LANSING/MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (PRESS RELEASE/WJMN) – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has announced the expansion of the Wilderness Lakes Reserve, in the Upper Peninsula’s Michigamme Highlands area.

In this remote region of the northern Great Lakes, TNC is working with partners and supporters to create a conservation corridor, linking and strengthening existing conservation areas. This supports healthier forests that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

By connecting another 4,854 acres of forests and wetlands with Wilderness Lakes Reserve’s 6,172 acres, TNC has nearly doubled the size of the reserve to 11,025 acres. Along with the neighboring Craig Lake State Park, this creates a mostly contiguous area of over 19,000 acres of conserved forestland. This is a crucial part of the envisioned conservation corridor in the Michigamme Highlands.

“We are thrilled to expand the Reserve,” notes Helen Taylor, state director in Michigan for TNC. “Science has identified this area as some of the most resilient land in Michigan that can sustain natural diversity in a changing climate. Opportunities to reconnect such large areas of protected lands don’t come along every day. It’s one of many important steps toward a healthy, thriving future for U.P. forests.”

Wilderness Lakes Reserve was established in 2017 as a working forest reserve where TNC is implementing practices to accelerate the restoration of biodiversity and restore the health and resilience of the forest, lakes, rivers, and wetlands within it—including the headwaters of the Peshekee and Sturgeon Rivers.

The new expansion will be managed in the same way. This work not only improves species diversity, benefits wildlife, it also supports the local economy through sustainable timber production, and helps the forest remain healthy despite the stressors of a changing climate. TNC’s Wilderness Lakes Reserve also demonstrates the power of natural climate solutions.

“Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but the forests there will store carbon and mitigate climate change for decades to come,” says Taylor. “Natural solutions such as improved forest management have the ability to contribute as much as a third of the carbon reductions the world needs. This makes Michigan’s forests more important now than ever.”

The Reserve is open to the public for foot access, including hunting and fishing. Visitors can also access the Wilderness Lakes Reserve by entering on the North Country Trail, which also crosses through MDNR-owned Craig Lake State Park. For more information on the reserve and detailed directions, visit