Largest conservation project in Michigan’s history successfully closes
Mon, Oct 25 2010 at 4:39 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
LANSING, Michigan — September 30, 2010 — After nearly a decade since hearing that the Kamehameha Schools would be selling its significant land holdings in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, The Nature Conservancy and the State of Michigan reached a successful conclusion yesterday in securing conservation easements and acquisitions totaling more than 271,000 with the new owner of the land, The Forestland Group.
"Now is the time to breathe a sigh of relief as we celebrate the end of this historic project," said Helen Taylor, The Nature Conservancy's state director for Michigan. "It's been a heck of a roller coaster ride, and we're happy to see it finally come to an end on the legal and financial side. We're committed to the conservation of this property to ensure the health and viability of these great northern forests for people and nature."
Known officially as the Northern Great Lakes Forest Project, the "Big UP Deal" as its affectionately called ultimately connects more than 2 million acres of wilderness since the land is split into many tracts among land previously protected by public and private agencies. Conservation easements were purchased to ensure sustainable forestry that provides jobs while limiting future development and keeping tracts open to the public for outdoor recreation. The land will continue to remain on local tax rolls with current tax payments under the state's Commercial Forest Reserve Act.
"This is a great day not just for the UP, but for all of Michigan," said Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), who helped secure funding for the project through the federal Forest Legacy fund. "I am proud I was able to be a part of making this project possible and want to thank everyone whose hard work helped make the Northern Great Lakes Forest Project a reality. This preservation project should serve as a model for how we promote conservation in the future."
Today, part of the Fox and Two Hearted Rivers, along with 517 miles of other rivers and streams across the Upper Peninsula are protected through this project. The project also includes protection of:
- 423 square miles of forest, lakes and rivers;
- 660 lakes and streams;
- 80 percent of the Two Hearted River Watershed — a high aquatic priority;
- 52,000 acres of wetlands; and
- 60 miles of buffer to some of the state's most important and prestigious natural areas from Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
"By coming together with public and private organizations, philanthropic foundations and private individuals, we demonstrated that we can work together to make positive solutions with lasting, long-term benefits for everyone," said Rebecca Humphries, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment. "This project ensures that this land remains forever open to public recreation, boosting tourism efforts, and retains jobs in forest-related businesses. This certainly is a big deal for the people and state of Michigan."
The project cost approximately $58 million, with funding coming from:
- Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund
- Federal Forest Legacy Fund
- C.S. Mott Foundation
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Kresge Foundation
- Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation
- Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation
- Carls Foundation
- Wege Foundation
- Frey Foundation
- Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation
- Private estates of Isotta Cesori and W. Powell Cottrille
- Thousands of private individuals contributing many personal gifts
Watch a new 10-minute video telling the story of "The Big UP Deal."
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.