Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Three things you can do to protect land during a time of social distance

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Three things you can do to protect land during a time of social distance

Quite a lot has changed over the past couple of weeks. And while many of the events we all look forward to every year are cancelled or changing shape, our aim at UPLC is to provide ideas and encouragement through this time. We hope that many of you who are healthy and can get outside do so, and that curiosity, wonder, and enjoyment of UP recreation spaces continue to be a part of your life over the coming weeks. The UP Land Conservancy public nature preserves will remain open and be there for you as long as we are able to keep them open. Here are some ideas if you need a break into nature.

1. Go Over the River and Through the WoodsWalk or Run our 5k Trail 

Each year we host our fun-filled Over the River and Through the Woods 5k Run and Walk through the beautiful 123-acre Vielmetti-Peters Conservation Reserve. While the race this year (originally scheduled for early May) is off – we hope that doesn’t deter you from getting out and exploring this beautiful trail at your own pace! 

In fact, this article with info and tips about running during the Coronavirus Outbreak recommends that now is not the time to push yourself hard or try for personal best time.

Here is our 5k trail map if you would like to follow our route and also some inspiration photos from last year’s race 🙂 

2. Volunteer Outside through Citizen Science – Get out the Binocs, it’s Bird time! (and plant, and mammal, and even insect time! #Spring!)

As Spring comes to the UP it is a fascinating and exciting time to witness the changes that occur – from new plant life popping up to the birds returning to their breeding and nesting areas. Watching this change each year is amazing.

Last year, we wrote all about different Citizen Science projects that help UPLC take note and gain a better understanding of sightings in our area. Whether you’ve participated before or are just getting started, contributing to our collective knowledge and observations of timings can help us continue to protect and make the case for protecting land for wildlife.

Consider taking your binoculars for your next walk and contributing what you see to our iNaturalist project. If you’ve never used iNaturalist, now is a good time to play around and learn a new program.

A great place for this is at the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve located on Main Street in Harvey (across from the Superior Smokehouse). There are signs all along the trails of the birds you are likely to see, some information about their lives and their sounds.

Maybe citizen science-ing (or birds) aren’t quite your style right now and you just just want to get out and learn a bit. We recommend the ‘iNaturalist Missions’ (in the app) which give a list of common plants and animals you are likely to see in your area so you can find them. This one can be really fun to do with younger kids, or for older kids to do on their own. One of our staff used this to learn about different Pines in the Chocolay Bayou Preserve! 

3. Protect the Future of Outdoor Recreation in the UP,  Today

At UPLC, we feel quite fortunate to be surrounded by so much open natural space and to be part in protecting it and providing recreation opportunities alongside other community organizations. There are many ways that you can continue to support organizations like UPLC who provide recreation opportunities to our community, even though our group volunteer days are postponed for now.

Protected land and recreation opportunities in nature is more important to our community now more than ever. For many people, outdoor recreation is now a main source of sanity, health, education, and a sense of permanence and normalcy. You can support UPLC’s recreational trails through the Adopt-an-Acre program or with a simple donation, right now.

Please also consider taking this time to learn about how UPLC works closely with other organizations across the UP to provide safe outdoor recreation to the community – we are all in this together!

Check out some of our friends sites and follow them on Facebook & Instagram for local updates: 

Heart of the Lakes recently launched a “Recreation Ambassador” program, check it out at

Noquemanon Trail Network provides an immense network of multi-use trails across private and public lands – We are working closely with the NTN to create the Dead River Community Forest

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a great place for a long walk with an official trail ‘spur’ at the Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve.

The North Country National Scenic Trail runs from one end of the UP to the other – Bayou trails are an official Spur (really, from New York to North Dakota – talk about social distance!)

Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors! 

Restoration Forestry

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Restoration Forestry

By: Brian Liesch

The Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s roles and desires for land management are multi-faceted.  As you may already know, the UPLC already permanently protects land through our Conservation Preserve and Conservation Easement programs.  The UPLC also runs a “Forests For the Future” Conservation Reserve Program, in which 25 properties are enrolled, totaling 1,612 acres.

Conservation reserves are properties we own and sustainably manage by Restoration Forestry principles.  These provide an ongoing source of funding and allow us to demonstrate ecologically sound forestry principles.  Often times these are lands that were clear cut in the past and were either mismanaged or left alone prior to UPLC’s acquisition.  UPLC saw the need to manage these properties to promote a more natural, biodiverse and healthy forest while being able to sustainably log and model these forestry practices for educational purposes.

In particular, our Forests are guided by Restoration Forestry principles and are managed with these goals in mind:

  • Maintain, restore, and enhance the biological diversity, water quality, and ecological integrity of the managed parcels and the broader landscape context through long-term, sustainable, forest management practices.
  • Meet the requirements of Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, as well as the UPLC’s organizational objectives in all aspects of land management.
  • Reinvest revenue generated from sustainable production of forest products into both new and ongoing UPLC conservation priorities.
  • Foster the sharing of lessons learned and future forest management innovation by establishing the property as a demonstration of ecologically-based land management.
  • Create and maintain positive, viable collaborations with other landowners to achieve individual and common objectives across the landscape.
  • Contribute to the local economy through forest jobs, forest products, and compatible outdoor recreation opportunities.

By following the above principles, we are able to develop resilient working forests that provide ecological benefits, recreational and educational opportunities, while providing income to the UPLC and supporting the local economy.

An example of our Restoration Forestry in action is at our 320 acre Debelak Forest Reserve in Alger County donated in 2006 by the Debelak family.  At the time of UPLC’s Acquisition of the parcel, the forest was predominantly maple.  While fantastic for logging and beautiful in the fall, if a disease were to come through that affected maple trees, this property and surrounding land would be severely impacted.  The UPLC saw an opportunity to restore the biodiversity of the forest through Femelschlag or Expanding Gap forestry practices.  The Debelak property has been visited by other foresters across the region as a model in expanding gap forestry, while economically benefiting the UPLC and region and providing recreational opportunities for others to enjoy.

Former Executive Director Dr. Chris Burnett giving a tour of the Debelak Reserve and Expanding Gap Forestry to members of Federal, State, Non-Profit and Private organizations in August 2019.

New Position: Lands Program Manager

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

We are excited to announce that we are looking to grow our team by bringing on a Lands Program Manager.

If you are a motivated self-starter with excellent science and communication skills, a passion for protecting land, and a desire to grow with us, then we would love to hear from you!

To learn more about this position, read the full position description here. Please send your cover letter and resume to by April 19th.


Gearing up with Citizen-Powered Science

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

by: Adina Daar

Our theme this season is ‘Involvement’. As a Land Conservancy, there are many ways people are involved with our organization; from donating funds, volunteering time, serving as a member on our board, to attending and participating in our events. Involvement comes in many forms!

Did you know that there are also ways to be involved while doing what you love outdoors; hiking, fishing, birdwatching – all while contributing to ecological knowledge about the area?

It’s called Citizen Science and it’s an ever-growing area propelled by technological advancements that have put powerful scientific tools in our pockets and at our fingertips!

Pairing public interest and time with organizations like ours and other research communities, this new frontier of people-powered research amplifies the speed, consistency, and accuracy of findings. It can also be a fun way to engage with a community around shared interests, all the while contributing back to the places that we hold near and dear.

Interest piqued? We hope so!

Here are five of our favorite digital tools you can use while contributing to ecological research and conservation projects – in the UP and beyond!

Merlin: For the Bird Curious

For those just dabbling (#birdword!) in the world of birding – Merlin is a useful app that both helps identify a bird you see and contributes to national bird monitoring data.

With around 399 species of birds in the Upper Peninsula and with hundreds of thousands of miles of protected forest and wetlands  – it should come as no surprise that birds love it here and so do people who love birds!

Screenshots from Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Android

Developed by the Cornell School of Ornithology and launched in 2014, The Merlin Bird App guides bird spotters through a series of five questions (location, date, size, color, and context) and then curates a visual list of possibilities which can then be further explored and confirmed. Each bird has pictures, sound clips, and a natural history write-up – lots of juicy details! Users can also download local databases tailored to different US regions to improve accuracy.

Alternatively, you can also snap a photo of a bird and let the Merlin database look for a visual match which is a pretty handy feature.

With Citizen Science powered by Merlin, researchers have been able to track migratory patterns of many avian species and record sightings in different areas as climates change shifts some breeding and migratory routes. It is both a wonderful learning tool and a simple way to be involved in furthering local bird surveys and knowledge for the wider community.

Download Merlin for Apple here and Android here

*Bonus Level “UP”*eBird: for committed Twitchers

The Merlin app is powered by over 500 million observations from a related app called eBird. Also produced and managed through the Cornell School of Ornithology, eBird is the expert version of the app for serious bird watchers who are already proficient at species identification and want to contribute to the growing database. The eBird app is a tool specifically for recording and noting bird sightings; equipped with checklists, a ‘Record as you go’ feature, and full offline mode. It’s a wonderful digital companion for birding trips with a large community of users and ongoing support.

Screenshots from eBird by Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Android

Available for download for Apple here and Android here

Litterati: For those who hate litter (who doesn’t?!)

Is there anything more infuriating than walking along the beach and finding litter strewn about? In some places, heroes don’t don capes, they carry out trash and use an app called ‘Litterati’.

Litterati started out as a way for California resident (and University of Michigan grad!), Jeff Kirschner to vent about offending litter in his community. He would upload pictures of his litter findings on Instagram along with the hashtag #Litterati. It has since grown into a worldwide movement of people who identify, map, and collect the world’s litter in pursuit of ‘Litter free world’.  

Images from and Litterati App for Android

It’s simple. See litter, snap a picture, pick it up. Once back home, tag the pictures with identifiers like the type, materials, and a brand if obvious. This all gets saved into a database and onto a map. The visual data serves as viable proof that has been used to hold companies, brands, and other groups accountable for litter in communities.

The now-famous example of how San Francisco doubled a tax on tobacco companies using a mass of Litterati data as evidence is the stuff of legends and also reality. One community used Litterati to encourage Taco Bell to change a sauce packet policy after residents had documented just how many unopened packets were strewn around public parks near Taco Bell storefronts.

‘Picker UPpers’ Club on Litterati

It’s refreshing to find that most people in Marquette are respectful and go to great efforts to prevent litter. Still, it’s nice to know that this app is here if you do come across an offending pile while out walking a trail. And if you find litter on our properties – we certainly want to know so we can encourage more Leave No Trace practices and distribute better information and resources about how to interact with natural areas.

And Litterati is global! So if visiting somewhere else where litter seems to be an issue, it’s a spontaneous way to lend a hand and make sure it is noticed.

Check out founder Jeff Kirschner’s inspiring TedTalk here and get started snapping that trash at We have a local club called ‘Picker UPpers’ which you can find in the ‘Clubs’ section of the app – please join us and log your litter finds!

Download Litterati for Apple or Android

Great Lakes Fish Finder: For Fin A-fish-ionados!  

It’s no secret that the Great Lakes are home to an interesting and diverse bunch of aquatic wildlife. Those who fish and live on lakes and waterways have a personal and ongoing relationship with wildlife that has proven invaluable in monitoring and ensuring the health of water ecosystems.

A joint initiative between the Shedd Aquarium (in Chicago), The California Academy of Sciences, and National Geographic, this app has proven itself a welcome companion for many anglers – it is both useful as a field guide for identification and for contributing data to scientists who monitor lake health and fish populations.

Screenshot from

Important to note, this app is not about helping people find the best fishing spots or anything like that! You don’t have to give your secret spot away if you use the app. It’s about logging catches, conditions, and connecting to others in the fishing community. Users can publish their observations to a community for identification or public view if desired.

While not the most utilized or frequented project on this list (UP representation is certainly lacking) it’s is a resource that is there if you so choose to explore it! We’d love to see more information collected about the fish whose habitat is affected by the lands we protect.

Download Great Lake Fish Finder for Apple or Android

iNaturalist: for everyone everywhere – alone or in a group!

iNaturalist is probably one of the most well-known and used programs when it comes to documenting natural sightings and sharing with a broader community. It is the skeletal structure of many other programs (including Fish Finder above).

You can pull up a map of just about any location and you’ll find thousands of sightings of all sorts of wildlife including plants, insects, birds, and larger animals!

Here’s a look at the app through a sighting from the Tory’s Woods Preserve:

Screenshots of Marquette Observations from iNaturalist for Android

Users can snap or upload photos and then ask for identification – or jump on and help identify through pictures that others have already uploaded. One of the really cool aspects of iNaturalist are the projects and community events – which range from personal garden explorations (I’ve heard of people using it to identify what is growing in community accessible plots) to what are known as a ‘Bio-blitz’ – when a whole bunch of people get together to document and identify as much as possible in a short period of time at a specific place.

Shout out to the top 5 UP resident observers: Nate Martineau, Mcaple, Rob Routledge, Joseph Kurtz and Will Van Hemessen who collectively have made over 29,000 observations of 8,800+ species and helped confirm and identify over 145,000 other observations by others in our area. We hope many others will join in to contribute to this already very healthy and growing ecosystem of nature sightings!

Download iNaturalist for Apple and Android

Zooniverse: The Mother Ship

Zooniverse is an ingenious website that hosts a wide array of citizen science projects covering a breadth of topics: from science and history to art and mathematics. Each initiative is set up as fun ‘Projects’ that are designed in creative ways to make sorting through lots of data points fun and useful. It is the largest Citizen Science platform in the world with over 1.7 million individual users and growing.

Zooniverse also has a DIY section where you can build your own project. So if you have data that needs to be classified or you could use some help sorting through and digitizing archives – it could be a great place to start.

It’s really best to dive straight-in and play around to get a feel for how the site works.

Here are a couple of our favorite projects for you to check out:

Michigan ZoomIN: Help researchers at the University of Michigan classify photos from remote cameras to better understand the distribution of wild animals. One of their research locations is here in the UP at the Huron Mountain Club – which means you also get a peek into the Club!


Unearthing Michigan Ecological Data’: This is part of a program to digitize over a century of hand-collected data from the Biological Research Station at Douglas Lake in Northern Michigan. Historical data is helpful in that it provides documentation of changes over time – and is very powerful when combined with current data. Through this project, you can help to digitize the universities reports, research, and documents. If you are the kind of person that finds themselves drawn to dusty boxes of records, and delights in exploring the way things were done in the past – this project might be especially exciting 😀

Screenshot from

We looked up ‘Lepomis gibbosus’ – these are Pumpkinseed Fish fins!

‘Whales as Individuals’: Need a break? We recommend this project where helpful citizens can outline and help identify individual Whales from the many photos of their flukes. It serves as both a really easy and relaxing brain break in the name of science 🙂

Image from

What about a UP Land Conservancy project on Zooniverse?!? Oh don’t worry, it’s coming. And we’ll for sure let you know once we’ve got it running.

There you have it! Let’s science together 🙂

At the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, we feel honored to be in service to and entrusted by a community that is engaged and interested in wildlife and habitat. What happens in the UP is inextricably connected to what happens in other parts of the country and the world – so whether ID-ing birds to better understand migration changes, identifying a species of plant that wasn’t here 15 years ago, contributing to the knowledge of local fish populations, or perhaps spotting that ever elusive Mountain Lion taking a selfie with a trail camera  – it makes a difference to us! We hope these tools continue to feed your curiosity, involvement, and contribution to protecting land today for life tomorrow!

What’s your favorite way to get involved? Let us know your experiences with these or other Citizen Science platforms in the comments!

Day in the Life: Stewardship Monitor

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

There’s nothing before me but a seemingly impenetrable tangle of browns and emeralds, and nothing beneath the soles of my boots but springy mats of verdant sphagnum. No trails exist here, unless of course you count the meandering tracks laid down by generations of hungry white-tailed deer or the occasional rambling moose. The trees here grow thick and wild. Young saplings strain towards what limited light exists in the understory, much of it occurring only in shimmering patches that dance with every sigh of wind. Branches of the highest trees intertwine in a bizarre decades-long fist-fight, each trying to claim a few extra inches of the sky. And above it all tower the supercanopy white pines, far beyond the reach of any prospective competition. Bald eagles perch in the lofty branches of these natural skyscrapers, often choosing to raise their young up here, in eyries so large a grown human could comfortably nap inside. Welcome to the Upper Peninsula.

I’m the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s summer Stewardship Monitor, and my objective when I’m out in the woods is fairly straightforward: conduct annual stewardship monitoring visits to each of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s 65 conservation properties. Stewardship monitoring is a legal requirement for our conservation easements, preserves, and reserves, and requires UPLC staff or volunteers to visit a property and ensure that its stewards (i.e. landowners) are adhering to the terms of the conservation easement or management plan. The practical translation is that I walk the boundaries and through the center of each property, checking for out-of-place disturbances caused by humans (for example ATV use or littering) or natural events (such as trees felled by wind storms).

Lacking wings, my only option for traversing the landscape is good old-fashioned bushwhacking. Even when the U.P. gets (relatively) balmy, I suit up in head-to-toe “northwoods armor”: sturdy boots, long pants tucked fashionably into tall socks, long sleeves to guard my skin from the sharp fingers of spruce, and a helmet of mosquito netting to keep those pesky needle-faced insects at bay. This isn’t exactly the Amazon, but bushwhacking just a quarter mile can take twenty minutes if the undergrowth is thick, and there might be some scrambling and bog-hopping required!

It’s time for a full disclaimer: stewardship monitoring can be a sweaty and unglamorous job. But it is always rewarding, meditative, and freeing. It’s by far one of the favorite work tasks for UPLC staff, because we get to see firsthand how our efforts to protect ecosystems are paying off (not to mention we all jump at any chance to “play in the woods”).

Even though I’m out here to work, my stress levels plummet the second my boot hits the soft undergrowth of an Upper Peninsula forest. The repetition and exertion of cross-country hiking quiet my mind. My gaze drifts among the gentle visual chaos of the forest, where there are no straight lines or right angles anywhere to be found. The gentle crunch of twigs and birdsong drifting down from the branches fill my ears, while my nose drinks in the scent of rich humus. It’s so easy to get distracted when my attention is split between ogling the beauty of the forest, looking for anything that’s out of place, and choosing the most sturdy-looking place for my next footfall. I’m often glad I’m alone in the woods, so no one else can count the number of times I trip over roots or rocks or – let’s be honest – air. (If a Jill falls in the forest and there’s no one around to see it, did it even really happen? Not if I don’t tell anyone.)

Even though I’ve spent endless summers in the Upper Peninsula, I routinely stumble across things I’ve never seen before. Healthy forests often have thick carpets of deadwood lying thick on the ground, and close inspection might reveal dozens of fungi colonies that have gathered for a feast. A fallen aspen might be riddled with the meticulously ordered holes mined by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a native woodpecker whose name sounds like an insult straight out of a Monty Python movie. Snow-white Indian Pipe, a parasitic chlorophyll-free plant, clings to the hillside above a floating bog covered in fuzzy Labrador tea. And the endless march of time brings new discoveries every week: one week I’ll be walking through a carpet of minuscule spring beauties, the next the lady’s slippers orchids will unfurl.

So, yes, I’m out here to work, and to conduct an annual task that is critical to the continued conservation of our protected lands. But that doesn’t mean I can’t thoroughly bask in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula while I’m at it.

If you’re interested in experiencing some of these properties for yourself, check out our Interactive Map. Most of our Reserve and Preserve properties are open to the public for recreational day use including hiking, nature photography, and snowshoeing.

Photos and words by Jill Sekely, 11/06/2018.