Lester Graham | Michigan Radio
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Lester Graham

Reporter, The Environment Report

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and previously hosted Stateside on 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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High Great Lakes water levels are threatening some homes and other structures. On Tuesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced a new plan to aid Michigan shoreline property owners affected by land erosion by those high lake levels.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When I walked in, I could see a bottle of rye on the counter. “I can't think that this is going to go badly,” I said to Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

“We do both like rye,” she laughed. The name of the cocktail she was getting ready to mix is The Long Arm of the Law.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When you think of a daiquiri, you might think of summer. Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings thinks the daiquiri has a place in fall too.

“We're in that transitional season. We're still getting hot days but cool nights and so I went with an Autumn Daiquiri today,” she said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A half-century ago, within the span of two years, three of America’s rivers caught fire. One of them was in Michigan. Those fires ignited the environmental movement. 

On this date, October 9th, 50 years ago, the Rouge River caught fire. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s fall and there’s a hint of it in the air.

“It’s definitely getting into the season where I like to think about fall flavors in my cocktails,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Among the bottles in front of her was one of moonshine.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Cheers! episodes have been airing on Stateside on Michigan Radio for more than three-and-a-half years. Many of those cocktail recipes and the history behind them were gathered and accompanied by a history of drinking in Michigan. It’s all in a new book by Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham titled Cheers to Michigan.

“I was looking back through the book and it inspired me to make a cocktail based on the very first cocktail we ever made on Cheers and the very first cocktail that's printed in the book,” Tammy said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers are finding some of the chemicals used in pavement and driveway sealants are making their way into the environment. That could be putting the health of people and aquatic life at risk.

These chemicals are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. They’re commonly found in low levels just about anywhere something is burned. But, the levels of PAHs are much, much higher in certain pavement sealing products, coal tar based sealants.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year in Michigan, billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage end up in the state's rivers and eventually in the Great Lakes. That pollution can make people sick. There are two causes. One is poor sewer systems. The second is heavy rains. 

And climate change could be making the problem worse. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Sometimes summer nights demand a drink that’s not so sweet and not so high in alcohol content. You just want something light and refreshing.

A new line of soft drinks from Casamara Club in Detroit imitates amaros, but doesn’t have the intense sweetness or the alcohol.

stop motion image of couple waving in front of a bright mural
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

People who visit Tecumseh for the first time usually come for one of three reasons: antiques, destination dining, or as just a stop on Route 50 on the way to the Irish Hills area or a Michigan International Speedway event.

Corey and Victoria Lord think the people from out of town are missing a lot.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When we do a test taste of Tammy Coxen’s (of Tammy’s Tastings) concoctions, I’m often surprised by the ingredients on the counter. This time there was a Mason jar full of preserved peaches.

Courtesy: Pewabic

The famous pottery, Pewabic, has been doing much the same thing it has done since the very early part of the 20th century, and using some of the same equipment and molds for its tiles and pottery.

"Pewabic was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry (later named Mary Chase Perry Stratton) who was an artist and became really well known as a China painter. She would paint, overglaze enamels on French China and would teach about it and write about it," explained Steve McBride, Executive Director of Pewabic.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

With summer finally arriving, let’s look at a great new summer drink.

“This is a twist on a classic cocktail called the Bee’s Knees, but we’re going to put some beer into it and make it a Beer’s Knees,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April Wagner is a glass blower. She has a line of art under her name, but she also makes beautiful and useful things under the Epiphany Glass name. I asked her to describe her work for someone who has never seen it.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team received a request from a listener. Bruce Schermerhorn asked whether Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings could come up with a cocktail using something from Faygo that would be nice for sipping while on his pontoon boat this summer.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

Courtesy: Rick Hale, Clockwork

Clockwright's Rick Hale is making clocks unlike any you’ve seen before. It’s a piece of sculpture in motion made of Michigan hardwoods.

Lester Graham

It’s sad when the bottle is nearly empty. That’s what Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings found when she visited a friend’s house for a party and the bottle of Ann Arbor Distilling Company's new Absinthe Violette was almost gone.

“What have you done to go through that much absinthe?” she asked. The reply was they had been making Necromancers. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy indicates there are 1.4 million homes in Michigan that are not hooked up to a sewer system. Many use septic tank systems. But Molly Rippke, an aquatic biologist with the agency, says there’s a big problem. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The first thing you hear is the sound of the blacksmith pumping the bellows to make the fire in the forge hotter.

We’re at the Delano Homestead at the Kalamazoo Nature Center because there’s a small shed where a volunteer shows visitors how a homestead blacksmith might work. But he’s better known for what he forges. His name is Gabriel Paavola.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You might have left the Cosmopolitan cocktail behind after the HBO TV series which made it famous stopped production. But, just as Sex and the City is still a bit of a cultural phenomenon, so is that drink.

When Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings discovered Ann Arbor Distilling’s Water Hill cranberry liqueur, she was inspired to make a Michigan version of the Cosmo that she’s calling a "Michipolitan."

Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Lab

Some cities in Michigan are putting together climate change action plans. Part of that is making everything more energy efficient in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. One of the big concerns is making sure low-income households are not left behind.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Megan Williams is a member of a vibrant community of people in Grand Rapids making all kinds of things. Williams works in textiles.  

“Textiles to me is anything with fabric, and I named my company Adventure Textiles because it's whatever I'm experimenting with in textiles," Williams said, adding, "There's so many things to experiment with in the textile category. So I started off with dyeing and that quickly moved to weaving and spinning and felting and everything together. And combining them is what I love to do most.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“I was really excited to come across this cocktail called the Jesper Lind in the Death and Company cocktail book because it really gave me an opportunity to highlight three really nice Michigan ingredients in a cocktail,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In a nondescript building in Marshall, Derek Smith is reaming a hole to fit a tuning key into head of a mandolin. That sound is a squeaky and a little irritating. 

It wasn't long before I asked Smith if he could create a different sound. I asked him to play something on one of the mandolins in the shop, a much better sound.

Smith and the rest of the team at Northfield Mandolins make high-end instruments. And the demand for the mandolins is brisk.

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