US-41 Closing Nightly to Save Migrating Salamanders
A section of the Upper Peninsula highway will be blockaded nightly to allow for the passage of Blue-Spotted Salamanders traveling from inland areas to Lake Superior.
MARQUETTE, Mich. - Upper Peninsula officials announced today that a section of highway along Lake Superior will be closed each night to allow for the safe passage of migrating blue-spotted salamanders.
Officials say that the section of US-41 between the Carp River and the Welcome Center between Marquette and Harvey will be closed to vehicular traffic nightly at 8 p.m.
Sam Fibian, President and CEO of the Blue-Spotted Salamander Society, said that allowing safe passage for the salamanders is crucial for their long-term survival—and the profitability of his organization.
“Each year, millions and millions of blue-spotted salamanders migrate from the inlands of the Upper Peninsula to Lake Superior, where they dip their toes in, realize it’s far, far too cold to swim, then sit on the sand until it’s time to lay their eggs.”
“Once we get to about mid-July, the salamanders will give the water another test, find it’s a bit more tolerable, then get a running start and jump in—making shrieking noises the entire time.”
Their blue spots, Fibian added, are what gives Lake Superior its brilliant blue color on bright sunny days in the summer.
Assisting with the migration protection efforts is the Salamander Watershed Partnership, which was never called by any other name and is not being co-opted by any special interest group.
The Partnership maintains that the highway closure is critical for the health of the local ecosystem.
Although important for the ecosystem, the closure has been met with frustration from locals who make the commute on US-41 each morning and night.
Marquette resident and acclaimed sunset photographer Mugsy Taylor was less than thrilled with the announcement.
“You know, I have photographed nearly 2,000 consecutive sunsets, and these salamanders are really throwing a wrench in my routine,” said Taylor.
“Every evening I drive out to the Econo Lodge, set my tripod in the parking lot, and take pictures of the sunset. What am I supposed to do now, photograph sunrises instead? Do you know how early the sun rises in the summertime here?”
Taylor wasn’t the only local to have gripes about the decision to close the highway.
“With the price of gas, I simply can’t afford to take some convoluted detour every day,” complained one motorist. “Elon Musk must have something to do with this.”
We interviewed former news-executive-turned-transportation-expert Brick Roads about what this means for traffic in the area.
“It’s really going to put some serious strain on County Road 553 and Silver Creek Road,” said Brick. “But the upside is that Greywalls will still be fully accessible.”
We also discovered that animals, too, have their concerns.
Marquette critters worry that the salamanders are building up their temporary habitats along the lakeshore too much, blocking the view of the lake and taking away from the area’s historical and cultural qualities.
“They come up here in the summer to live but then waddle back down south as soon as the weather turns cold,” exclaimed one squirrel. “If we don’t do something about this soon we’ll become just like Grand Traverse Bay! I can’t even imagine it!”
Meanwhile, Marquette’s numerous economic development agencies all say the influx of salamanders will help boost the local economy, though the short-term ROI is not clear and they aren’t sure how to measure it.
One issue that was brought up at last week’s Marquette City Commission meeting was where the salamanders would take up residency if they did decide to stay year-round.
“Middle-income housing is a real challenge right now, and that was before we had to deal with the salamanders,” said Mayor Jana Smythe. “We’ve submitted an inquiry for whether the old MGH hospital property can be used to house the salamanders if the need arises.”
How long will the intermittent closures take place?
An email signed by a “Sally M.” (we can’t possibly guess her last name), claimed that the closures could continue for quite some time.
“I, a human, declare that the salamanders will have access to the highway for as long as
we they need. Do not push us on this. We know what you did to the deer on Presque Isle in 2001.”
Sounds… reassuring. Maybe there are lizard people among us after all.
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