Finding something new in a familiar place.

Monday, October 21st, 2019

It’s funny when you think you know a place and then realize how wrong you are. I thought I knew the U.P. because I grew up here, went to school here and explored it from east to west with my family. But I couldn’t have been further away from the truth.

While working as the UPLC’s Stewardship Intern I was able to explore this special place we all love so much. As the seasonal monitor I traveled to a majority of the UPLC’s Conservation Easements, Reserves and Preserves. These properties are spread out throughout the U.P., one of the furthest being 2 hours and 40 minutes west of Marquette. While monitoring, I traversed the properties looking for possible violations and just enjoyed being in the middle of absolutely nowhere. While I did stumble across some trash piles and forest fire remains, I also went to some of the most beautiful places in the U.P. I have ever been to. 

I thought I knew my backyard well, but little did I know:

Lake Saint Kathryn and Surrounding Area


Gasely Lake in the Ottawa National Forest.

An incredibly diverse wilderness that is visited seldom by noisy tourists.


Wild rose with beetle.

American toad.


While visiting this site in the east Ottawa National Forest I found a quiet place that was teaming with wildlife. It was as if creatures and plants didn’t expect me coming. Peacefully undisturbed in their wilderness sanctuary, I was able to get up close and personal with some unfamiliar nature. Here, I discovered a Stemonitis spp. of slime mold (bottom left photo). Slime molds are common everywhere in the world and are not fungi but amoeba. These single celled organisms do not have a brain but are very efficient at finding food sources. The slime molds in this picture may be Stemonitis fusca, and appear to have little legs. 

For more information about Slime Molds, check out this PBS article: ‘Slime Molds: No Brains, No Feet, No Problem’ 

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/the-sublime-slime-mold

Ford Eagle Preserve

 Where familiar and unfamiliar people preserve land for the future of Bald Eagles.


Northern bay of Squaw Lake.

Hardwood-conifer swamp.

Slugs.

Cedar stand on the edge of Squaw Lake.


Located in the southwest corner of Marquette County, the Ford Eagle Preserve is situated around the northern edge of Squaw Lake. As a preserve, the Ford Eagle is a place the public can go to explore something new in the home county of Marquette County. Thanks to the Ford Motor Company and a local resident, this great habitat for Bald Eagles was preserved.

In 1978 the Ford motor Company’s Mining Properties Department advertised several pieces of surplus land to be auctioned off in the UP. A local resident, Loren Ameen, saw the notice and became interested in the parcel before discovering an active bald eagle nest on the property. Mr. Ameen contacted The Nature Conservancy and Ford, which then set aside this land as an eagle preserve. The Nature Conservancy acquired the property in 1995 and transferred the preserve to the U.P. Land Conservancy in 2002 to become the Ford Eagle Preserve. Eagles have nested on the north shore of the lake since the 1940s.

Trails for the Ford Eagle Preserve are planned to be made by 2021. If you are interested in helping, please contact us! 

Witch Lake Area

Where you discover you don’t need to go to the Amazon rainforest to experience a jungle.


Marsh area in Harris Lake area.

Rich conifer swamp.

Flowering vine.
Young aspen stand.


So you think you are prepared for the worst conditions? You say “I’m a Yooper, nothing can phase me!” You think you can handle the bugs, you’ve seen the worst of them and you think you can handle the humidity, you live in a swamp! Then one day you go to a jungle you had no idea existed in your backyard. Although this was the most trying monitoring visits of the summer it was surprisingly rewarding. 

Bushwhacking through barbed plants while the mosquitos are happily snacking on my only exposed body part because I am trying to take a picture of that unfamiliar plant can get tiring after a while. But after the day was finished with my boots completely soaked through (along with my raincoat and pants), I realized how incredible it is that such a wild place exists so close to my home. 

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Even though we all have our favorite hikes and places to be close to nature, there is so much to be discovered in the places we think we know. Try exploring a little and you will be surprised. 

Will you take the first step into adventure?

“The Yooper Hearth”

Friday, September 6th, 2019

The Upper Peninsula is a land in and of its own.  The people, the culture, the very grasp on reality that we have in the UP is seemingly different from that of Wisconsinites, Trolls, or anywhere else in the US for that matter.  We seem to continue some of our fellow Midwesterner’s traditions like marshmallows in “salads” and casseroles, but we’re a different breed of Midwesterner up here. We’re loyal, we’re strong, and we’re grateful, and those characteristics seem to be drawn from the land around us. 

There is a separation between us and them, and I believe wholeheartedly that it is the geography of this homeland that gives us our distinction.  We are separated from them in the south by a great expanse of trees and ongoing forests, to the north by our dear Mother Superior, and even to the east by a nearly 5-mile-long bridge and a $4 toll.  We are our own island nation of kind, warmhearted people.

I grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin, surrounded by sprawling fields and the wafting smell of manure.  When I was 16, I was transplanted with my family to Negaunee. I found myself instantly feeling suffocated by the extent of trees and the isolation this area has to offer.  All I wanted to do was look out and be able to see big sky and rolling hills – Lake Superior and Sugarloaf truly became lifesavers. Though the scenery was beautiful, I continued to feel ostracized by the land rather than welcomed by it.  Like the people here, the natural things all around me were a tight-knit group; generation after generation of tree towering high over what I now call Home.  

After attending Negaunee for High School and NMU for my undergrad, I had to leave the UP and travel to Kent State University in Ohio for my graduate career.  I found myself in Ohio surrounded by fields, buildings, and people…and yet felt lost. All I craved and yearned for was a grouping of trees that I could be protected in.  I wanted to be in a place of nature where there were no other people for miles. I wanted Home. The very thing that made me uncomfortable when I first moved to Negaunee, was what I had come to love more than ever.

I am now heading back to Northeast Ohio for my 4th year there, and I still find myself dreading the trip.  I dread the thinning of trees as I dive south into the Lower Peninsula.  I dread the congestion of people and traffic as I cross the bridge. And I dread being alone in a land where people pronounce sauna wrong and don’t know the joys of fresh-picked blueberries.  I find myself not only missing the people and the landscape but missing the way the land makes me feel.  Though not a lifelong Yooper, I found that I grew with the land around me. It made me who I am today… It made me loyal.  It made me strong. It made me grateful.

The people here have an attachment to the land that I’ve seen nowhere else.  It’s not that we’re all farmers living directly off the land, and it’s not that we’re all camping day in and day out.  It’s that we thrive off of it. Our souls draw from the breath of the forests as they sway in the wind around us. We are calmed by the snow that coats our lives anew each winter, blanketing us with something familiar.  We are enticed by the clear teal water of Lake Superior, gazing down to times gone past.

It is the physical geography around us that draws a group of people into community.  Our community is made up of loyal, strong, and grateful people. But it’s the land that brings those people together.  It’s the land that has created this loving and welcoming community of Yoopers. It’s the land that we all call Home. And nothing has taught me that more than having to leave it.  When we protect our land, we protect our culture, our community, and ourselves.

New Position: Lands Program Manager

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

We are excited to announce that we are looking to grow our team by bringing on a Lands Program Manager.

If you are a motivated self-starter with excellent science and communication skills, a passion for protecting land, and a desire to grow with us, then we would love to hear from you!

To learn more about this position, read the full position description here. Please send your cover letter and resume to uplc@uplandconservancy.org by April 19th.

Thanks!

Gearing up with Citizen-Powered Science

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

by: Adina Daar

Our theme this season is ‘Involvement’. As a Land Conservancy, there are many ways people are involved with our organization; from donating funds, volunteering time, serving as a member on our board, to attending and participating in our events. Involvement comes in many forms!

Did you know that there are also ways to be involved while doing what you love outdoors; hiking, fishing, birdwatching – all while contributing to ecological knowledge about the area?

It’s called Citizen Science and it’s an ever-growing area propelled by technological advancements that have put powerful scientific tools in our pockets and at our fingertips!

Pairing public interest and time with organizations like ours and other research communities, this new frontier of people-powered research amplifies the speed, consistency, and accuracy of findings. It can also be a fun way to engage with a community around shared interests, all the while contributing back to the places that we hold near and dear.

Interest piqued? We hope so!

Here are five of our favorite digital tools you can use while contributing to ecological research and conservation projects – in the UP and beyond!

Merlin: For the Bird Curious

For those just dabbling (#birdword!) in the world of birding – Merlin is a useful app that both helps identify a bird you see and contributes to national bird monitoring data.

With around 399 species of birds in the Upper Peninsula and with hundreds of thousands of miles of protected forest and wetlands  – it should come as no surprise that birds love it here and so do people who love birds!

Screenshots from Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Android

Developed by the Cornell School of Ornithology and launched in 2014, The Merlin Bird App guides bird spotters through a series of five questions (location, date, size, color, and context) and then curates a visual list of possibilities which can then be further explored and confirmed. Each bird has pictures, sound clips, and a natural history write-up – lots of juicy details! Users can also download local databases tailored to different US regions to improve accuracy.

Alternatively, you can also snap a photo of a bird and let the Merlin database look for a visual match which is a pretty handy feature.

With Citizen Science powered by Merlin, researchers have been able to track migratory patterns of many avian species and record sightings in different areas as climates change shifts some breeding and migratory routes. It is both a wonderful learning tool and a simple way to be involved in furthering local bird surveys and knowledge for the wider community.

Download Merlin for Apple here and Android here

*Bonus Level “UP”*eBird: for committed Twitchers

The Merlin app is powered by over 500 million observations from a related app called eBird. Also produced and managed through the Cornell School of Ornithology, eBird is the expert version of the app for serious bird watchers who are already proficient at species identification and want to contribute to the growing database. The eBird app is a tool specifically for recording and noting bird sightings; equipped with checklists, a ‘Record as you go’ feature, and full offline mode. It’s a wonderful digital companion for birding trips with a large community of users and ongoing support.


Screenshots from eBird by Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Android

Available for download for Apple here and Android here

Litterati: For those who hate litter (who doesn’t?!)

Is there anything more infuriating than walking along the beach and finding litter strewn about? In some places, heroes don’t don capes, they carry out trash and use an app called ‘Litterati’.

Litterati started out as a way for California resident (and University of Michigan grad!), Jeff Kirschner to vent about offending litter in his community. He would upload pictures of his litter findings on Instagram along with the hashtag #Litterati. It has since grown into a worldwide movement of people who identify, map, and collect the world’s litter in pursuit of ‘Litter free world’.  

Images from Litterati.org and Litterati App for Android

It’s simple. See litter, snap a picture, pick it up. Once back home, tag the pictures with identifiers like the type, materials, and a brand if obvious. This all gets saved into a database and onto a map. The visual data serves as viable proof that has been used to hold companies, brands, and other groups accountable for litter in communities.

The now-famous example of how San Francisco doubled a tax on tobacco companies using a mass of Litterati data as evidence is the stuff of legends and also reality. One community used Litterati to encourage Taco Bell to change a sauce packet policy after residents had documented just how many unopened packets were strewn around public parks near Taco Bell storefronts.

‘Picker UPpers’ Club on Litterati

It’s refreshing to find that most people in Marquette are respectful and go to great efforts to prevent litter. Still, it’s nice to know that this app is here if you do come across an offending pile while out walking a trail. And if you find litter on our properties – we certainly want to know so we can encourage more Leave No Trace practices and distribute better information and resources about how to interact with natural areas.

And Litterati is global! So if visiting somewhere else where litter seems to be an issue, it’s a spontaneous way to lend a hand and make sure it is noticed.

Check out founder Jeff Kirschner’s inspiring TedTalk here and get started snapping that trash at https://www.litterati.org/. We have a local club called ‘Picker UPpers’ which you can find in the ‘Clubs’ section of the app – please join us and log your litter finds!

Download Litterati for Apple or Android

Great Lakes Fish Finder: For Fin A-fish-ionados!  

It’s no secret that the Great Lakes are home to an interesting and diverse bunch of aquatic wildlife. Those who fish and live on lakes and waterways have a personal and ongoing relationship with wildlife that has proven invaluable in monitoring and ensuring the health of water ecosystems.

A joint initiative between the Shedd Aquarium (in Chicago), The California Academy of Sciences, and National Geographic, this app has proven itself a welcome companion for many anglers – it is both useful as a field guide for identification and for contributing data to scientists who monitor lake health and fish populations.

Screenshot from https://www.sheddaquarium.org/fishfinder/)

Important to note, this app is not about helping people find the best fishing spots or anything like that! You don’t have to give your secret spot away if you use the app. It’s about logging catches, conditions, and connecting to others in the fishing community. Users can publish their observations to a community for identification or public view if desired.

While not the most utilized or frequented project on this list (UP representation is certainly lacking) it’s is a resource that is there if you so choose to explore it! We’d love to see more information collected about the fish whose habitat is affected by the lands we protect.

Download Great Lake Fish Finder for Apple or Android

iNaturalist: for everyone everywhere – alone or in a group!

iNaturalist is probably one of the most well-known and used programs when it comes to documenting natural sightings and sharing with a broader community. It is the skeletal structure of many other programs (including Fish Finder above).

You can pull up a map of just about any location and you’ll find thousands of sightings of all sorts of wildlife including plants, insects, birds, and larger animals!

Here’s a look at the app through a sighting from the Tory’s Woods Preserve:

Screenshots of Marquette Observations from iNaturalist for Android

Users can snap or upload photos and then ask for identification – or jump on and help identify through pictures that others have already uploaded. One of the really cool aspects of iNaturalist are the projects and community events – which range from personal garden explorations (I’ve heard of people using it to identify what is growing in community accessible plots) to what are known as a ‘Bio-blitz’ – when a whole bunch of people get together to document and identify as much as possible in a short period of time at a specific place.

Shout out to the top 5 UP resident observers: Nate Martineau, Mcaple, Rob Routledge, Joseph Kurtz and Will Van Hemessen who collectively have made over 29,000 observations of 8,800+ species and helped confirm and identify over 145,000 other observations by others in our area. We hope many others will join in to contribute to this already very healthy and growing ecosystem of nature sightings!

Download iNaturalist for Apple and Android

Zooniverse: The Mother Ship

Zooniverse is an ingenious website that hosts a wide array of citizen science projects covering a breadth of topics: from science and history to art and mathematics. Each initiative is set up as fun ‘Projects’ that are designed in creative ways to make sorting through lots of data points fun and useful. It is the largest Citizen Science platform in the world with over 1.7 million individual users and growing.

Zooniverse also has a DIY section where you can build your own project. So if you have data that needs to be classified or you could use some help sorting through and digitizing archives – it could be a great place to start.

It’s really best to dive straight-in and play around to get a feel for how the site works.

Here are a couple of our favorite projects for you to check out:

Michigan ZoomIN: Help researchers at the University of Michigan classify photos from remote cameras to better understand the distribution of wild animals. One of their research locations is here in the UP at the Huron Mountain Club – which means you also get a peek into the Club!

Image: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/michiganzoomin/michigan-zoomin/about/research)

Unearthing Michigan Ecological Data’: This is part of a program to digitize over a century of hand-collected data from the Biological Research Station at Douglas Lake in Northern Michigan. Historical data is helpful in that it provides documentation of changes over time – and is very powerful when combined with current data. Through this project, you can help to digitize the universities reports, research, and documents. If you are the kind of person that finds themselves drawn to dusty boxes of records, and delights in exploring the way things were done in the past – this project might be especially exciting 😀


Screenshot from https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/jmschell/unearthing-michigan-ecological-data/classify)

We looked up ‘Lepomis gibbosus’ – these are Pumpkinseed Fish fins!

‘Whales as Individuals’: Need a break? We recommend this project where helpful citizens can outline and help identify individual Whales from the many photos of their flukes. It serves as both a really easy and relaxing brain break in the name of science 🙂

Image from https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/tedcheese/whales-as-individuals/classify

What about a UP Land Conservancy project on Zooniverse?!? Oh don’t worry, it’s coming. And we’ll for sure let you know once we’ve got it running.

There you have it! Let’s science together 🙂

At the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, we feel honored to be in service to and entrusted by a community that is engaged and interested in wildlife and habitat. What happens in the UP is inextricably connected to what happens in other parts of the country and the world – so whether ID-ing birds to better understand migration changes, identifying a species of plant that wasn’t here 15 years ago, contributing to the knowledge of local fish populations, or perhaps spotting that ever elusive Mountain Lion taking a selfie with a trail camera  – it makes a difference to us! We hope these tools continue to feed your curiosity, involvement, and contribution to protecting land today for life tomorrow!

What’s your favorite way to get involved? Let us know your experiences with these or other Citizen Science platforms in the comments!


Staff Highlight: Meet Adina

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

We’re delighted to welcome a new member to our growing team!

Name: 
Adina Daar

UPLC Role: 
Office Manager

Hometown: 
Melbourne, FL

Traits:
Curious, Enthusiastic, Kind

Favorite Quote:
“A lifetime can be spent in a Magellanic voyage around the trunk of a single tree.”
– E.O. Wilson

Tell us a little bit about your background:
I grew up in Melbourne Florida – exploring the Swamps and Pine Forests as a child. Eventually I went on to study at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where I received a BA in Sociology in 2008. From there, I worked in Market Research, travelling the world to study humans and helping companies develop consumer products and services.

In 2015, I heard about an approach to solving problems that looks to nature for inspiration called ‘Biomimicry’ – it was a wake-up call for me to re-cultivate the curiosity and love for nature that I held as a child. I went on to train as a wilderness guide and naturalist, and to completing a MSc in Biomimicry from Arizona State University in 2017. I’ve been looking to plants, animals, and ecosystems for inspiration to help solve human problems ever since!

I moved to the UP in 2018 and immediately fell in with the Land Conservancy – attending events and trying to get involved in any way, which is how I eventually joined the team.

Why did you want to work for UPLC?
During my studies I had the opportunity to travel to different biomes to understand the challenges and opportunities that many communities face. One aspect that is quickly clear is how interconnected we are and how what happens in one place affects another. Our water, air, food, and well-being are reliant on natural systems that have developed over billions of years. I am inspired by life in the Upper Peninsula and by the communities devotion to protecting place and culture. I am looking forward to being a part of the story by working with the community through UPLC and to supporting the mission of ‘Protecting land today for life tomorrow’.

What do you do at UPLC?
My official title is ‘Office Manager’ which at the moment means many things! We are currently a small team, so many hats are worn and all hands are in. Primarily, I manage the day-to-day operations of UPLC and provide direct support to the Executive Director and Stewardship Manager in their activities. I also like to get out as much as possible – so you’ll find me guiding hikes and helping with events and community initiatives as well.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?
UPLC has been through tremendous growth in the past few years – with new properties, projects, and ways to work with the local community. My goal is to support the foundational structure of UPLC through so that we can both maintain and continue to grow in the future. I’m also passionate about working with other community groups towards shared goals and visions for the UP.

Anything else we should know about you? Did I mention Biomimicry already? Yeah, I’m a bit obsessed! I also have a soft spot for insects and marine invertebrates. I do a wonderful Lemur impression. Follow me on instagram @hellohelloIsay to see some insects – a couple below for fun!


Seeking Office Manager

Friday, December 21st, 2018

Our dear Jill has been accepted to a doctorate research program in Germany and Argentina and will be leaving us at the end of the year. We are so excited for her incredible opportunity!

This means that we are looking to hire a new office manager!

To apply for this part time, hourly position, read the full position description here and send a cover letter and resume to andrea@uplandconservancy.org by January 6th.

Thanks!

Andrea

Adopt-an-acre program: Protecting the UP one acre at a time

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

How much is an acre worth?

It seems a simple question, but in reality it is a multifaceted concept! Economists, environmentalists, and real estate agents all have different ways of addressing this topic, but the answer remains elusive and subjective. One possible way to answer this question is to ask the living creatures. A single acre of Upper Peninsula land might support four breeding pairs of tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds. An acre of cobbled lakeshore can be the territory of an endangered piping plover pair. An acre of healthy forest can support between 40 and 60 mature trees, which provide shelter and food resources for dozens of species. And this is to say nothing of the millions of insects and dozens of mushroom species that can all co-exist on a single acre.

Of course, as John Muir wrote, “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Clearly, the value of an acre is more than its individual species or parts. Ecosystems are created by the complex and ever-changing relationships between and among species (including humans!), climates, and geographies. These interwoven relationships drive everything from food chains to nutrient and water cycles, and they support all life on Earth. How can we begin to place a value on that?

Perhaps, then, the answer lies here: What is an acre of land worth to you? What is it worth to you to stand on the shore of an inland lake, or breathe the scent of rich humus during a hike? What is the worth of seeing a carpet of spring beauties, or the shy bloom of a nodding trillium, or the flicker of a scarlet tanager high up in a mature forest? What is the value of sharing these experiences with someone you love?

All of these additional questions point to one thing – the worth of an acre can’t really be put into words. Like a precious gemstone, the true beauty and value of an acre comes from appreciating all of these facets as part of the whole. An acre is worth more than the individual creatures that live within it, or the relationships among those individuals. It’s worth more than our individual emotional connection to the landscape. Its value is a synthesis of all these things and more – something greater than the sum of its individual parts.

 

 

The value of protecting acres

Although it’s nearly impossible to assign a definitive value to an acre, it is clear that acres are worth protecting. To further quote John Muir, “there is not a “fragment” in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself.” The interconnected habitats of the Upper Peninsula are incredibly diverse: peat bogs, cobbled lakeshore, hardwood forests, and granite balds – all in addition to our 11,000 inland lakes. Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s conservation properties protect an astonishing amount of this diversity, and a single 40-acre parcel may host as many as 8 different habitat types!

The UP’s most well-known habitat is forests, which inhabit over 84% of the land area, so let’s dive to greater depths by exploring the value of forests.

Most of our forests are quite young, due to the logging boom in the late 1800s. Young forests, like those that grow up after sustainable timber harvests, are critical habitat for many fauna: American woodcock, cottontail,  bobcat, and wood turtles are just a few of the species that require young forests. Some of Michigan’s endangered bird species, like golden-winged warblers and Kirtland’s warblers, nest almost exclusively in young and shrubby forest habitats.

Old-growth forests are famously valuable ecosystems, given their diverse biological resources and physical structure characteristics. Old growth is rare in Michigan due to the logging boom, but remaining pockets do exist, especially in places that were difficult to access for harvesting. Some pockets of forest with old-growth characteristics can be found on UPLC properties, like Norwood Lake Reserve and Mt. Benison Conservation Easement. By protecting old-growth forest, we are protecting our historical legacy.

The really great news is that although old growth forests are currently rare in Michigan, it doesn’t mean they have to stay that way! Hardwood forests in the eastern US can develop old-growth characteristics within just a few generations of trees, or approximately 150-500 years depending on the species. UPLC is a land trust that pledges to protect land in perpetuity. Protecting younger forests today will encourage them to regain their old-growth status. By adopting an acre of young forest, you’re investing in our present and providing hope our future.

Of course, the healthiest ecosystems are those with the greatest diversity, and we’re not just talking about species. A mosaic of interconnected diverse habitats – from old growth to new – that each have diverse age classes and three-dimensional structure will benefit a broad range of critters.  Every single acre that you help us protect is important, both on its own and as part of the bigger picture.

 

 

What is the Adopt-an-Acre program?

UPLC currently protects over 6,000 acres, and the cost to protect each individual acre is about $30 per year. UPLC has an ongoing fundraiser called Adopt an Acre, which is a year-round fundraiser. By adopting an acre in 2019, you are helping to secure our future. Adopting acres is a symbolic gesture that shows you are as committed to protecting land as we are.

For each acre you adopt ($30 each), we will send you a personalized certificate with the location of the acre(s) and your name (or the name of someone you’d like to honor). We will also put your name on our website’s interactive map! If you adopt at least 40 acres, a representative for UPLC will personally hike out with you next summer to visit your sponsored acres.

 

How will my donation help the UP?

We use adopt-an-acre for every aspect of our operations: on-the-ground projects (trail building and interpretive signs), annual events and outings to our properties, administration, and project development. UPLC turns 20 years old in 2019, a milestone that will come with a few growing pains as we try to expand our operations. We’re especially looking forward to hiring an additional permanent staff person, and to move forward with a couple of exciting new conservation projects. Keep an eye on our website and social media for future updates!

Ready to adopt your acres for 2019? Click the button below:




 

Please note that all online donations are handled through PayPal, but you do not need to have (or create) a PayPal account in order to donate. Simply follow the link and click “Donate with a Debit or Credit card” to use this option. If you prefer to use an offline payment method, you are also welcome to pay by check or cash sent to Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, 2208 US-41 S, Marquette MI 49855.

 

Day in the Life: Stewardship Monitor

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

There’s nothing before me but a seemingly impenetrable tangle of browns and emeralds, and nothing beneath the soles of my boots but springy mats of verdant sphagnum. No trails exist here, unless of course you count the meandering tracks laid down by generations of hungry white-tailed deer or the occasional rambling moose. The trees here grow thick and wild. Young saplings strain towards what limited light exists in the understory, much of it occurring only in shimmering patches that dance with every sigh of wind. Branches of the highest trees intertwine in a bizarre decades-long fist-fight, each trying to claim a few extra inches of the sky. And above it all tower the supercanopy white pines, far beyond the reach of any prospective competition. Bald eagles perch in the lofty branches of these natural skyscrapers, often choosing to raise their young up here, in eyries so large a grown human could comfortably nap inside. Welcome to the Upper Peninsula.

I’m the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s summer Stewardship Monitor, and my objective when I’m out in the woods is fairly straightforward: conduct annual stewardship monitoring visits to each of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s 65 conservation properties. Stewardship monitoring is a legal requirement for our conservation easements, preserves, and reserves, and requires UPLC staff or volunteers to visit a property and ensure that its stewards (i.e. landowners) are adhering to the terms of the conservation easement or management plan. The practical translation is that I walk the boundaries and through the center of each property, checking for out-of-place disturbances caused by humans (for example ATV use or littering) or natural events (such as trees felled by wind storms).

Lacking wings, my only option for traversing the landscape is good old-fashioned bushwhacking. Even when the U.P. gets (relatively) balmy, I suit up in head-to-toe “northwoods armor”: sturdy boots, long pants tucked fashionably into tall socks, long sleeves to guard my skin from the sharp fingers of spruce, and a helmet of mosquito netting to keep those pesky needle-faced insects at bay. This isn’t exactly the Amazon, but bushwhacking just a quarter mile can take twenty minutes if the undergrowth is thick, and there might be some scrambling and bog-hopping required!

It’s time for a full disclaimer: stewardship monitoring can be a sweaty and unglamorous job. But it is always rewarding, meditative, and freeing. It’s by far one of the favorite work tasks for UPLC staff, because we get to see firsthand how our efforts to protect ecosystems are paying off (not to mention we all jump at any chance to “play in the woods”).

Even though I’m out here to work, my stress levels plummet the second my boot hits the soft undergrowth of an Upper Peninsula forest. The repetition and exertion of cross-country hiking quiet my mind. My gaze drifts among the gentle visual chaos of the forest, where there are no straight lines or right angles anywhere to be found. The gentle crunch of twigs and birdsong drifting down from the branches fill my ears, while my nose drinks in the scent of rich humus. It’s so easy to get distracted when my attention is split between ogling the beauty of the forest, looking for anything that’s out of place, and choosing the most sturdy-looking place for my next footfall. I’m often glad I’m alone in the woods, so no one else can count the number of times I trip over roots or rocks or – let’s be honest – air. (If a Jill falls in the forest and there’s no one around to see it, did it even really happen? Not if I don’t tell anyone.)

Even though I’ve spent endless summers in the Upper Peninsula, I routinely stumble across things I’ve never seen before. Healthy forests often have thick carpets of deadwood lying thick on the ground, and close inspection might reveal dozens of fungi colonies that have gathered for a feast. A fallen aspen might be riddled with the meticulously ordered holes mined by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a native woodpecker whose name sounds like an insult straight out of a Monty Python movie. Snow-white Indian Pipe, a parasitic chlorophyll-free plant, clings to the hillside above a floating bog covered in fuzzy Labrador tea. And the endless march of time brings new discoveries every week: one week I’ll be walking through a carpet of minuscule spring beauties, the next the lady’s slippers orchids will unfurl.

So, yes, I’m out here to work, and to conduct an annual task that is critical to the continued conservation of our protected lands. But that doesn’t mean I can’t thoroughly bask in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula while I’m at it.

If you’re interested in experiencing some of these properties for yourself, check out our Interactive Map. Most of our Reserve and Preserve properties are open to the public for recreational day use including hiking, nature photography, and snowshoeing.

Photos and words by Jill Sekely, 11/06/2018.

Things are happening with our proposed Dead River Community Forest project!

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Promo videos, Field Trip, Grant Update, and more!

 

Promo Videos

Videographer Deke Ludwig, a staff member funded by of Heart of the Lakes, has put together a few short teaser videos from the footage shot late this summer, and we’re thrilled to be able to share three of them with you today. Our other piece of big news is that two of these films will be presented on the big screen at the 2018 Fresh Coast Film Festival!!! This documentary film festival, which celebrates the great outdoors in the Great Lakes region, is happening in Marquette on October 18-21.

The latest video–released today!– features 14 year-old kayaker Alyssa LeTorneau talking about her roots, and the importance of protecting land for future residents of Marquette. Check it out!

 

The first video we released features high-spirited Jeremiah Johnston, trail builder for the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN). Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy has paired with NTN to create multi-use trails on the Dead River properties. Ride along with him in this beautiful teaser promo, “Building a Sense of Place.” The lineup to view this video during the Fresh Coast Film Festival can be found here.

Our second video features our very own Chris Burnett, who has spear-headed this project from the beginning.  Experience his great enthusiasm as he talks about the Dead River Community Forest and what its protection would mean for residents and visitors of the Upper Peninsula. The Fresh Coast lineup to view this short film can be found here.


Upcoming hiking trip on October 8

On Monday, October 8, we’ll be headed out to the “Bridges” portion of the Dead River Community Forest project to experience peak fall colors! Come learn about the project with UPLC staff and enjoy a hike over the old bridge, up to the new 510 bridge, and through the proposed DRCF. Meet us at the UPLC office at 5 P.M. to carpool/caravan to the pocket park on the North side of the old CR 510 Bridge, or you can meet us at the property at 5:30 P.M. We’re also aiming to catch a beautiful sunset, so don’t forget your cameras.


Update on Community Forest Program Grant

Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy applied for a Community Forest Program grant in early summer 2018, to obtain funding to help us purchase the Dead River parcels. Competition was fierce for this year’s grant with 34 applicants, and regrettably the Dead River Community Forest project was not chosen for the grant award. However, grant administrators told UPLC that our application was strong – we placed in the top 50% of applicants – and encouraged us to apply to the same grant program in 2019, so we’re hard at work improving our proposal for re-submission next year!

While this was a setback, we are still going full-steam-ahead with our plans to secure these beautiful parcels. This also means we’ll need all the help we can get to make our dream of protecting these parcels a reality, and that’s where you come in! We need partners, and plans, and proven community support for this project. When the full film is complete, we will begin hosting community input sessions and will pull together a steering committee this fall to help us move forward on the project. In the meantime–you guessed it–the most immediate thing you can do to help move this project forward is to donate to the project here.

Exciting Progress for the Proposed Dead River Community Forest!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Film Planned to Promote Dead River Community Forest Project!

Last week, Deke and Kevin Ludwig, brothers and film-making team with Heart of the Lakes, worked long hours with UPLC staff and volunteers to capture the essence of the Dead River Community Forest project in film.

We spent about 72 hours scaling cliffs, scrambling over rocks, wading in muck, swimming by waterfalls, paddling canoes, mountain biking, tromping through the woods without trails, and listening to inspiring stories from people who are excited about what the DRCF will mean to the community of Marquette and the visitors to the area….all with camera equipment!

We hope that as we move along with the process of acquiring these 181 acres of impressive forest on the edge of town, we will be able to use the film Deke produces to help the community fall in love with the resource that will soon be available to them. Our goal was for people who watch the film to feel like they know the DRCF without having gone there–after all, the DRCF tells the story of most natural places in the UP.

It’s a place full of history, with direct connections to the mining and logging booms. It’s a place that has been considered a given part of the landscape around us–of course there’s a vast forest next to the shopping centers. It’s also a place that is changing–it’s slated for development and surrounded by ever-expanding parking lots.

It’s also a place of hope and a place where we want the community to be able to envision our future together. A way to move forward into a new era of living together in conjunction with the natural world around us.

Big, big thanks to Deke, Kevin, Heart of the Lakes, UPEC for the grant that allows extra staff time for this project, and to our volunteers and support crews the last week! Jeremiah, Alyssa and Kim, Kathy, Chris, John and Chelsea, and everyone who hiked through the rain on Saturday–you all are amazing. THANK YOU for your help!

Keep tuned in for more updates about this video and for updates on the Dead River Community Forest!