Forest inspired

Emily Dobry of Marquette looks at posters set up by the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. She says she attended the event because “it’s a great reason to drink beer made by my favorite local brewery, and of course to support the environmental aspects of the local community.” Dobry is drinking “Aqua Vitae Cedar Pale Ale,” a limited edition beer brewed by Blackrocks accented with cedar tips from forests in the Yellow Dog watershed. For each pint sold one dollar goes to fund Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve projects. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

MARQUETTE — Not all organizations have their annual meetings in a local brewery instead of a stuffy boardroom, but that’s what the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve did Thursday.

The YDWP, based in Big Bay, held its meeting at Blackrocks Brewery along Third Street in Marquette.

Not only did the participants enjoy “forest-inspired beer,” they learned a lot about what the organization accomplished over the year.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, according to its website, is an environmental organization composed of grassroots individuals interested in environmental ethics. The YDWP informs the public about the watershed, conducting sound science and protecting the resources from various ecological threats.

The YDWP called the Yellow Dog Watershed one of the “last unspoiled wilderness areas in the eastern United States.”

An audience gathered at Blackrocks Thursday evening when the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve celebrated its 22nd year and held its annual meeting. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

The Yellow Dog Watershed is located in Marquette and Baraga counties, with the river running through wild country until it eventually reaches Lake Superior.

Emily Whittaker, special projects manager with the YDWP, touted the organization’s first-ever BioBlitz at the annual meeting.

“That was a big success,” Whittaker said. “That was a two-day event where we went out and we did a rapid biological assessment of the community forest.”

The YDWP hosted the event June 17-18 , which was conducted by citizen scientists and volunteers. The survey is to provide critical data for groups like YDWP to help make quality management decisions for protected areas like the Yellow Dog River Community Forest.

Twenty volunteers took to multiple survey sites to discover which species were present and what habitats they were found in.

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve volunteer Tyler Penrod of Marquette reviews a bi-annual newsletter. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

The most frequently noted species was the ovenbird, a sparrow-sized warbler often seen on the forest floor in a variety of forest types but primarily in deciduous forests.

A rare bird species sighted was the olive-sided flycatcher that, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has a declining population, possibly due to loss of habitat in its wintering grounds. These birds are found along forest edges and openings, water edges and harvested forests.

A rare plant species tallied at the event was the maidenhair spleenwort, often found in the crevices of rocky outcrops and exposed granite and primarily found in the Upper Peninsula due to their range requirements. These ferns are sensitive to human foot traffic on the rocky outcrops.

A total of 318 records were collected by the volunteers, and of those records, 180 were unique species.

The YDWP plans to gather more information and conduct additional BioBlitz events.

“We had a lot of volunteers come out, some of the people brand new who had never been to the watershed before, so it was really great to see everybody,” Whittaker said.

Also over the past year, a private donor gave the organization 240 acres near Pinnacle Falls, the largest set of waterfalls on the Yellow Dog River, she said.

The YDWP already owned 40 acres by the falls, and the new acreage is upstream of that area.

“It’s really beautiful, old-growth forest, deep river valley, rare plants and definitely great habitat for … the large animals,” Whittaker said.

In August, the YDWP hosted the outreach event “From Deer Camps to Grand Camps,” a historical slideshow presented by local photo historian Jack Deo at the Thunder Bay Inn in Big Bay.

“Basically, we were just kind of exposing people to the history of the area, the human side of things,” Whittaker said. “We’re always focused on the nature side, so it’s always good to kind of, you know, vary that up a little bit.”

The YDWP in 2016 established a 688-acre community forest along the Yellow Dog River in Marquette County that protects high-quality natural resources in a space accessible by the public.

The Yellow Dog River Community Forest begins along Marquette County Road 510 in the northern part of the county. The property comprises both banks of the river and follows it downstream until it reaches private property.

In addition to river frontage and waterfalls, visitors can find upland mixed forests, old-growth hemlock stands, granite rock outcrops, wetlands, and rare plant and animal species.

“It’s going great,” said Whittaker, who noted the YDWP’s first-year goals for the forest have been completed.

“That’s totally on target,” Whittaker said. “One of the goals was to remove 140 acres of that out of the commercial forest program to create a wilderness area within that community forest, and we just completed that step as well.”

Chauncey Moran, YDWP chairman of the board, said the organization has relationships with Lundin Mining Corp., corporate landowners and other landowners within the watershed.

“That really allows us to really operate with impunity throughout the community,” Moran said. “A lot of places, you know, they don’t really know that much about the watershed.”

Moran said that he and his son once walked all the way from the river headwaters to Lake Superior, encountering people along the way.

“The one thing that really jumped out at you: People care about the water resource,” Moran said. “It’s really important to them — and that’s what we do.”

For more information, visit, email or call 906-345-9223.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is