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10,000 acres of diverse forest in Michigan's U.P. purchased by conservation group

Four miles of the Slate River runs through the property in a cascade of small waterfalls over slate.
The Nature Conservancy
Four miles of the Slate River runs through the property in a cascade of small waterfalls over slate.

More than 10,000 acres of woodlands in the Upper Peninsula has been purchased by a conservation group.

The 10,549 acre Slate River Timberlands just purchased by the Nature Conservancy is primarily a hardwood forest, but what makes it special is its diversity.

Sixty years ago the land was purchased by a family from the Ford Motor Company which once owned huge parts of the U.P. Rich Bowman, Policy Director for the Nature Conservancy Michigan said the family managed the timberland thoughtfully, leaving a diverse forest which includes large hemlock trees and natural native red pine. While native red pine can be found in Michigan, often it’s planted in rows, plantation style. The property also includes softwoods and about a thousand acres of various wetland types of trees and vegetation.

Bowman said the forest has great value as a carbon sink. He says while there are a lot of mature trees, there’s also a fair amount of young trees in the forest which will sequester a lot of carbon for decades to come. He adds the timber that will be harvested is mostly hardwoods, which means they’ll be used for products that will be around for a long time, keeping that carbon stored.

One of the Slate River waterfalls.
Rich Tuzinsky
Courtesy: Nature Conservancy
One of the Slate River waterfalls.

The namesake Slate River runs through the property on its way to Huron Bay.

“The Slate River is called the Slate River because it basically is about four miles of continuous cascades of small water falls over various layers of slate,” Bowman said.

One of the better known water falls is named Quartzite Falls for the veins of quartz in the slate at that falls.

“As it get towards the downstream end of it, it actually is in a gorge that’s probably 150 feet deep. It’s pretty unique for Michigan,” Bowman explained.

The land will be enrolled in Michigan’s Commercial Forest Lands program.

“In exchange for reduced property taxes, the Commercial Forest Program requires participating landowners to manage their land for long-term timber production and allow public foot access for hunting, fishing and trapping,” is the Department of Natural Resources' description of the program.

The Slate River Timberlands joins the 11,000 acre Wilderness Lake Reserve (adjacent to Craig Lake State Park) and the 23,000 acre Two Hearted Forest Reserve as the largest properties in the U.P. held by the Nature Conservancy. Together they total more than 64,000 acres.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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