DNR announces $550,000 Forest Legacy Program grant for Houghton County project

Project will protect 1,300 acres and three and a half miles of Pilgrim River corridor from development. 
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Statewide DNR News

March 2, 2016

Contact: Kerry Wieber, 517-643-1256 (Michigan DNR) or Evan McDonald, 906-482-0820 (Keweenaw Land Trust)

DNR announces $550,000 Forest Legacy Program grant for Houghton County project

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that nearly 1,300 acres and 3.5 miles of Pilgrim River corridor in Houghton County will be protected from development, available for public use and managed as a working forest, thanks to a $550,000 Forest Legacy Program grant.

The project, known as the Pilgrim River Forest, includes the state acquisition of a conservation easement on 1,299 acres of prime forest land on the Keweenaw Peninsula that is strategically positioned adjacent to the Pilgrim River Community Forest. The property contains 3.5 miles of undeveloped Pilgrim River frontage and serves as a wildlife travel corridor.

Mossy rocks in the Pilgrim River. Bill O’Neill, DNR natural resources deputy, said the acquisition of the conservation easement means the property will stay in private ownership, but will be open for public recreational use and will be managed as a working forest under a forest management plan approved by the state forester.

“Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking or one of the many other recreational opportunities our forest land has to offer, this project ensures this area will be sustainably managed for the enjoyment of current and future users,” said O’Neill, who also serves as Michigan’s state forester. “In addition to protecting the recreational values of the land, this project also protects wildlife habitat and ensures sustainable timber management continues on the property. This is great news for all forest stakeholders."

Along with sustainable forest management and public recreational access, the Pilgrim River Forest project will:

  • Ensure habitat for both game and nongame wildlife species, such as black bear, white-tailed deer, bald eagle, fisher, pine marten, mink and otter.
  • Protect an area internationally renowned for serving as a portion of the migratory bird flyway for both migrating raptors and songbirds crossing Lake Superior in the spring and fall.
  • Protect from development 10 percent of the entire Pilgrim River watershed, including the main channel, several tributaries and streams, and wetlands.

The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program, which is providing 75 percent of the funding for this project, is to protect environmentally important forest areas that are threatened by conversion to nonforest uses. The Forest Legacy Program seeks to promote forest land protection and other conservation opportunities. The nationally competitive program is administered by the U.S. Forest Service and is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

O’Neill said with the grant funds now awarded, the DNR will begin the detailed work with the landowner and project partner, Keweenaw Land Trust, so the project can successfully be completed.

"A community-based effort has been pursuing conservation of forest land in the Pilgrim River valley for several years,” said Evan McDonald, executive director at Keweenaw Land Trust. “Our partnership recognized that sustainable forest management, securing public access, and protecting land and water resources could all be accomplished through the Forest Legacy Program. I think I speak for all of the partners when I say that we are thrilled and relieved that the Pilgrim River Forest project is moving forward. This was a special opportunity that we did not want to lose."

Participation in the Forest Legacy Program is limited to private forest landowners. The federal government may fund up to 75 percent of program costs, with at least 25 percent coming from private, state or local sources. In addition to gains associated with the sale or donation of property rights, many landowners may also benefit from reduced taxes associated with placing limits on land use.

For more information about the Forest Legacy Program, visit www.michigan.gov/privateforestland.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservatsion, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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