NMU President Les Wong praises students for trying to save environmental research project from being destroyed to build dorms

NMU President meets for an hour with students trying to save environment research project; Dr. Les Wong given ongoing petition with nearly 900 signatures to stop Native Plants Project from being uprooted to build dorms

Dr. Wong impressed with students knowledge, preparation: NMU is “producing young scholars who want us to do the right thing”

Students to explain effort to save the Native Plants Project at Lake Superior environment conference

(Marquette, Michigan) – Students presented an ongoing petition with nearly 900 signatures to Northern Michigan University President Les Wong during a one-hour meeting today and left his offices with renewed hope to save an environment research project from being uprooted to build dorms.

The Native Plants Project will be destroyed to build dorms if the proposed NMU Master Plan is not changed.

NMU student Michael Rotter, a senior biology major spearheading the petition drive, and representatives of three other student environment organizations attended the meeting with NMU President Les Wong that lasted about an hour on Thursday (Oct. 25, 2007).

NMU Student Michael Rotter is leading the fight to protect the Native Plants Project that has involved the blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of students

“I found the meeting encouraging,” said Rotter, adding the students presented Dr. Wong with petitions signed by nearly 900 NMU students who hope to save the Native Plants Project from being destroyed to build dorms.

Five students met with Dr. Wong including Amber Masters, social chair for the Environmental Science Organization; Cory Howes, president of the Students Against Sulfide Mining; Eric Miller, president of the Superior Geography Club; and NMU senior Emily Wessels, an NMU senior and environmental science major.

“Dr. Wong seemed very supportive and open to our opinions – but no promises were made,” said Rotter, a member of the Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper Student Team.

“We showed him maps of the area and we talked to him about future ideas for the study area,” Rotter said. 

The five-acre Native Plants Project is located on the northside of the Northern Michigan University campus. (NMU Native Plant Project Photos by Professor Dr. Ronald Sundell)

NMU President Wong has stressed the master plan is a proposal and a final decision has not been made.

Dr. Wong said he “was thoroughly impressed with the students’ knowledge and preparation.”

“Their ideas have merit and their proactive manner in helping me think through the issues was deeply appreciated,” Dr. Wong said. “I’m proud of the role NMU played not only in their education but in producing young scholars who want us to do the right thing.”

“I look forward to future meetings with them,” Dr. Wong said.

Students are learning a great deal about the environment as the work inside and out on the Native Plants Project at NMU

Dr. Wong was presented with future plans for the Native Plants Project including planting white pine and red oak trees to protect students from bitter winter weather in an area of the five acre Native Plants Project that Rotter described as “a wind tunnel that channels the wind through the buildings.”

“He really liked some of ours ideas to reduce the winds in the area during the winter and to rearrange the sidewalks for students to have better access to classes and other areas of campus,” Rotter said.

Rotter said some of the white pine trees will be 10-feet tall when planted so there is an immediate effect that will provide increasing protection with the growth of branches.

Northern Michigan University students are trying to save their four-year-old Native Plants project that will be a valuable seed tool for other northern Michigan environment efforts and help attract students to the campus along Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula if its not destroyed to make dorms“Dr. Wong gave us some advice on who we can talk to in the administration about keeping out native plants study area intact,” Rotter said.“Dr. Wong was very open and very inviting to our ideas on the native plants area,” Rotter said. “He could not guarantee us anything but it was very encouraging none-the-less.”Rotter said the students were given information on how to be put on the agenda of the December NMU Board of Trustees meeting to make a presentation about the native plants.The students will continue the petition drive and other efforts to spare the Native Plants Project from being uprooted.“Our next step is to continue to meet with members of administration and talk to the Board of Trustees and to continue collecting signatures on our petitions,” Rotter said.Students have gathered about 900 signatures in an attempt to stop NMU from removing the Native Plants Project that has received $24,000 in state and federal funding, said Rotter, who spent many hours protecting the plants from this summer’s drought and is spearheading the petition drive with help from other students.Thousands of students hours have gone into making the project a success and it includes The project includes field sampling of vegetation, insects, birds, small mammals, and is expected to attract reptiles and amphibiansNMU President Wong said that “there is no clear consensus on the location of the residence halls and there is considerable opinion that any structure that impinges on the Native Plant Project would not have campus-wide support.”

If the native plants project is taken off the chopping block, President Wong and other members of the NMU administration will prove the university is sincere when it uses the slogan “Northern Naturally” to promote the campus, Rotter said.

The native plants outdoor classroom will include a northern open pine barrens, a retention pond/wetland area, upland mesic forest and shrub types representing various northern Michigan habitats. The project has attracted insects, birds, and small mammals and is expected to attract amphibians and reptiles.

Over the past four years, hundreds of NMU students have worked hard to build the Native Plants Project that will soon become a beautiful part of campus if it’s not destroyed by NMU dorm planners

The outdoor classroom is used to study ecological modeling, plant identification, native plant propagation, restoration techniques and water quality.

Dr. Sundell said that campus planners have other areas to build dorms instead of destroying the native plants area.

“We understand the work that has gone into the planting project, and that some of the plants may not do well if moved,” said Dr. Wong, who has toured the project. “We want feedback on the big ideas.”

Rotter is receiving support from student organizations including the NMU Environmental Science Organization, Superior Geography Club, Sustainable Agriculture club, and the Students Against Sulfide Mining.

Native plants help keep waterways clean, build habitat for animals and other organisms, Rotter said.

The student founders of the project hope to be able to show to their children what they helped start.

“I have always told my students that the project they started is part of a long term green-scaping of the campus,” Sundell said. “The university has started an environmental sustainability committee to make our campus greener and address other issues like reducing our energy requirements, and less pesticide and fertilizer use.”

Beautiful flowers are part of the project that is coming of age and will soon have many flowering plants in brilliant colors

“Our Native Plants Project is a prime example to the university committee and the general community on how to develop more sustainable systems on campus and the U.P.,” Sundell said.

“In the plan they state this a would be a green corridor – this is already a green corridor,” Sundell said. “If they carry through with the plan they have a building that would block that green corridor.

“The native plants are part of a current green corridor that stretches north from classrooms in the new science building to the existing dorms,” Sundell said.

Hundreds of students from the student environmental science organization and NMU classes have assisted in development of the Native Plants Project site, Sundell said.

NMU students who have helped Professor Sundell develop and manage the Native Plant Project over the past four years are Mike Stefancic, Jason Woodhull and Michael Rotter. The three students each spent a summer managing the native plants including planting, maintaining and developing of the site Sundell said.

This map shows the five acre project at NMU that is growing each year but now faces destruction to make way for dorms and other student housing.

Despite the worst drought in U.P. history the student volunteers added about 11,000 native plants to the project this summer, Sundell said.

“This Native Plants Project is valuable as an educational and research site and a native seed bank for future environmental restoration project in the central U.P.,” said Sundell. “As the project moves forward NMU will become a major seed source for environmental restoration projects in the central U.P.”

The Native Plants Project is coming of age and will add beauty to the campus including flowering plants and grasses in various shades of white, yellow, pink and purple, Sundell said.

NMU students put loving care into the five-acre Native Plants Project on the north side of campus (NMU Native Plant Project Photos by Professor Dr. Ronald Sundell)

NMU students put loving care into the five-acre Native Plants Project on the north side of campus (NMU Native Plant Project Photos by Professor Dr. Ronald Sundell)

Student Michael Rotter can be reached by calling 231-250-3061

email: mrotter@nmu.edu

The NMU EK Student team can be reached by calling 906-475-5068

email: earthkeeper@charter.net

Project Prof. Dr. Ronald Sundell can be reached at 906-227-1359

email: rsundell@nmu.edu

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About yoopernewsman

I am a news reporter, writer and investigative journalist and began my career about 40 years ago as a young teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during the middle of high school. I'm a news reporter, writer & investigative journalist specializing in street news, plus Indigenous, civil rights & environment reporting. Currently volunteer media advisor for numerous American Indian & environment related nonprofits that include the Navajo Lutheran Mission in Rock Point, AZ & its executive director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard, the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute (CTI) in Marquette, MI & its many projects founded by Rev. Jon Magnuson, Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI, Celtic Christianity Today (CCT) founded by Rev. Dr. George Cairns, the Turtle Island Project founded by pastors Hubbard & Cairns. In its third summer, the CTI Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project & its volunteers built a16-foot geodesic dome solar-powered greenhouse that was built in this summer at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) in an effort to restore native species plants to northern Michigan. It's located at the tribe's Natural Resources Department north of L'Anse along Lake Superior. During the summer of 2010, Zaagkii Project teens built & painted 25 beautiful reliquaries that are boxes made from pine & cedar that are used to store seeds for planting & included samples of Native American medicine including sweetgrass, cedar, sage & tobacco. From April-June 2009, I promoted the EarthKeeper Tree Project that planted 12,000 trees across northern Michigan. Co-edited "Unafraid," the second book by Author Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek, MI that was printed in May 2009 based on her father's handwritten sermons she found in shoebox. I edited numerous videos for nonprofit CCT. Began career 35 years ago as teenager in Augusta, GA after moving south during middle of high school. I was co-coordinator of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by local media who didn't report anything positive about the music icon. Mr. Terence Dicks was the other co-coordinator & most recently served as chair of the Augusta Human Relations Commission and serves on the Georgia Clients Council. Mr. Brown taught us to "fight the good fight" by battling all forms of racism & evil while not uttering a bad word about those who try to block justice, respect, fairness & kindness to all. As a child, I lived in the Harbert, Michigan home built by late poet Carl Sandburg, where the legendary author penned some of his greatest works including his Chicago works & Lincoln papers. The four-story home had a sundeck on the top & a cool walk-in safe in the basement. The neighborhood (Birchwood) has numerous cottages used for other purposes by Sandburg like the milk house where they milked goats. My parents remodeled fourth floor of the home that stands atop the Lake Michigan sand dunes/bluffs. They found items that belonged to Mr. Sandburg concealed in the walls including prescription bottles with his name, reading glasses, & a small, thin metal stamp with his name. I've worked for dozens of newspapers & radio & TV stations in GA & MI. I'm volunteer media advisor for several interfaith environmental projects involving Native Americans across Upper Peninsula of MI including the Turtle Island Project, The Zaagkii Project, the Interfaith Earth Healing Initiative, EarthKeeper Initiative & the Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project. The Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project restores bee & butterfly habitat to help pollination of plants following death of billions of bees. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community youth & Marquette teens built butterfly houses, planted/distributed 26,000 native plants to help pollinators. The Earth Healing Initiative assisted EPA Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge. EHI helped organize interfaith participation across eight states for the 100 plus recycling projects (April 2008) involving recycling millions of pounds of electronic waste & proper disposal of millions of pills/pharmaceuticals. EPA goals were exceeded by 500%. Under an EPA grant, EHI provided free media services for the cities/groups/tribes including videos & press releases. The EarthKeeper environment projects include an annual Earth Day Clean Sweep (2005-2007) at 24 free drop-off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan that collected over 370 tons of household hazardous waste. The 2007 EarthKeeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep collected over one ton of drugs plus $500,000 in narcotics in only three hours. Some 2,000 residents participated & many brought in pharmaceuticals for their family, friends & neighbors. In 2006, 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones & other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons & vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project teaches teens to respect nature & themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to remote lakes & streams in northern Michigan to plant/care for wild rice. The teens test water quality to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. The Turtle Island Project was co-founded in July 2007 by Rev. Lynn Hubbard of Rock Point, AR (Ex. Dir. of the Navajo Lutheran Mission) & Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, IN, United Church of Christ minister & research professor for the Chicago Theological Seminary. TIP promotes respect for culture & heritage of indigenous peoples like American Indians. TIP is a platform for American Indians to be heard unedited by whites. Rev. Hubbard says whites don't have the knowledge or right to speak on behalf of Native Americans. I specialize in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops & courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the books "Illusions" & "Jonathon Livingston Seagull." Love to fish, hunt, camp & skydive. Belong to Delta Chi national fraternity. I was active in Junior Achievement, band played cornet. With my dear friend, the Rev. Terence A. Dicks, we were the co-coordinators of the 1986 original James Brown Appreciation Day in Augusta, GA, where the Godfather of Soul was always trashed by the local media who found no reasons to print or report anything positive about the music icon. I am honored to help the human rights activist Terence Dicks - with some of his projects including the nonprofit Georgia Center for Children and Education - and the economic initiative he founded titled "Claiming A Street Named King." I am the volunteer media advisor for several environmental projects across Michigan's Upper Peninsula including EarthKeeper II - an Initiative of the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute in Marquette, MI. EarthKeepers II is an Interfaith Energy Conservation and Community Garden Initiative across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Goals: Restore Native Plants and Protect the Great Lakes from Toxins like Airborne Mercury in cooperation with the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, U.S. Forest Service, 10 faith traditions and Native American tribes like the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Previously known as the Earth Keeper Initiative - that project included many environmental projects including an annual Earth Day Clean sweep at two dozen free drop off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan. The target of the 2007 Earth Keeper Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep are all kinds of medicines. In 2006, some 10,000 people dropped off over 320 tons of old/broken computers, cell phones and other electronic waste, all of which was recycled. In 2005, residents turned in 45 tons of household poisons and vehicle batteries. The Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project taught at-risk teens (just sentenced in juvenile court) to respect nature and themselves by having American Indian guides escort them to very remote lakes and streams in northern Michigan to plant and care for wild rice. The teens conducted water quality and other tests to determine the best conditions for the once native grain to survive. I have always specialized in civil rights, outdoor, environmental, cops and courts reporting thanks to my late mentor Jay Mann (Jan Tillman Hutchens), an investigative reporter in Augusta, who lived by the book "Illusions."
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