Protecting Your Land

Protecting Your Land

Permanent legal protection

The only way you can ensure that the things you value most about your land–the towering trees, clean water, fresh air, quiet–will remain protected forever is to create a permanent legal arrangement. Working with the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy can help you accomplish this. There are three main options for protecting land with UPLC: Conservation Easements, Conservation Reserves, and Conservation Preserves.

A customized approach for each property

Each property deserves an individual touch, and we will collaborate closely with you to develop a conservation strategy that best suits you and your property. We hand-craft all documents to capture the unique characteristics of each tract of land to ensure that it gets the protection it requires.

The Three Most Common Methods:

1. Conservation Easements

An easement is a practical method for permanently protecting your property while still retaining ownership, including the right to sell, donate, or bequeath the land. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between you and a land conservancy that places permanent restrictions on land use.  These restrictions are in place to protect what we call the “conservation values” of the property: things like the deep woods, the shoreline, the wetlands.  The role of the land conservancy is to ensure that legal restrictions and stewardship rules are being upheld by the landowner.

Each easement’s restrictions are tailored to the particular property, and we strive to accommodate the interests and goals of the individual owner(s).  Conservation easements are unique and diverse. For example, some UPLC-held easements allow landowners to farm, conduct sustainable timber management, and/or maintain buildings on the easement property. Other easements do not allow for these activities and protect the property as a wilderness, based on the vision of the original landowners.

Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy protects 24 unique conservation easements, including small Lake Superior shoreline properties in Grand Marais, deer camps near Escanaba, and large tracts of untouched forestlands in the Huron Mountains.

Granite bald and white pines in the Huron Mountains

2. Conservation Preserves (and Trade Lands)

Donating land to the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy provides us with multiple options for conservation. If you are able to provide a monetary stewardship fund to cover activities such as annual stewardship monitoring trips and trail building, we may want to create a conservation preserve that is open to the public for low-impact activities such as hiking and photography.  As their name suggests, conservation preserves are intended to preserve the target ecosystem in a natural or near-natural state, by restricting commercial activities and allowing the environment to grow and change at its own pace.

The Tory’s Woods Preserve is an excellent example of what we can do with donated land! In 2014, 233 acres were donated to protect a beautiful forested area within easy driving distance of Marquette. There are currently three marked trails on the Preserve, where the public can enjoy a peaceful hike.

Pond in Tory’s Woods Preserve

Sometimes donated lands do not meet our criteria for use as a conservation preserve or reserve. In this case, UPLC may ask the donor if they would like us to sell the land, with a conservation easement, in our conservation buyers program. Selling donated property provides us with monetary proceeds to purchase or steward other, more critical, properties and fund general expenses; and retaining a conservation easement over the land allows us to ensure the land is still protected forever by the new landowner and UPLC. We will never put a property in the Conservation Buyers Program without the express wishes of the donor.

3. Working Forest Reserves

Land that does not have ‘high priority’ conservation values (such as a headwaters lake or a sensitive wetland) can be a working forest reserve. These parcels are owned by Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, and are open to the public for non-motorized and low-impact activities. On forest reserves we focus on implementing climate-change mitigation activities that restore a forests’ biodiversity through extremely selective timber harvesting and replanting. Often times these forests have been mismanaged in the past, in a way that has pushed them to the extreme of having a single-tree-species stand that is all the same age–using restorative forestry, we can help these forests regain natural biodiversity and create appropriate uneven-aged canopy layers within the forest. Increasing the diversity of species and ages within a forest allows the property to be more resilient to disease, pests, and natural disasters and creates better habitat for birds and other animals.

Our Debelak Reserve is a delightful example of our unconventional harvest style: It is a large forest was once 98% maple of all the same age–highly desirable timber from an income standpoint–that we are now slowly restoring to a much more natural, less crop-agriculture, type of UP forest. There, we have been selectively harvesting using the “Expanding Gap” silvicultural method, which allows for biodiversity restoration and an improvement of bird and wildlife habitat–and a reduction in high-value timber in the future. We remove the maple and plant and encourage literally any other native species whether or not it has any “value” from a monetary standpoint. Since 2010 we have been conducting an annual breeding bird count (in early June) to monitor any changes in bird species composition due to harvesting activities.

It may come as no surprise that as the types and ages of trees diversify in this reserve, the numbers and species of birds has increased. While future harvests of this preserve will not be high profit, they will have a lasting ecological impact in this area–and that’s the point.

Salamander in Debelak Reserve