2,000 Acres Along Sturgeon River Protected (MI)

Upper Peninsula, MI, 8/15/2008: The US Forest Service and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, along with other project partners gathered today to announce that the Forest Service has purchased 2,000 acres of land along the Sturgeon River. This property, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, includes undeveloped and pristine forest within the boundaries of the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area and Wild & Scenic River.

In addition to this unprecedented addition to the Wilderness, 6.6 miles of the Sturgeon River will remain preserved and protected as a Wild & Scenic River, thanks to the enactment of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, which celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2008. The property has now been added as part of the Ottawa National Forest for permanent protection.

The event was held at Bear’s Den Overlook, which overlooks the newly protected property and the Sturgeon National Wild and Scenic River.

U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Representative Bart Stupak were unable to attend the announcement but sent representatives to the event on their behalf. The congressional delegation worked to secure federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund so that the Ottawa National Forest could acquire the land.

“This land acquisition within the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area is a good example of what can happen when private institutions come together with governmental agencies to protect a truly unique natural resource,” said Sen. Levin. “I am proud to have supported this venture and pleased that the pristine beauty of the Sturgeon River will be preserved, while adding to the attractions of the Ottawa National Forest as a whole.”

“Making sure our beautiful lakes, waterways, lands and wildlife are preserved is vital to the very identity of our state and our nation,” said Sen. Stabenow. “This purchase will help ensure these untouched acres of exceptional forest along the Sturgeon River remain protected for Michigan residents and tourists alike.”

“I am pleased to see these 2,000 acres will be protected for future generations,” Rep. Stupak said. “The preservation of this pristine area is the result of a coordinated effort of individuals and organizations in both the public and private sectors, including not just myself and Senators Levin and Stabenow, but also the U.S. Forest Service and The Trust for Public Land. The end result is a valuable ecological resource for the enjoyment of northern Michigan residents and the thousands of visitors our region draws every year.”

In August 2006, the integrity of the Wilderness area and the Wild & Scenic River corridor were in jeopardy due to the pending sale of 11,000 acres owned by We Energies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. Rather than sell the privately owned 2,000 acres to developers, We Energies sought to protect and add the property to the Ottawa National Forest. TPL secured the property from We Energies and held it until the Forest Service was able to acquire the land in its entirety.

“Wilderness plays such an important role in our ecosystems, communities, and hearts,” said Susan J. Spear, Forest Supervisor for the Ottawa National Forest. “The opportunity for the Forest Service to work with our Michigan congressional delegation and partners such as We Energies and The Trust for Public Land to preserve this area is an honor. Not only does this acquisition preserve the unique character of the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, but it also provides for nearly 7 miles of the Sturgeon River to remain preserved and protected as a Wild and Scenic River. We are excited that this area will now be available for future generations to enjoy.”

Kathy DeCoster, Director of Federal Affairs for The Trust for Public Land, said, “We at TPL are delighted to have been able to work with We Energies and the Forest Service to protect the last remaining inholding within the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness. We are grateful to all of those who helped to make this project a success, especially Senators Levin and Stabenow and Congressman Stupak, who provided essential funding for this addition to the Forest.”

“We Energies recognizes the importance of being good stewards of our natural resources, especially our wilderness lands and wild & scenic rivers,” said Kristine Krause, Vice President Environmental, We Energies. “The company takes great pleasure in helping to celebrate the successful transfer of ownership of this large land parcel to the Ottawa National Forest.”

Sturgeon River Gorge is a distinctive landform and its unique geologic features are unduplicated elsewhere in the Lake States. Throughout this rugged, steep Wilderness, the Sturgeon and Little Silver Rivers and their tributaries have carved falls, ponds, oxbows, and terraces.

With its rugged terrain, mature forests, and remote location, the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, which is located in the Kenton Ranger District of the Ottawa National Forest, offers outstanding recreational opportunities including hiking, primitive camping, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, hunting, and fishing. A ten mile portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail runs immediately adjacent to the wilderness and its eastern boundary.

The Ottawa National Forest encompasses nearly one million acres within the western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Ottawa was created from the “lands that nobody wanted,” (tax delinquent lands that were completely cut over between 1870 and 1920), making today’s Forest a true restoration success story. Located a day’s drive from large, metropolitan areas, the Ottawa is a frequent destination for people craving a natural and peaceful experience. The vibrant Northwoods and pristine forests provide a home to species such as the gray wolf and bald eagle, as well as our more common residents, the white-tail deer and black bear. Visitors are surprised at the variety of recreation opportunities that await them on the Forest–there is truly something for everyone, any season of the year.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization, which works with others to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL, through its Northwoods Initiative has protected over 64,000 acres in Michigan. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.