Michigamme Highlands

The Nature Conservancy creates new forest reserve

Autumn at the Weidt Property in Baraga County. (Photo from Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media)

MARQUETTE — The Nature Conservancy recently created another forest reserve in Michigan by acquiring more than 6,100 acres in the Michigamme Highlands of Baraga County, west of Marquette. The reserve is adjacent to the northern and western boundaries of Craig Lake State Park.

The new reserve is a forested property that encompasses 26 lakes, along with miles of streams and acres of bogs and wetlands. Loon Lake looms large at 97 acres in size and 35 feet deep. The property is also the headwaters of two main rivers–the west branch of the Peshekee River that flows to Lake Michigan and the Sturgeon River that flows to Lake Superior.

“The opportunity to keep a property of this size and quality intact, healthy and productive rarely comes along,” Helen Taylor, state director of Michigan for The Nature Conservancy, said in a news release. “We jumped at the chance to create this reserve that is important for both its unique ecological features and economic benefits it provides to the region.”

As a forest reserve with The Nature Conservancy, the property will be managed as a working forest in a manner that benefits wildlife, protects the lakes, rivers and wetlands and produces a long-term, sustainable flow of timber to support local businesses.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last 10 years about sustainably managing a large forest at our Two Hearted River Forest Reserve near Newberry. We know that sustainable forestry practices can accelerate restoration of forest diversity and health, provide important wildlife corridors and habitat and support the forest economy of the U.P.,” Taylor said.

Earlier this year, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood from the Two Hearted Reserve was used to make the championship basketball court for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four games.

The new reserve is open to the public for foot access, hunting and fishing and is crossed by the North Country Trail, America’s longest National Scenic Trail that runs 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York.

“We have some incredibly generous donors who have come forward with lead gifts to help make this project possible — the JA Woollam Foundation, The Carls Foundation and John Leonard. However, we still need to raise $1.7 million to cover the costs associated with this project,” Taylor said. “I believe people come together to support projects like this because they care about Michigan and the legacy we leave behind; I’m excited to connect with those who will help us complete this project.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, Conservancy staff create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. Working in more than 65 countries, the organization uses a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org/michigan.