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

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.


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