Protecting Your Land

Protecting Your Land

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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. Partial Donation: 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.

The over 3,000 acres of land UPLC protects with Conservation Easements are a testament to our community’s deep love of the wild land we have in the UP.

Granite bald and white pines at a Conservation easement in the Huron Mountains

Each “CE” is 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, from small Lake Superior shoreline properties in Grand Marais, deer camps near Escanaba, to large tracts of untouched forestland in the Huron Mountains.


2. Full Donation: Conservation Preserves

Donating land fully to the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy provides us with multiple options for conservation. We may decide together to create a conservation preserve that is open to the public for recreation such as hiking and photography, or to set aside a wilderness headwater that protects the larger watershed and health of the community. UPLC currently protects 11 Preserves, or 1,488 acres of land permanently set aside for Nature to manage.

As their name suggests, preserves keep the land in a natural state by restricting commercial activities and allowing the environment to grow and change at its own pace.

Ephemeral Pond in Tory’s Woods Preserve

Tory’s Woods Preserve is an excellent example of what we can do with donated preserves! The Preserve is a protected 233 acre, absolutely beautiful, forest area within easy driving distance of Marquette. There are currently three marked trails on the Preserve, where visitors can enjoy a peaceful hike learning about natural forest system transitions from signage designed by Northern Michigan University students.


3. 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. 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 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.

Using  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. 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.

Salamander in 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.

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 here will not be high profit, they will have a lasting impact on forest health and resilience in this area–and that’s the point.