, many students and young people will walk out of school or work for what could be the planet’s largest strike so far to bring attention to climate change. Hundreds of climate strike rallies are planned in the U.S. alone. 

This is not the first climate strike. It’s not going to be the last. But, organizers believe it will be the largest so far. The Ann Arbor area strikers will gather at Ingalls Mall at the University of Michigan.

Cheers! episodes have been airing on Stateside on Michigan Radio for more than three-and-a-half years. Many of those cocktail recipes and the history behind them were gathered and accompanied by a history of drinking in Michigan. It’s all in a new book by Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham titled Cheers to Michigan.

“I was looking back through the book and it inspired me to make a cocktail based on the very first cocktail we ever made on Cheers and the very first cocktail that's printed in the book,” Tammy said.

Sometimes summer nights demand a drink that’s not so sweet and not so high in alcohol content. You just want something light and refreshing.

A new line of soft drinks from Casamara Club in Detroit imitates amaros, but doesn’t have the intense sweetness or the alcohol.

People who visit Tecumseh for the first time usually come for one of three reasons: antiques, destination dining, or as just a stop on Route 50 on the way to the Irish Hills area or a Michigan International Speedway event.

Corey and Victoria Lord think the people from out of town are missing a lot.

The famous pottery, Pewabic, has been doing much the same thing it has done since the very early part of the 20th century, and using some of the same equipment and molds for its tiles and pottery.

"Pewabic was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry (later named Mary Chase Perry Stratton) who was an artist and became really well known as a China painter. She would paint, overglaze enamels on French China and would teach about it and write about it," explained Steve McBride, Executive Director of Pewabic.

With summer finally arriving, let’s look at a great new summer drink.

“This is a twist on a classic cocktail called the Bee’s Knees, but we’re going to put some beer into it and make it a Beer’s Knees,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

April Wagner is a glass blower. She has a line of art under her name, but she also makes beautiful and useful things under the Epiphany Glass name. I asked her to describe her work for someone who has never seen it.

The Cheers! team received a request from a listener. Bruce Schermerhorn asked whether Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings could come up with a cocktail using something from Faygo that would be nice for sipping while on his pontoon boat this summer.

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

Clockwright's Rick Hale is making clocks unlike any you’ve seen before. It’s a piece of sculpture in motion made of Michigan hardwoods.

It’s sad when the bottle is nearly empty. That’s what Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings found when she visited a friend’s house for a party and the bottle of Ann Arbor Distilling Company's new Absinthe Violette was almost gone.

“What have you done to go through that much absinthe?” she asked. The reply was they had been making Necromancers. 

You see it all the time in city streams and rivers: all kinds of trash, much of it plastic, bobbing along the edge of the water. You know it’s not right. You wonder how it got there. And you wonder what can be done about it. One  group of volunteers has stopped asking questions and started doing something.