December 2019 Edition of the
Michigan Soil and Water Conservation Society

The official newsletter of the Michigan Chapter
of the Soil and Water Conservation Society

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Michigan Chapter SWCS in Review



Learning from 2019 as 2020 Looms
Climate disruption is here; what does it mean for Michigan?
What to Watch in Great Lakes Legislation



"This grand show is eternal. it is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and glowing, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls." 

- John Muir


Michigan Chapter SWCS in Review

In the year 2019, Michigan Chapter SWCS maintained our regular practice of conservation communication and development while experimenting with a few new ideas, including a new location for the annual Agriculture and Natural Resources seminar and the role of an outreach intern. Our executive leadership has changed, bringing in a new President, Regional Director, and a rotation of committee members and volunteers from around the state. Our membership is strong, with 57 members and numerous partners and collaborators within and outside of Michigan.

In the spring we enjoyed the annual ANR seminar at a new location in St. Johns, MI, where we will return again this spring. Many ongoing conservation efforts have reached milestones this year, including a significant MAEAP 5000th Certification celebration, continued work with the Maple Watershed RCPP, and sponsorship of the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD). Our Chapter was honored by two national awards this summer, at the 74th International SWCS Conference in Pittsburgh, where several members attended and presented research. We were recognized with the 2019 Outstanding Chapter Award and the 2019 Chapter Achievement Award!

In the fall, we gathered again in Bellaire for the annual meeting and fall field trip. After elections, summary, and discussion at the annual meeting, members and guests alike ventured to Cherry Ke Fruit Production for an educational tour. Now, another round of student scholarships and conservation award nominations is in progress before awards are made at the ANR seminar. Special thanks go out to Dan Kesselring for maintaining records and resources for all of the activities described above on our Chapter website, throughout the year.

The strength and optimism of our Michigan Chapter reflects the hard work of our members and friends. Please continue to participate and welcome others as we strive to foster the science and art of soil and water conservation.

Happy new year!
Rebecca Bender
Region 1 Director

Do you have some conservation-worthy news to share?  Upcoming events or topics of interest to the SWCS Professional Development Committee?  Please feel free to share them with newsletter editor, Rebecca Bender at


Learning from 2019 as 2020 Looms

By Gary Truitt in Michigan Ag Today, December 27, 2019

As we prepare to put 2019 behind us, what can we take away  for planning a better year in 2020? As I talked with a wide variety of company representatives and experts, the consistent message I heard was plan.

Mike Leetch with Syngenta, says that plan needs to have several alternative plans, ”That plan has to have options for when mother nature throws us another curve ball. So you need a plan A and a plan B and even a plan C. Protecting the crop with  a solid plan you can implement next spring is about 80% of the battle.”

John Schartman, with Pioneer, says choosing good genetics is a key, especially when growing soybeans, “Our market research shows that it is good genetics combined with a farmer‘a good management practices that leads to success in growing soybeans.” He added that local Pioneer representatives, working with producers on their farms, are also a key component.

In addition to weather and planting challenges in 2019, diseases were a serious issue for many growers. Paula Halabicki, with BASF, recommends evaluating the likelihood of a disease outbreak and taking steps to prevent it, “Consider if you have had a disease pressure before and evaluate your chances of having a repeat problem. In addition there are higher risk factors like planting corn on corn that should be considered and perhaps plan for fungicide application as a preventative.”

It may be wishful thinking, but most of the people I have talked with feel it is unlikely 2020 will be a repeat of 2019.  There will, however, be challenges and surprises. So plan ahead and be prepared.

Climate disruption is here; what does it mean for Michigan?

An excerpt from Michigan Radio's "The Environment Report"
by Jodi Westrick & Tracy Samilton, on August 12, 2019

[During August 12-19], Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

To start, climate change describes what is happening to our planet as certain gasses in the atmosphere block heat from escaping. This is due to an increase in greenhouse gases: primarily carbon dioxide, but also methane and some others. Whenever we produce and burn a fossil fuel like coal, natural gas, gasoline, diesel, and propane, we increase the concentration of greenhouse gasses. Forests naturally capture carbon dioxide, but humans are prone to clearing the world's forests.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton joined Stateside to discuss the big picture for Michigan.

According to Samilton, we had a taste of what's to come in mid-July when we had three to four days of a nearly 100 degree heat index, which is a combination of heat plus humidity that feels incredibly oppressive. And it's dangerous, too. 

"Imagine having that happen not just a handful of days a year, but up to 25 days a year," Samilton says. "The Union of Concerned Scientists says if we do nothing to curtail our emissions, that's in [Michigan's] future by mid-century. And 26 to 50 days of those extreme heat waves a year by late-century if we do nothing."

In Michigan, changes in climate are more than just warming temperatures. The state has seen an increase in heavy rain events, which has led to more flooding. Samilton says there's been a 14% increase in precipitation in the Great Lakes region since 1951. She says to expect that to continue and increase further.

"Weather is harder to predict than the temperature increases," Samilton said. "So, it could be back and forth. We could have years of really dry, hot summers in Michigan, with super wet springs. And we could have more lake effect snow in the winters, but as it continues to get warmer, we could have a lot more rain in the winter."

So what can we do? Samilton asked Richard Rood, who teaches climate change problem solving at the University of Michigan, that exact question. He tells his students to start running for local office.

Rood says local and city and state policies — and also regional, multi-state efforts — could really move the needle on energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transportation, and reforestation. And he says these local, state and regional efforts are especially crucial because the Trump administration is rolling back policies that address climate change.

Samilton says Michigan cities should also be working on emergency plans for situations that will be a result of climate change, such as dangerous temperatures and flooding.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center's Margrethe Kearney agrees with Rood about getting involved, particularly if your city doesn't have a climate change plan, or holding local officials responsible if the current plan is not meeting its goals.

"We can force the people who represent us in government and the companies who sell things to us, we can insist that they change the way they are responding to climate change, and that they take much more significant action," Kearney says. "And that, that bigger system change, I think, is where there can be a real impact on carbon emissions."

Michigan Radio and Stateside will be talking about environmental issues and how people are taking action on climate change all week. Follow along with us here.

Climate conservation protests became a significant demonstration in 2019. Photo by Bob Blob/UNSPLASH

What to Watch in Great Lakes Legislation

This section provides a brief review of current and pending, key legislative decisions from this year regarding agriculture, environmental protection, and natural resources.
  • Prohibit use of flowback water from hydraulic fracturing process on dirt roads as a dust suppression tool (HB 4072) passed in January.
  • Prohibition of manure or fertilizer application to frozen soil (SB 0012) referred to Committee on Environmental Quality in March, HB 4418 passed in April
  • Require notice and an opportunity for a public hearing prior to authorizing (HB 444) passed in April.
  • Authorize fee to provide for municipal stormwater utilities (HB 4691) passed in June.
  • Create advisory body "Committee on Mining Future" (HB 4227) in July.
  • Prohibit import or transfer of live cervidae from a region that has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (HB4833) passed in August.
  • Rquire state agencies to implement "right to breathable air" (HB 4840) passed in August.
  • Create new act to codify Michigan PFAS action response team (SB 0402) referred to Committee of the Whole in October
  • Creation of "Office of the Small Farms Coordinator"  (HB 5203) passed in November.
  • Direct legislature to make annual appropriation for groundwater contamination geological survey work (SB 0403) referred to committee of the whole with substitute in October.
  • Updates to agricultural disaster loan organization program act (SB0523) referred to committee on appropriations in December.
  • Modify issuance of soil erosion permits during state of emergency declared by Governor (HB 5309) passed in December.
  • Numerous amendments to allowable drinking water contaminant levels

For additional information on legislative updates, visit the complete listing at or consider joining the MI-SWCS Legislative Committee.


Michigan Chapter SWCS

March 4, 2020 Agriculture National Resources Seminar
AgroLiquid Conference Center, 3055 W. M-21 St. Johns, MI

International SWCS

July 26-29, 2019 SWCS International Annual Conference
Des Moines, Iowa
SWCS is seeking oral presentations, poster presentations, symposia and workshops for the 75th SWCS International Annual Conference

Other Organizations

2020 Introduction to Lakes Online Course
Introduction to Lakes is a nationally recognized six-week online course designed for lake enthusiasts interested in learning about ecology, aquatic plants, watersheds, shorelines and more. Course instructors include MSU Extension educators and state agency personnel.

The 2020 course runs January 14th to March 13th. The cost of the course is $115 per person. Register by December 20th to receive an early-bird discount of $95 per person. Registration is open now through January 8th.

April 28-20, 2020 Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference
Novi, MI
The 2020 Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference, a first-of-its-kind regional conference hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), will identify the water infrastructure challenges faced by the Great Lakes region and discuss solutions to those challenges. Key topics will include funding and finance mechanisms, water affordability, environmental health, water infrastructure planning and reinvestment, innovative water quality solutions, green infrastructure techniques, cybersecurity strategy, and communications practices.  

MDEQ Calendar:

MDNR Calendar:

MSU Extension Calendar:
Copyright © 2019 Soil and Water Conservation Society: Michigan Chapter, All rights reserved.

This newsletter is a monthly compilation of news stories of interest to Michigan SWCS members and stakeholders. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the Soil and Water Conservation Society unless so stated.

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