Lake Michigan shoreline added to Hiawatha National Forest
MACKINAC COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) – The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), announced the addition of 11.25 acres of shoreline habitat to Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest Research Natural Area on Thursday. Located along Lake Michigan, the property features important habitat for at-risk wildlife and plant species.
“We at Hiawatha National Forest greatly appreciate the support of The Conservation Fund in protecting this important parcel,” said Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan. Our cooperative effort will allow better protection of the Great Lakes watershed.”
The 11.25-acre property was acquired by The Conservation Fund in 2017, at the request of the USFS. The property was transferred to the USFS in December 2018 with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“This conservation effort, though it may seem small, is rather significant because it eliminates a gap that existed in the surrounding conserved landscape and ensures better management and protection of an exceptional wetland and dune ecosystem,” said Peg Kohring, Senior Associate with The Conservation Fund. “We are honored to partner with the U.S. Forest Service in this endeavor.”
The property is home to important dune and swale habitat—sandy ridges alternating with marshy troughs. This habitat is critical for the federally threatened Pitcher’s thistle, and when water levels in the lake drop, the property also provides nesting habitat for the federally endangered piping plover.
In addition, protection of the property and its habitat opens up new opportunities for recreation by adding a critical inholding to the National Forest’s ownership along Lake Michigan. Now that the property is open to the public, visitors to the National Forest can enjoy nature viewing along six miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Hiawatha National Forest’s lakeshores, lighthouses, islands and winter snow are within a day’s drive of several urban and rural areas in Michigan and Wisconsin, making it a welcome natural respite for nearby residents.
The Congressionally-authorized Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was created to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI is funded annually by the U.S. Congress, with strong support from Michigan’s Congressional delegation representing Mackinac County: U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, and U.S. Representative Jack Bergman.
“Today’s investment will make sure visitors to the Hiawatha National Forest can enjoy more recreational opportunities along Lake Michigan’s beautiful shoreline,” said Senator Stabenow, co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “This is yet another example of how the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which I authored, is supporting our Michigan way of life and our economy.”
“From restoring habitats to protecting our waterways, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a vital part of protecting Michigan’s resources,” said Senator Peters. “I applaud this effort, which will enhance protections around the Hiawatha National Forest. I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure full funding for the GLRI in the future.”
“This is just the latest example of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s meaningful work,” said Rep. Jack Bergman. “Michigan’s First District is home to some of our country’s most-treasured national parks and forests. GLRI has made it possible for this land to be enjoyed by all our residents and visitors. Through public-private partnerships like those between The Conservation Fund and Hiawatha National Forest, we can continue our longstanding tradition in the Upper Peninsula of conserving our public lands for future generations.”
“This is a great example of how federal investments to protect and restore the Great Lakes can benefit both the environment and economy,” said Todd Ambs, director, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Local projects like this are producing results in Michigan and in communities across the region. Despite the progress we’re seeing, however, serious threats remain. We look forward to continuing our work with Congressional leaders like U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, to make sure that Great Lakes restoration remains a national priority that protects our drinking water, health, jobs, and quality of life.”