Land Look: Much of Keweenaw County in conservancy

Photo by Keweenaw Land Trust One of many signs indicating property ownership by conservancies in Keweenaw County.

EAGLE RIVER — The Department of Natural Resources on June 9, sent Don Piche, Keweenaw County Board chairman, a letter in which the department announced its preference to exchange a state-owned 320-acre parcel of land in Houghton Township for two 40-acre parcels in Grant Township owned by a nonprofit organization, the Keweenaw Community Forest Company.

At its meeting on June 21, the board went on record officially opposing the transfer.

In the letter, written by Brad Carlson of the Baraga DNR unit to Piche, one of the reasons stated for the DNR’s desire for the land exchange is that the offered 80 acres increases wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, as well as aiding the state in its attempts to consolidate state-owned land.

After taking public comment at the meeting, Piche read a resolution in which the board opposed the proposed land transfer.

The amount of property entering into conservancy has increased dramatically in the past three years, the resolution read, and the county and its townships cannot afford to continue to have tracts of land removed from tax rolls, which will adversely impact funding essential government services.

While the amount of land held in conservancy across Keweenaw County was not specified at the meeting, the Daily Mining Gazette looked at two organizations’ websites that own county land, to check Piche’s assertion of increasing conservancy land.

The Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) owns 1,527 acres of land, including the Bete Gris South Preserve, consisting of 1,040 acres, and 360 acres comprising the George Hite Dunes and Marshes Preserve.

The KLT also owns a lakeshore preserve, consisting of 34 acres, and the Manitou Island Light Station Preserve, 93 acres.

The Northwoods Conservancy owns a total of 1,246 acres, which includes 10,343 feet of shoreline, along with more than a mile of the Gratiot River.

These two conservancies own a total of 2,773 acres of land, and just under two miles of Lake Superior shoreline. The KLT also owns properties in Houghton, Baraga, Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon counties.

The Keweenaw Community Forest Company website does not disclose the amount of land it owns.