Friday, July 3, 2015

State announces $3.6 million in available grant funding to combat invasive species in Michigan

Funding proposals for 2015 are now being accepted through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, with an anticipated $3.6 million available to applicants. The program – a joint effort of the Michigan departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Rural Development – is part of a statewide initiative launched in 2014 to help prevent and control invasive species in Michigan.

The 2015 grant program handbook outlining focus areas and information on how to apply is available on the DNR website The Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program supports projects throughout the state that prevent, detect, manage and eradicate invasive species on the ground and in the water. Total grant funding is set by the Legislature and the governor during the annual budget cycle.

Administered by the DNR, the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program targets four key objectives:

  • Preventing new introductions of invasive species through outreach and education.
  • Monitoring for new invasive species as well as expansions of current invasive species.
  • Managing and controlling key colonized species in a strategic manner.
  • Responding to and conducting eradication efforts for new findings and range expansions.

"These grants offer a great opportunity to expand crucial efforts to battle invasive species in Michigan’s woods and waters,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh.

"Partnerships like this are vital to protecting our world-class natural resources,” Creagh added. “There is an enormous need to work together to address invasive species in our state, and just as big a willingness by residents, agencies and other stakeholders to get the job done. This grant funding will go a long way toward achieving that success.”

Local, federal and tribal units of government, nonprofit organizations and universities may apply for funding to support invasive species projects conducted in Michigan.  For this 2015 funding cycle, pre-proposals will be accepted through July 31 and requested full proposals are due by Oct. 30.

Grant requests for 2015 projects can range from a minimum of $25,000 to a maximum of $400,000. Applicants must commit to provide at least 10 percent of the total project cost in the form of a local match. Proposals with match levels above 10 percent will receive higher ranking.

Competitive applications will outline clear objectives, propose significant ecological benefits, demonstrate diverse collaboration and show strong community support.

2014 grant funding outcomes In 2014, the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program provided more than $4 million to fund 19 projects including the development or expansion of Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas, which now operate in 66 of Michigan’s 83 counties. These cooperatives detect, map and manage invasive phragmites, Japanese and giant knotweed, flowering rush and other non-native species that can cause economic or environmental harm. Additional awards focused on:

  • Finding new approaches to treating aquatic invasive plants.
  • Reducing the spread of oak wilt and preventing new forest invaders.
  • Raising public awareness and participation in identifying and reporting invasive species.
Informational grant workshops in June and July 
Those interested in undertaking invasive species projects in Michigan and considering applying for a grant are encouraged to attend one of four upcoming workshops scheduled in Mackinaw City (June 25), Munising (June 26), Hastings (June 30) and Detroit (July 7).

Attendees will learn about program goals, 2015 focus areas, applicant eligibility and the application procedure. Optional discussion sessions to help connect groups interested in developing Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas will be held following the workshops at the two southern Michigan locations.

To register for one of these grant workshops or to learn more about the invasive species initiative, current projects and the 2015 grant program, visit

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Heartland RV Gateway & Sundance Plant Tour

Gateway Fifth Wheels and Sundance Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers by Heartland RV are two of the most recognized and respected names in the RV Industry. This brief video will provide you with a virtual tour of Heartland's Gateway and Sundance manufacturing processes and facilities located in Elkhart, Indiana.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Giraffe G4 RV Low Clearance Collision Avoidance

Received an email the other day from Frank Nugent of Giraffe G4 RV Low Clearance Collision Avoidance. Take a minute and watch this pretty humorous video, and learn about a nice system for avoiding low bridges.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Michigan DNR: Scared of snakes? No need to be

This spring, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources put out the call for people to report the herptiles – reptiles and amphibians – that they observe across the state. The request is part of an atlas project, designed to monitor the presence and distribution of “herps” across the state.

“It’s for all species, common or rare,” said Lori Sargent, a DNR wildlife biologist who keeps track of Michigan’s herptiles. “The other day I got a call about a spotted turtle (a threatened species) in an area where they’d never been spotted before.

Blue racers are among Michigan’s
largest snakes. (DNR photos)
“There are not a lot of people working on herps, even at universities,” she continued. “They’re not a game species. They’re not high-profile.”

While herps don’t usually evoke the same warm and fuzzy emotions folks often express about other wildlife, there’s one group of herptiles – snakes – that brings out the opposite reaction. Snakes have gotten a bad rap ever since Adam and Eve and that apple, and it doesn’t seem to have changed since.

“We’re hearing of more of kids who are afraid of snakes,” Sargent said. “Maybe this will help educate people that snakes are valuable at both ends of the food chain. They keep rodent populations in check. They’re important. And they’re cool.

“I get pictures of a dead snake with a note – what kind is it? People are so quick to kill them and then identify them. What did snakes ever do to you? They’re mostly harmless.”

Snakes are legless reptiles that inhabit a wide range of habitats, cold-blooded creatures unable to generate their own heat. They are most comfortable in warm weather and pass the winter in frost-free shelters, often below-ground burrows.  They typically breed in the spring; some lay eggs, others deliver live young.

Michigan is home to 18 species of snakes. Some species of snakes are docile, retiring creatures; others are more aggressive and will strike if harassed. None of them – except for the rattlesnake -- is harmful to people. Ordinary snake bites should be treated like any other cut or abrasion.

The massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous reptile.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is the only poisonous specimen in Michigan, and it’s the smallest of rattlesnakes with the least toxic venom. It is shy and prefers to avoid confrontations, but will strike if threatened.  The massasauga lives in wetlands and associated uplands and feeds largely on rodents. Massasaugas aren’t often seen; folks who spot them should enjoy the experience and leave them alone. If bitten by a rattlesnake, seek immediate medical attention.

Loss of wetlands habitat and other factors have made massasaugas a “species of special concern” in Michigan and given them a status of “protected.” Their status is under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if they deserve “threatened” status.

Adding to the massasauga’s woes is snake fungal disease, which can kill them. First discovered in Michigan in two specimens the Grayling area in 2013, a total of five tested positive for the disease among 16 rattlesnakes necropsied by the DNR in 2014. (Vehicular trauma was the most common cause of death.)

Perhaps the most common snake in Michigan is the garter snake. There are two species (eastern and Butler’s). Eastern garter snakes are more widespread, found in both peninsulas. They feed on earthworms, frogs and small mammals. Butler’s garter snakes have not been documented in the Upper Peninsula and prefer earthworms.

Northern water snakes are common and widespread in Michigan.
There are two species of water snake in Michigan, the northern and the copper-bellied. Northerns are common and widespread. Copper-bellied water snakes, among Michigan’s largest snakes, are listed as an endangered species in Michigan and are threatened nationally.

The largest snakes in Michigan are black rat snakes, which (rarely) can attain a length of 8 feet as adults. Found in woodlands, often near water in the southern Lower Peninsula, rat snakes are rare and declining. They are a “species of special concern” in Michigan and are protected.

Among the larger snakes in Michigan are blue racers, which can measure up to 6 feet in length. A species that was once common but is in decline – probably due to habitat loss and persecution – blue racers eat rodents, insects and other snakes.

Among the more fascinating snakes in Michigan is the eastern hognose snake, a slow-moving, thick-bodied reptile with an upturned snout (hence the name) that inhabits sandy woodlots and dunes. When accosted, hognose snakes will begin an elaborate ruse – inflating their hoods and pretending to strike – like a cobra. This has led them to being nicknamed “puff adders.” But if the show fails to deter the harasser, the hognose snake will roll over on its back with mouth agape and play dead. Roll it back on its belly, and it’ll roll back over on its back. Hognose snakes feed almost exclusively on toads and are completely harmless.

Brown snakes are small, shy critters that feed
on earthworms and slugs.
Among the more striking snakes in Michigan is the smooth green snake, a small, docile creature that feeds largely on insects. They have been recorded statewide, but have largely disappeared from southern Michigan, perhaps because of pesticides, given their diet.

Due to a strange wrinkle in state law, reptiles and amphibians are regulated by the DNR Fisheries Division. A fishing license is required to take snakes for personal use; they may not be shot with a firearm, air gun or bow.

People may not take or possess six species of snakes in Michigan: black rat snakes, eastern fox snakes, copper-bellied water snakes, Kirtland’s snakes, queen snakes or massasaugas.

The daily limit on snakes is three, with no more than six in possession.

Much more information on snakes can be found at the DNR website at Be sure to check out the “60-Second Snakes” videos on the DNR’s YouTube channel.

Snake (or other herptile) sightings may be reported to

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Top Independence Day RV Parks named by Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide

Phoenix RV Resort
For June, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is highlighting Top Independence Day Parks as part of the publisher’s 12 Months of RVing promotion.

The RV parks on this pull out all of the stops for their nation's birthday, hosting celebrations the include fireworks, colorful parades or excursions to nearby celebrations. Some parks host patriotic musical performances, while others serve up barbecued hot dogs. All parks on this list help guests appreciate the biggest day of the summer travel season in the United States.

The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide chose the list of Independence Day parks from the annual publication’s database of more than 7,000 private parks.

Top Independence Day RV Parks:

Catherine's Landing at Hot Springs, Hot Springs (see video above)

Los Angeles Fairplex KOA, Pomona
Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego

New Jersey
Long Beach Carefree RV Resort, Barnegat

Phoenix RV Park, Salem

Two Rivers Campground, Nashville

12 Months of RVing
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of RVing travel preferences, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide helps consumers find the parks that support their interests.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. Click here for a list of all parks included in the 12 Months of RVing.

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Kids, sportsmen help DNR improve Drummond Island grouse habitat

A Drummond Island Elementary School student shows
off the trees he’s about to plant at the DNR’s GEMS site.
(Michigan DNR photos)
A recent work day at a Department of Natural Resources recreation site on Drummond Island had it all: local sportsmen, statewide conservation clubs, public employees, citizen volunteers. And kids. Thirty-five of them.

The event was a tree- and shrub-planting day at the state Grouse Enhanced Management Site (GEMS). It brought together groups with varying purposes to fulfill one mission: improve the habitat for ruffed grouse and other species on the northern Lake Huron island.

“This is what we do with the kids for Arbor Day,” said Brian Plowman, president of the Drummond Island Sportsman’s Club and a captain on the island’s ferry boat. “This has been going on for a lot of years before I was involved.”

The Drummond Island school kids’ tree-planting project was begun by John Ostlund, an Elk Rapids resident who owns a camp on the island. Known as “Bugman” – Ostlund says “it’s because I bug everybody,” but really he has a background in entomology – the 77-year-old Ostlund started taking the elementary school kids out to plant trees years ago. They planted pine trees on various tracts that were lacking in tree cover.

“We have to help out nature at times,” Ostlund said. “She can’t do it all herself.”

Youngsters plant trees at the DNR’s Drummond Island
Grouse Enhanced Management Site.
Ostlund’s mission has evolved over the years, and the program the DNR embarked on last year to create showcase ruffed grouse management areas dovetailed perfectly into this year’s event.

“We’re moving more toward shrubs that help the wildlife,” Plowman said. “Elderberries, high bush cranberries, dogwoods – we’re planting anything that has anything to do with helping out wildlife.

“And the kids love it,” Plowman continued. “They don’t care what kind of trees we’re planting. They just want to go out and plant trees.”

DNR biologist Dave Jenthoft, who works out of the DNR’s Sault Ste. Marie office, said this was the first project at the Drummond Island GEMS, which was established in 2014.

“This is a good project,” Jenthoft said. “We get some good habitat work done, and it’s a good collaborative project, getting the kids involved and getting them out here to understand habitat. And it’s good to work with so many different groups.”

Among the groups were the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and the Michigan Sharp-Tailed Grouse Association.

Marty Sarrault assists a youngster with trees to be
planted to improve wildlife habitat on Drummond Island.
The RGS, which partners with the DNR on the GEMS program, is a natural fit. Terry Lamb, a regional director with RGS, said his group acquired the trees and shrubs through the Leelanau County non-profit group Saving Birds Thru Habitat.

“We do this throughout the state,” Lamb said. “It allows RGS to work with the chapters on more than just holding banquets. People are getting out and doing something worthwhile for the environment – using elbow grease on the ground – but it’s a good social outlet, too.”

The sharp-tailed grouse group, which works to benefit a grassland species, believes the species it focuses on will derive some benefit from the planting, too.

“Sharptails will utilize these areas in the winter for cover and for the mast crop,” said Marty Sarrault of Cheboygan, president of the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association. “It’ll work for them, too.

“Besides, I spend more time going after grouse and woodcock than I do sharptails.”

Youngsters, gathered at the sign at the DNR’s Drummond
Island GEMS, prepare for a day of tree planting.
Elly Plowman, the teacher who escorted the 35 Drummond Island Elementary School students (third through sixth grades) to the site, said the event was a great fit for the children.

“Our school theme is CREW – caring, respectful, enthusiastic workers,” she said. “This fits in perfectly. This project is a good way to give them the opportunity to be good CREW members.”

Trevor Norris, a sixth-grader who said he planted six trees, agreed.

“I like helping the ruffed grouse,” he said. “I like to hunt them, once or twice year. I’ve gotten a few.”

Mike and Amanda Fairchild, cattle farmers on the island, showed up with their fifth- and sixth-grade sons to help out.

“It’s a good time,” Mike said. “The kids learn how to plant trees and help the wildlife, and some of these kids don’t get to do this sort of thing very often.

DNR biologists Dave Jenthoft (left) and Al Stewart discuss
logistics as volunteer Marty Sarrault hands out trees for
youngsters to plant at the Drummond Island GEMS.
“And it’s good to see the Ruffed Grouse Society involved, too. It’s a good outing.”

Charter boat skipper Ivan Gable, who grew up on the island and retired there after a long career downstate in the automotive industry, says the kids are the key.

“They’re out here picking up rocks, asking what they are, learning about trees – they can’t teach that in school,” he said.

Al Stewart, upland gamebird specialist with the DNR, said he thinks the GEMS program – with seven sites across the state – is a winner.

“GEMS projects coordinate the community into activities that advance wildlife and help develop stronger partnerships with our constituents,” Stewart said. “It allows everyone to have an investment in the land and its management.”

The GEMS will be heavily managed with an eye toward producing top-quality habitat with easy accessibility. The sites will benefit from accelerated aspen-cutting rotations, improved trails that are easily negotiated and seeded to clover, and planting trees and shrubs that are attractive to grouse, deer, and other wildlife.

“The local chambers of commerce in these communities want to have showcase areas that attract people to them,” Stewart said. “And there’s an educational component, teaching people what habitat to look for, or if you’re a landowner, what kind of habitat to strive for on your own property.”

For more information on GEMS, visit

Thursday, June 18, 2015

RV Geeks Video: 10 Quick RVing Tips & Tricks from Long-Term Full-Timers

Enjoy this video from the RV Geeks on the "10 Quick RVing Tips & Tricks from Long-Term Full-Timers."

Here's what RV Geeks had to say about their video:
We've picked up a lot of RV tricks & tips over the years, so we thought we'd share 10 quick little RVing ideas that might make life in your motorhome, 5th wheel or travel trailer just a little bit better.

About RV Geeks

The RV Geeks offer RV maintenance, repair & travel tips from “Do-It-Ourselves” full-time RVers. They’ve handled most of their own RV maintenance during more than a decade of exploring North America. While not RV technicians, the RV Geeks are mechanically inclined and have learned a lot about RV systems over the years. They handle most of our own minor service, repair and upgrade work on our 2005 43′ Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher. We also maintained our 2002 39′ Fleetwood Bounder Diesel during our first two years on the road. Visit their website and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

RV Education 101: 10 Easy Steps to Keep your RV Ready for the Next Trip

Enjoy this video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 on the "10 Easy Steps to Keep your RV Ready for the Next Trip."

In this informative RV how-to video Mark walks us through 10 easy steps to keep your RV ready for the next RV trip. Now when you are ready to go the RV is too.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide names Top Culinary Parks

The Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is highlighting Top Culinary Parks as part of the 12 Months of RVing promotion.

Asheville Bear Creek RV Park
These select RV Parks are located in regions known for distinctive local cuisine or in areas that host popular food festivals. Culinary parks are found both in fertile farming regions and in large, sophisticated cities. The common denominator: they're ideal for adventurous RV food lovers seeking great meals on the road. The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory chose the list of culinary parks from the annual publication’s database of more than 7,000 private parks.

Top Culinary RV Parks:

Pechanga RV Resort, Temecula (see video below)


Naples Motorcoach Resort, Naples (see video below)

Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, Mackinaw City (see video above)

North Carolina
Asheville Bear Creek RV Park, Asheville (see video below)


Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City

12 Months of RVing
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of RVing travel preferences, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide helps consumers find the parks that support their interests.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. Click here for a list of all parks included in the 12 Months of RVing.

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keep Your RV Mildew-Free With Three Easy Steps

Editor's note: Enjoy this guest post from Eva-Dry.

An RV is the invitation to an adventure, and a huge investment to protect. Your home on the road can also be a battleground for mold and mildew. The most common factors that affect the humidity inside an RV include temperature changes, washing, and cooking. That damp air can settle on the RV walls and cause serious damage, which ultimately extends to the entire structure. Stop moisture in its tracks with Eva-Dry dehumidifiers.

Follow these three easy steps to reduce humidity, which can lead to mold and mildew.

1. Invest in a good dehumidifier.
  • A portable, mini dehumidifier, like the Eva-Dry E-500 or the EDV-1100, will extract moisture from the air and protect your seating, bedding and walls.
  • Unlike most dehumidifiers, Eva-Dry mini dehumidifiers are silent, safe around children & pets and eco-friendly. 
  • They won’t spill when the camper is moving, and they don’t require any electricity or power to work. Many models are reusable up to ten years. Eva-Dry is available at your local Target store and RV store/distributor, online at or by calling 877-382-3790.
2. Attack the source of humidity.
  • Cover all pots and pans when cooking to minimize water vapor.
  • Dry clothes outdoors.
3. Ventilate your RV.
  • Use extractor fans, normally mounted in bathrooms and in the ceiling of your RV, when taking a shower or cooking.
  • Briefly crack a window to slow condensation formation. 
These steps should keep your RV mildew-free, and you free to make more memories. Hit the road in your home away from home.

About Eva Dry DehumidifiersFor the past decade, Eva-Dry compact dehumidifiers have been the safest, healthiest and most efficient way to reduce moisture, with a higher absorption rate than more traditional (disposable) dehumidifying products on the market. The compact renewable units, fight mold, moisture and mildew, throughout homes, boats, RVs, safes and storage, to protect valuables. Visit, or call (877) 382.3790for more information.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Guest Post: Late Spring Snowpack Leads To Solid Rafting Season on Colorado River

Late spring snow pack and rains bode well for river rafting vacations this season on the Colorado River System, reports Western River Expeditions.

This river system, built by flows from numerous western rivers, is providing as of now, positive impact on the company’s roster of trips on the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah and Arizona. On the Green River these are adventures through Desolation Canyon, and on the Colorado River, trips through Westwater and Cataract Canyons. Trips in the Grand Canyon are also impacted because hydrologists anticipate increased releases from dams that affect river flows.

“A few weeks ago, we were looking at a very low water year. We were planning for it, we had prepared the guides and the gear for it, then it started to rain down low and snow up high.  On May 5 the snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin was sitting at 41% of normal making it one of the driest years ever. Two weeks later, it had increased to 75% on average with some areas exceeding 100%.  This is an unprecedented gain of snowpack so late in the water season,” said Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River Expeditions.

More snow in the mountains means more water in the rivers, and this company is now anticipating what Merrill called “a fantastic year.” After the snow began falling, “we quickly made adjustments in what style of rafts we will be using and the river guides are happy as clams.  Judging from the reviews we are getting from our guests, they are also ecstatic about the predicted water levels.”

He added that the snowpack also represents an unexpected boost for the reservoirs on the Colorado River.  Water managers are revising upwards predictions about lake levels that feed into this system including Lakes Powell and Mead, a boost for water-based recreation all along the Colorado River system.

As of the start of June, snowpack on the entire Colorado River System stood at 141.52% of the June 2 historic average. Only a few weeks ago the figures were discouraging as snowpack in the Colorado River basin stood at just a fraction of that.  For up-to-the-minute snowpack reports see:

“We want to get this upbeat report out to rafting enthusiasts who may be concerned that the drought menacing California waters has spread into other river systems in the western United States,” added Merrill. “An above-average snowpack in the Northern and Central Rockies means we’ll have the best season in years for rafting on the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah.”
For a copy of the 2015 Western River Expeditions catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669), or visit: For more information on Moab Adventure Center please call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163 or send an email from

About Western River Expeditions
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center