‘This Land Is Our Land’: Fundraiser held to take down fences

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Betty and Dean Premo of Whitewater, along with Carrie Dlutkowski, perform at the Keweenaw Land Trust’s “This Land Is Our Land” event at the L’Anse American Legion post Saturday.

L’ANSE — Dean Premo has been visiting Point Abbaye for more than 30 years. He remembers the consternation among his friends in the area when fencing was put up around a commercial game farm at the site.

“It’s a happy day that we get to see that change for the better again,” said Premo, who had just performed “This Land Is Your Land” with his band Whitewater.

Premo, and the audience, were helping to make that change. The performance was part of the Keweenaw Land Trust’s “This Land Is Our Land” fundraiser at the American Legion Post in L’Anse Saturday night. The proceeds went toward removing the 8 miles of 10-foot-tall fencing around the Huron Bay Field Station, which had been a private game farm for whitetail deer and elk. The Keweenaw Land Trust purchased the 1,245-acre property in 2015.

“We want to take that fence down to open it up for wildlife movement as well as to facilitate public access,” said Evan McDonald, director of the Keweenaw Land Trust. “It’s a pretty substantial process. We’ve contracted services to help take it down this year, and we’re raising money to help cover those costs.”

Through a challenge grant from the Carls Foundation, the money raised Saturday will be matched dollar for dollar, McDonald said.

The event’s been in the works since mid-December, said KLT board member Lynette Potvin, who helped plan the event. While board members had originally considered booking a rock band, Premo suggested a more intimate event.

“I like this, because it’ll give people a chance to talk to each other, and us a venue to talk to the crowd,” Potvin said. “And then having the dance, it’s just nice to mix it up and get people moving around.”

For the Keweenaw Land Trust, the concert was also a way to introduce itself to the Baraga County community and let it know about the projects in the area.

“The whole Point Abbaye Peninula project and Lightfoot Bay, it’s just ecologically very important,” Potvin said. “And there’s a lot of development along that shoreline, so we felt it really important to get these lands into a conservation state so they can be open for perpetuity to the public.”

Saturday’s concert featured music and stories from the Whitewater duo of Dean and Betty Premo, augmented by fiddle and piano from Carrie and Susan Dlutkowski. Audience members also got time to share their memories of Point Abbaye.

Erin Johnston, a Keweenaw Bay Indian Community employee, knows both Dean and Betty Premo and has worked on the project to remove the fence.

“We decided to come support the community, and support the Keweenaw Land Trust,” she said. “It was wonderful. I’m glad we came.”