The Keweenaw's geology is unique both nationally and internationally. As a result of our underlying bedrock and isolated location on Lake Superior, our area has a rare and unique mosaic of habitats - forests, wetlands, watersheds, dunes, beaches - that harbor an extensive array of native and migratory species. We have an outstanding opportunity for habitat and species conservation as well as all types of outdoor recreation in all seasons.
Aside from a few small communities along US-41 and the Lake Superior shoreline, the majority of the Keweenaw's interior is undeveloped. Loggers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts ply their trade in these wild habitats unimpeded. What isn't owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the County, local townships, or conservancies is more often than not owned and managed by massive outside investment funds. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Lands owned by investment funds are typically held in the Commercial Forest program, which allows the public to use the land for limited forms of recreation and saving the owner a significant amount on their property taxes. However, not only can the land be removed and public access revoked, not all forms of recreation are necessarily permitted. Investment firms do not value the land in the same way that those with local connections do either. With stockholders and hedge fund managers expecting returns on their investment, long-term management of the forest often takes a backseat to short-term profits. Once healthy ecosystems are being damaged, access denied to once-popular recreation spots, and the best pieces of property carved off and sold to private owners with no public interest.
Keeping our ecosystems intact is critical for the overall health of these habitats. Retaining large blocks of land in contiguous parcels is essential for creating wildlife corridors between existing protected lands. Apex predators such as wolves and mountain lions require enormous ranges to thrive, while more common species such as deer and turkey move between different areas as food becomes scarce or to seek better habitat in the winter months. Limiting where these animals can live, whether through fragmentation of ownership or short-sighted forest management techniques, can have adverse impacts on their populations and the food chain as a whole.
Local control over Keweenaw County's diverse ecosystems is essential if we are to manage the forest for local interests. Help us protect our woods for future generations by joining KORC or giving today!