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Weird Weather Threatens Michigan Outdoor Sports and Profits

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April 2, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan outdoors people and small businesses who cater to them are counting their losses from "the winter that wasn't."

Dawn Bodnar, executive director at the Indian River Chamber of Commerce, says it happened over and over again. The annual dog sled race: Cancelled. Ice hockey tournament: Cancelled. Cross-country skiing events: Cancelled. And, she says, forget snowmobiling.

Bodnar says a few businesses that had already been struggling simply closed for good.

"I think the weather probably had the final impact on them, because people weren't coming up. They weren't spending money. It just didn't end well for them."

She says businesses around Indian River reported between 30 and 70 percent drops in tourist activity in the last five months.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation says the Great Lakes ice cover has decreased by 71 percent during the past four decades. Lack of ice threatens fish that depend on ice to protect vulnerable eggs from dangerous wind and waves.

Pellston, known as "the icebox" of the state, broke warm-weather records for five days in March, ending the ice fishing season two weeks early.

Brenda Archambo, who has ice-fished near Pellston since childhood, says thin ice made it too dangerous to go out on most days. She says the Department of Natural Resources and the fruit-tree growers are worried about the possibility of more weird weather in the spring.

"They're very concerned about forest fires because it's so tinder-dry. And the apple growers, the buds started to bud. Now we're getting this cold snap, whereby if the frost sets in, that's going to have a really negative impact."

Archambo sees all this as a sign that pollution is causing climate change. To those who don't believe the warnings about global warming, she says:

"What is wrong with cleaning up our environment? What is wrong with making our air cleaner and our water cleaner?"

While Archambo puts away her fishing shanty for the season, Bodnar says businesses in her area look forward to summer in hopes of making up for winter losses.

"Well, as long as the sun shines, we should be good."

The National Wildlife Federation's report "On Thin Ice" says this winter was the fourth-warmest on record and that cutting carbon emissions and protecting the Clean Air Act would go a long way to protecting Michigan's outdoor traditions.

More information is at tinyurl.com/bp8epup.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI