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forests for the future

Working Forest Reserves

Land that does not have ‘high priority’ conservation values (such as a headwaters lake or a sensitive wetland) can be donated as a working forest reserve. Reserves are owned by Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, are managed for forest restoration, and are open to the public.

Climate-change mitigation 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 come to us having been mismanaged. For example, some have been pushed to an extreme of having a single-tree-species stand that is all the same age. While this is a highly profitable “crop,” it’s not healthy for the soil or the other forest dwellers who rely on those woods, and if something happened, all of the trees would be wiped out at once.


Shifts in our forest

Before Europeans came to the Americas, the forest in the area was multi-generational and had old growth that lasted centuries. Now, after extensive and aggressive logging and other more natural forest disturbances (fire, insects, disease, etc), there are only small remnants of old growth left.  With the Forests for the Future program, we have a chance to nurture our forest toward old growth while increasing forest diversity and adaptability. 

the downsides of


Many forests in the Upper Peninsula have been pushed to an extreme by having a single-tree-species stand that is all the same age. While this can be a highly profitable “crop,” it’s not healthy for the soil or the other forest dwellers who rely on those woods. It is also risky management practice, because if a threat was introduced that impacted that single species, all of the forest's trees could be wiped out at once.

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Forests for the future program goals
Maintain habitats for diverse native species
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Demonstrate restoration forestry and sustainable timber management
Outdoor recreation and conservation education
Forests natural adaptation

As sustainable foresters, we can help the forest dance with change rather than strain to preserve and maintain one static state. Northern forests have been shaped by adaptation in response to natural disturbances: fire, windfall, insects, disease, snow loads, occasional floods, and droughts. These natural disturbances help open the canopy by allowing the sun to reach seedlings and other small plants, creates edges where two ecosystems meet; leading to a great abundance of of plant and wildlife diversity. As one area of disturbance grows up, another may be opened, creating a continues mosaic of ecosystems and diversity.


Through thoughtful and careful management techniques, we can help our forests achieve restoration and adaptive resiliency after human-caused disturbances. 

management plan

UPLC forest reserves use a careful and experimental management plan that takes into account likely climate change scenarios more than 150 years into the future. We are helping these forests regain their natural biodiversity and create healthy uneven-aged canopy layers within the forest. Forest biodiversity is restored through extremely selective timber harvesting and replanting. 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.

Restoration techniques

Restorative and sustainable forestry requires clear goals, planning, and clear communication on behalf of those managing the land, in order to avoid damage to the forest and achieve optimal restoration results. 

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Cutting or thinning monoculture allows slower growing species to intersperse and gain growth


Careful timbering techniques ensure protection of the overall forest:

  • clearly marked  cutting boundaries

  • ground-conscious harvest schedules designated skid skid paths of untargeted forest areas

  •  access roads positioned to avoid excess erosion

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Removing diseased trees decreases chances of the disease spreading

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Opening the canopy (via cutting or thinning) allows more sun exposure to the all the remaining plants and promotes growth.

Forest management education

UPLC Preserves currently host classes focusing on educating the public on forest health and sustainable forestry practices. In the future, the reserves will also be used as educational sites for both land owners to learn hands-on how to integrate climate change mitigation into their forest management practices. You can learn more about sustainable forestry practices by reading our interpretive signs installed at the Vielmetti-Peters Reserve. 

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Debelak reserve

Our Debelak Reserve is a delightful example of our unconventional harvest style: This large forest was once 98% maple of all the same age, and 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 all other native species (whether or not they have any “cash value” ). Since 2010 we have been conducting an annual breeding bird count to monitor any changes in bird species composition due to harvesting activities, and we are happy to report that with just two harvests, we are seeing an increase in both number and varieties of nesting birds at Debelak.

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