A Michigan-based environmental organization is taking a new approach to protect a patch of land near the Yellow Dog River in northern Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve started a crowd funding campaign to raise money to purchase the 695-acre property to protect it from development.
Emily Whittaker, the special projects manager at the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve joined Stateside to talk about the Yellow Dog River Community Forest campaign and what makes the land so special.
“The natural resources found in the community forest are very unique and have a high quality as far as maintaining the biological diversity,” said Whitaker. “We have habitats for rare and endangered species. For example, we have habitats for the grey wolf, moose, black bear, pine martens, also raptor species like bald eagles and peregrine falcons and things like that.”
Not only is the land valuable for the animals that live there, but the local community relies on it for recreation and tourism. Outdoor enthusiasts from all over come to the Yellow Dog Watershed to hunt, fish, ski, and do some white water kayaking, among other things.
Some might confuse this initiative with a land trust, but the community forest model is different.
“Traditionally, a land trust would purchase the property and they would decide what type of activities are allowable and what sort of management activities would occur and then they would alert the community as to those decisions,” said Whittaker. “In the community forest model, lots of players are involved. There’s a stakeholder committee that comes together and their goal is to gather as much input from the surrounding community as possible when it comes to deciding what are going to be the allowable uses. What are we going to ultimately do and what is the primary vision for this property?"
According to Whittaker, the seller of the property has said there are developers and individuals “waiting in the wings” in the event that her organization is unable to come up with the money.
“If you look at the surrounding area, you definitely see subdivisions popping up here and there … and since this area is so picturesque and has a lot of allure, it would not be far fetched to think that that could possibly be the fate for this property if it was not protected,” said Whittaker.
“As of right now, you can jump in a stream and walk for miles and not see any people or any cabins,” she added. “It’s a true wilderness experience and I would love for other people to experience that very same thing.”