UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Lyme Great Lakes Timberlands held two tours of the Michigamme Highlands property this week to share details on a working forest conservation easement between the two groups.

The project, consisting of land currently owned by Lyme Great Lakes Timberlands, is made up of 73,000 acres that includes the summit of Mt. Arvon in Baraga County, as well as 37 miles of rivers, 220 miles of perennial streams, 96 lakes and ponds, more than 13,600 acres of wetlands, and habitat for many species. The full area includes portions of Baraga, Iron and Marquette counties.

The proposed conservation project would give the DNR conservation easement rights on behalf of Michigan’s residents while the land remains privately owned by Lyme. The DNR says the rights would ensure that the property is sustainably managed as a working forest while protecting wildlife habitat, preventing development or subdivision of the property, and ensuring public recreational access forever.

“This is a great opportunity for us to protect a pretty critical and beautiful part of Michigan,” said Kerry Heckman, forestland administrator for Michigan DNR. “It is also going to provide that long-term permanent access for everything from back country experience to riding your ATV or snowmobile. If this property was sold, this conservation easement didn’t exist, then a lot of those opportunities go away. As well as the land, the wildlife habitat, and those types of things. So we’re really trying to achieve those things while also sustaining the local economy with the forest products that are coming off of them.”.

The property provides an estimated $4 million in local economic impact and 47 forestry jobs. The property will also remain privately owned, maintaining local tax revenue. Residents from the area had the opportunity to take a three-hour tour of the landscape and ask any questions they may have about the Michigamme Highlands conservation project.

“To be honest I didn’t hear a lot of concerns which is great,” said Heckman. “I did hear some people that initially before meeting with us and going on the tour were skeptical of what the project was. But after hearing us talk about the details of the project and what we’re hoping to achieve they thought it was great. So, we’ve heard a lot of great support from the members of the public who came out to join us.”

The DNR continues working to secure grant funding to complete the project. The next steps will begin with congressional action enacting the 2024 federal budget.

You can read more about the Michigamme Highlands project here.