Lester Graham | Michigan Radio
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Lester Graham

Reporter / Host, Stateside & The Environment Report

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and also hosts Stateside (Fridays). He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.

He has been a journalist since 1985. Graham has served as a board member of the Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups.

Lester has received 15 first place national awards for journalism excellence and scores more at the national, regional, and state levels.

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Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A combination of state and federal proposals to change protections of wetlands and streams could damage waterways. 

The Trump administration proposes to strip some protections from wetlands and other bodies of water. State legislators propose removing protections for wetlands smaller than ten acres. They also don’t want Michigan agencies to exceed federal rules.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Mike Cameron and Michael Konas are the co-founders and creative forces behind Dog Might Games. 

If you visit their woodshop, you’ll first be greeted by a dog. He’s a rescue.

Dog Might Games says it doesn’t have customers; it has fans. The fans named the dog “Sawdust.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The copper mug was on the mixing table, but I knew Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings was probably not going to be mixing a Moscow mule. She was about to throw me a curve.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“One of the most popular drinks that I teach in my classes is hot buttered rum,” said Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings as she was putting the kettle on to boil.

However, we are not making hot buttered rum.

“I am a sucker for clever wordplay, so when I came across a recipe for hot butternut rum, I had to make it,” Tammy said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some cities in Michigan could lose half of all their trees due to disease or pests. Foresters are working to reduce the potential devastation.

“So, I just wanted to show you, this is a neighborhood with old maple trees," Kerry Gray said as she led the way down a tree-lined street in Ann Arbor. She's the urban forester for the city. She’s worried about losing a lot of the city’s trees to a pest or disease. It’s happened before.

Courtesy: Michigan Saves

Soon, you’ll start seeing your energy bills start to rise each month because of the cold weather. That’s never fun. But, you might be paying a lot more than necessary to heat your home. We decided to look into whether a new efficient furnace adds up to much in the way of energy savings.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! cocktail this week comes with lots of flavor, but none of it from the alcohol in the drink.

“For me, cocktails are all about the interplay of flavor,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Vodka brings nothing to the glass as far as flavor is concerned.

It’s odorless, flavorless, and colorless.

“It's meant to be very neutral and very smooth,” Tammy noted.

There’s an advantage if you have a drink that already has great flavors: vodka doesn’t interrupt the ingredients as they play off of each other.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State agencies in Michigan have issued a ‘Do Not Eat’ advisory for deer in Oscoda Township near the closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

The state tested deer tissue from areas across the state known to have PFAS chemical contamination, including places such as Grayling, Rockford, and Oscoda Township.

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan is finding industrial chemicals known as PFAS in the tissue of fish. So it's been issuing “Don’t Eat the Fish” advisories along lakes, rivers and streams. But there are concerns about whether state officials are doing as much as they should. 

Before we get too far into the story, we have to start with a little science.

The reason PFAS chemical contamination in fish is such a concern is because of something called bioaccumulation.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One of the contaminated PFAS sites first documented in Michigan was in Oscoda Township near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The base has been closed for years.  Firefighting training there used a fire suppressant foam containing a PFAS chemical.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There have been more news stories in recent months about water contamination from a group of industrial chemicals. PFAS chemical pollution seems to have come out of nowhere. That’s not exactly true. PFAS contamination has been known to be a problem. What's different is we’re discovering the problem is bigger than imagined.

In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS. This pollution is coming from a variety of sources.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Stateside colleagues April Van Buren and Mercedes Mejia challenged the Cheers! team to make a pina colada using paw paw.

The Cheers! drink expert, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings, loved the idea.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Riding a bike to work might be good for the environment, but automobile drivers are still getting used to the idea of sharing the road. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s after Labor Day, but the weather has been pretty hot in Michigan. The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are not thinking about apple cider and fall cocktails just yet.

“Because it’s been so hot, I thought I’d take us in a Tiki direction today,” Tammy said as she was grinding ice in a vintage contraption (more on that later).

She’s been researching beer cocktails for an upcoming Tammy’s Tastings cocktail class. Beer might not be the first thing you think about in a fruity Tiki cocktail.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The elk is an important Michigan symbol. It’s even on our state flag. But have you ever seen an elk in the wild in Michigan?  Did you even know there are elk in Michigan?

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This shop is Fidler Furniture Company… headed up by Steven Mark Fidler.

“We do primarily custom metalwork. We do some woodwork where we have exotic woods we mix with our metalwork. Sometimes people want a table and they want a wood top, but a metal base and we can do both of those,” Fidler explained. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team met at the Alley Bar in Ann Arbor to taste a cocktail made with a new Michigan-made spirit. It’s a fairly new spirit to the U.S., but Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings noted we have played with this spirit before.

The spirit is aquavit.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s a two for one as we visit Gemini Handmade in downtown Grand Rapids as part of our Artisans of Michigan series.

The boutique-studio-workshop is home to two businesses. Jacob Vroon’s company is Harbinger Leather Design. Elyse Welcher owns Littlewings Designs.

The two artisans are married.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The son of retiring Congressman Sander Levin won the Democratic nod to replace his father. Andy Levin defeated former state representative Ellen Lipton and Martin Brook.

“They were sharp. They had a strong message. They really made our campaign better,” Levin said after claiming victory.

Both his father, Sander Levin, and his uncle, former U.S. Senator Carl Levin gathered with supporters who were waiting for election results in the ninth Congressional district.

Cheers! We've got a honey of a Michigan cocktail for you.

The website for Bløm Meadworks suggests, “…if the word ‘mead’ automatically conjures a drinking hall filled with Vikings for you, think of ours as its friendly, approachable descendants, without the pillage and plunder.”

Cute.

But we’re taking the Vikings to Mexico.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It is the most famous drink to ever come out of Detroit. It is known worldwide as the hummer.

“This was created by a bartender at the Bayview Yacht Club named Jerome Adams in 1968,” explained Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Adams had recently gotten a job as a bartender at the Detroit yacht club. He wanted to come up with a drink that would impress his colleagues and impress his customers, Coxen said.

'Wind farm' takes on a new, and for some uncomfortable' meaning in Huron County
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Wind energy became popular because it can reduce the need for polluting coal and gas generated electricity. But, things are shifting now.

“The primary driver is economics,” said Stanley “Skip” Pruss with Five Lakes Energy, a consulting firm on sustainable energy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

New tariffs are putting some Michigan newspapers and printers at risk of going out of business.

There’s more than a little irony in the fact that a state which built paper mills all over, no longer makes the kind of paper that newspapers use.

Courtesy: Alliance for the Great Lakes and Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc.

How can cities reduce flooding caused by increasingly intense rain storms?

More often, it's flooding in areas not known for a lot of flooding in the past. That happened in Detroit in 2014. It caught everyone by surprise as interstates and neighborhoods were suddenly under water.

Bill Braunlich

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eric Sooy is showing me some of his percussion skills on a snare drum. He made that drum. Sooy is the president and founder of Black Swamp Percussion in Zeeland, Michigan. His company makes percussion instruments that have made it to symphony concert halls, rock and roll stages, and recording studios.

quagga mussels in lake michigan
Greg Marks / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Beaches along Lake Michigan are closed when E. coli bacteria gets too high. But a nasty critter found on the bottom of the lake might help keep the beaches open.

Still from Casperson campaign video.

New laws signed by Governor Rick Snyder last Friday set up commissions to oversee the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Environmentalists say those commissions will be stacked with business and industry people and give them more influence in the environmental rulemaking process.

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