An Opportunity to Protect the Chocolay River

Do you love the Chocolay River?

We do, especially now that we have established the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve.  So, here’s a thought: How about protecting more land upstream? 

For a short time, an anonymous donor is offering to donate to UPLC over 100 acres along about a mile of the river in Chocolay Township.

The catch is that whenever we accept a donation of conservation land, we must also secure enough funding to cover our ongoing expenses, such as annual monitoring costs and legal defense insurance.  In this case, as in many others that come to us each year, the donor is “land rich and cash poor” and cannot donate funds in addition to the land itself.

We don’t like turning away “free land”, especially great wildlife habitat like this property, home to kingfishers and all manner of wetland and aquatic flora and fauna.  However, the truth is that protecting land in perpetuity is not free.


We need at least $10,000 in stewardship funding to be able to accept this potential gift.

So, if you love the Chocolay, have some extra cash, and want a tax deduction, give us a call.  Or maybe you would like to help create a memorial preserve for a loved person who loved the river.  We know this is a long shot, but you don’t catch any fish if you don’t go fishing, nor will you catch fish if we don’t work together to protect the river.

Donate to our “Land Rich, Cash Poor” Fund below to help us to take this project on! You can also call or send a check as you see fit, of course. Your donations are tax-deductible, and we will send you a receipt for your records. If we are unable to raise the money needed to accept this Chocolay River project, (or if we raise more than necessary) we will retain the funds in the hopes that the next time a “land rich, cash poor” donation crosses our paths, we’ll be able to protect land with your help.

We Did it! Chocolay Bayou Preserve Officially Protected

What a journey the Chocolay Bayou Preserve Project has been! Over the past year, The Preservers have been learning more than we ever thought we would have to about the DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers regulations on Lake Superior Bottomlands, railroad right-of-ways that have been abandoned for almost one hundred years but are still retained, how complicated survey work really is, and—even though we truly believed we knew a LOT about easements going into this situation—we have learned so much about what easements the UPLC can and cannot accept on a Nature Preserve in order to truly…well…preserve it.

When UPLC closed on the Bayou purchase this afternoon, we technically purchased 3 parcels of land adding up to 12.886 acres.  Two of those parcels, , are now legally combined into 12.357 acres and are what we’re considering to be “the Preserve”, and the third, a tiny strip of land that we call “C,” we will be divesting as soon as we can, due to the easements that come along with it. In order to purchase the Preserve, we had to purchase C—the parcels were only to be sold to us as a unit. C is 0.529 acres, a thin rectangular strip that borders a small portion of the Preserve and has easements that allow the neighbor to store dumpsters and tractors and block access to the other parcels at all times. It would be impossible for us to monitor and impose ecological standards on this property and these allowances truly detract from the ecological value of the Preserve.  It is our hope that the neighbors, who currently hold the easements, will want C.

The land in the Preserve has been surveyed by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine what portions of the Bayou are part of the Lake Superior Bottomlands—land that is protected by the DEQ  with very strong environmental regulations. This is incredible news!  This means that the waterway of most of the Preserve is protected even more than we would be able to protect it on our own, and the DEQ’s protections extend from the Bayou out into the big lake.  Here’s what the DEQ’s website says about the Lake Superior Bottomlands:

“Michigan’s Submerged Lands Program began in 1955 with the passage of the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 1955 PA 247, as amended, which is now incorporated as 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), 1994 PA 451, as amended.

The bottomlands of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the State of Michigan for use and enjoyment by its citizens. The State, as the owner and trustee, has a perpetual responsibility to the public to manage these bottomlands and waters for the prevention of pollution, for the protection of the natural resources and to maintain the public’s rights of hunting, fishing, navigation, commerce, etc. The State of Michigan’s authority to protect the public’s interest in the bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes is based on both ownership and state regulation. The Public Trust Doctrine, as the basis for Part 325, provides state authority to not only manage but also to protect the public’s fundamental rights to use these resources.

Michigan courts have determined that private uses of the bottomlands and waters, including the riparian rights of waterfront property owners, are subject to the public trust. In other words, if a proposed private use would adversely impact the public trust, the State of Michigan’s regulatory authority requires that the proposal be modified or denied altogether in order to minimize those impacts.”,1607,7-135-3313_3677_3702-10865–,00.html


At this point, we have made headway into the Stewardship (or “Forever”) fund—but not much.  The celebration on September 10th will not be a fundraiser—simply a way to say thank you to the community for their support and efforts turning this Preserve Project into a true Nature Preserve. We do still need to raise approximately $15,000 more to support the perpetual maintenance of the preserve as well as to build trails, install signs, establish a parking area, and more. We’ll get back to that later, though.  For now, we’re just celebrating two years of hard work finally coming to completion. We’ll be raising our glasses at the Chocolay River Brewing Company soon to cheers one another, and we hope you’ll join us at some point so we can say thanks in person.

A celebration and dedication is planned for Saturday, September 10th and a public forum will be held this fall for public input on trail access for the Preserve. For more information on the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve, the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, or on joining the Chocolay Bayou Preservers in their mission to protect and care for the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve into the future, please call or email the UPLC at (906) 225-8067 or  An official press release can be found here.

Good work, everyone. Job Well Done.


Only $1500 (and some change) To Go!

Chocolay Bayou Calendar2016-3 copyYup, you read that right. With the help of partnering organizations and donors, we’ve already raised $152,468 towards our goal of $154,000 to purchase the Chocolay Bayou Preserve – and we only have $1,532 to go!

Recreational opportunities abound at the 14-acre Bayou Preserve, which is ideally situated along the banks of the Chocolay River. From birding, fishing, and paddling, the Bayou has offered the community excellent outdoor recreation throughout the years, and the property even borders major hiking and biking trails, providing access to the Iron Ore Heritage and North Country National Scenic trails!

The final purchase of the property will preserve these activities for the community in perpetuity. In other words, FOREVER!

But, we still need your help. The Bayou – and all the outdoor activities the community has come to enjoy on the property – is in threat of development. We only have until May 9 to raise the remaining $1,532 to purchase the property and protect a popular outdoor recreation area for the community.

In addition, we need $20,000 to help maintain the Preserve once it’s purchased. This additional funding will also be used to expand public access, build an interpretive trail and wetland boardwalk, and also build benches throughout the property.Chocolay Bayou Calendar2016-1 copy

With your help, we can do this! We currently have a CrowdRise funding campaign to raise the remaining $1532 purchasing price by May 9. To make a donation, please see the Save The Chocolay Bayou! and help preserve this cherished outdoor recreation area today.

For more information, please contact Andrea Denham, Assistant Director of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy at (906) 225-8067 or


We want to thank our partners for their continued support in making the Chocolay Bayou Preserve a reality:

Bayou Bar and Grill

Cedar Tree Institute

Chocolay Raptor Center

Chocolay River Brewery

Chocolay Township

Ducks Unlimited

Hiawatha Water Trail

Hirvonen Foundation

Iron Ore Heritage Trail

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Lakewood Cottagers Association

Laughing Whitefish Audubon Society

Marquette County Resource Management Dept.

Marquette County Conservation District

North Country Trail Hikers


The Nature Conservancy

Trout Unlimited

Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy

Upper Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Chocolay Bayou Preserve Project Underway!

It all started several months ago, when rumors began flying about a beautiful piece of land that would be going up for sale soon.  The Audubon Society heard about it first – the spot is a popular one for local birders.  The Historical Society got interested next; as the Chocolay River is the boundary between the 1836 and 1842 Native American treaties and once held some early sawmills and charcoal kilns. It’s adjacent to the popular Iron Ore Heritage Trail and North Country Trail (combined at this location), and as the news spread, the groups who maintain those trails have  became involved in the quest to protect this land and create public access to it’s natural treasures. Soon the entire non-profit sector of Marquette and Harvey was all a-buzz with the news that a piece of land that interests us all was coming available.


A group of folks, loosely organized from various non profit groups with an interest in the property, began to meet  at the Bayou Restaurant and Chocolay River Brewery, just a short walk from the prospective preserve. We started calling ourselves “The Chocolay Bayou Preservers” – mostly because we think we are clever, also because, well, that’s what we wanted to do! This intrepid group has consisted of Jerry Maynard of the Chocolay Raptor Center, Scott Emerson of the Lakewood Cottagers Association, JD Forrester of the Alger Conservation District, Bruce Ventura of the Laughing Whitefish Audubon Society, Jeff Knoop of The Nature Conservancy, Darcy Rutkowski of the UPRC&D, Abbie Debiak of Superior Watershed Partnership, Allyson Dale of NCRS, Dane Cramer of Ducks Unlimited, Kelly Woodward of Chocolay township, and a few others from time to time as well as Chris Burnett and Andrea Denham of the UPLC.  It’s been a fun and informative time as we meet with everyone to discuss grants, fundraising, foundations, planning, preserving, promoting…and local craft beer.


But who would be the best to care for it, if we’ve all got an interest in it?  The group has decided the UP Land Conservancy is the organization best suited for perpetual stewardship of the Bayou Preserve.  UPLC is located right across the highway from the Bayou and its main purpose is the permanent legal protection of high value conservation lands.  We are happy to announce that UPLC, with the help of many other partnership organizations, has put forward an offer to purchase 14 acres of the Chocolay Bayou to protect forever as a nature preserve, easily accessible to the public, and set aside for the sake of our communities both natural and human.

So now we have until May 9th, 2016 to raise nearly $200,000 to pay for the land and to set up a stewardship fund to maintain the preserve in perpetuity.


Chocolay Bayou colors birds-1

To allow for easy public access, we will crate a parking lot and a boardwalk through the wetland.  We’d love to see a bird observation deck as well as some welcoming and fun informational signs throughout the preserve.  We hope to collaborate with Chocolay Township for maintaining facilities like trash collection and parking lot plowing and with all of the various groups and organizations involved to make this a place for the community to gather and learn from one another as well as from nature.  Expect to see field trips, bird observation, environmental education programs, and all sorts of fun things happening in the Bayou Preserve!

Chocolay Bayou Site Plan #1

This is our first site plan–flexible at this point, of course, but eventually (and depending on amount of donations we receive) we’d love to see multiple pathways allowing for a diversity of experiences to be had within this complex ecosystem, and for visitors to the preserve to be able to explore and connect with their natural surroundings…even in this urban area.

We are even starting to hear rumors about signs being donated to specify one of these trails as a bird-observation trail! Complete with interpretive signs explaining the importance of the bayou to migratory birds and waterfowl…but I’ll update you on that in our next blog about the Bayou.



So for now, the Preservers still meet at the Bayou Bar each month, and we discuss the same things: protection, promotion, fundraising. Outreach.  And craft beer from the brewery.

We received a grant from the North American Wetland Conservation Act for almost HALF of our fundraising needs! And other organizations are beginning to pledge support. Individual donors are starting to reach out, and foundations are being contacted. It’s starting to look real good around here! Want to join the fundraising excitement?

What’s next? A big Fundraising Concert with local favorites “Circle of Willis” on February 20th at the Bayou Bar and Grill and Chocolay River Brewery, of course! We’ll have a hike out to the Bayou at 6, with the concert and celebration of land protection to start at 7 pm.  Appetizers provided, local craft beer available for purchase, and a great, big goal to be reached!

Keep an eye out on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter, and the Website for more exciting updates, and come to our Annual Meeting on January 26th to listen to local experts share their knowledge of the Bayou’s historic significance, ecological importance, and geologic interest.


We are so excited, and we hope that you, as a member of this community, are excited along with us.




Indian Lake Conservation Preserve Dedicated

22 August 2015 – Indian Lake Conservation Preserve, Michigamme Twp.

Last Saturday, a group of dedicated conservationists gathered at Indian Lake to formally dedicate the 635-acre property as a conservation preserve. With the adjacent Murphy Family Preserve, we now own over 1,000 acres of wilderness in the headwaters of the Peshekee River.

Indian Lake 2014-01

Looking West across Indian Lake, which is about 100 acres, depending on water level.


Indian Lake 2014-13

Inlet to Indian Lake.


Indian Lake 2014-19

Outlet from Indian Lake to the Peshekee River.




“Tory’s Woods” Conservation Preserve Dedicated

15 July 2015 – Tory’s Woods Conservation Preserve, Onota Twp.

Last Saturday, a group of dedicated conservationists gathered at the newly erected trailhead sign at the Tory’s Woods to formally dedicate the 233-acre property as a conservation preserve.


Tory Parlin addressing the group at the dedication of Tory’s Woods.











John Parlin (on the stool) and guests at the dedication of Tory’s Woods Preserve.











A magical, moss-covered section of trail explored by guests at the dedication of Tory’s Woods Preserve.


























Lizards in the Hurons: Five-lined Skink Range Extension Documented

11 July 2015 – Huron Mountains, along on the Marquette-Baraga county line.

During a reconnaissance mission to look at a potential conservation easement, we had some interesting encounters. The most exciting was the discovery of a population of five-lined skinks.











Ryne Rutherford, a professional field biologist and co-founder of Biophilia Nature LLC, who lead the search for the skinks, summarized the discovery this way:

 In addition to being the first  five-lined skink documented for Baraga County, the skink population on … is the northwestern most record in the species entire range. It also represents a small range extension westward from know localities in the Huron Mountain Club. Five-lined skinks range throughout eastern North America where they are obligate forest dwellers in the south and central part of its range. At the northern extreme of their range in northern Marquette and Baraga Counties colonies of five-lined skinks are restricted to open granite bedrock outcrops and adjacent openings within a few miles of Lake Superior where  the climate is locally moderated and south facing rock exposures provide the necessary warmth for them to persist.” 


Granite bald skink habitat.











Huron Islands in Lake Superior from the study area.










The skinks were hard to catch, but a garter snake was so preoccupied with trying to swallow a toad that we could take close-up photos.












The granite balds are also home to an interesting community of plants, unlike the usual parts of the northern forest.


Black trumpet or horn-of-plenty. A choice edible mushroom that is symbiotic with oak trees.

Signage Going Up at Tory’s Woods Preserve

Tory’s Woods Trailhead Sign – UPLC Board members, Bruce Ventura & Grant Petersen, breaking through the bedrock to install the trailhead sign at Tory’s Woods Conservation Preserve.  Tory’s Woods is UPLC’s first protected property in Alger County with good public access.  Some good trails already exist, and maps will soon be at the trailhead.  Signage on the trails will follow this fall.  The trailhead is on Section Five Trail off M-28 just east of the Alger-Marquette county line.


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