Conservancies benefit all

To the editor:

The recent articles on land conservancies in Keweenaw County are misleading and factually inaccurate. These articles suggest conservancies are leading to reduced access for residents and declining tax revenues because “much of Keweenaw County is in conservancy.” This is untrue for the following reasons:

(1) There are 345,600 acres in Keweenaw County and approximately 12, 238 acres controlled by conservation groups. Therefore, only 3.5 percent of Keweenaw County is in conservancies. One only has to look at a map to see that the majority of Keweenaw County except the developed coast is open to hunters and anglers within the Commercial Forest Reserve.

Although some proportion of this 3.5% of the county is off limits to ATV’s, hunters benefit from land and habitat conservation even without road access. This is because the current rate of timber harvest on Keweenaw County CFR lands does not present optimal habitat for bear, fur-bearing animals, or deer during winter. These species require mature forests with a higher proportion of conifers at least part of the year, and current forestry practices are selecting for early-age, low-diversity forests in Keweenaw County. Animals disperse in and out of preserves over large distances, so conservancies act as high quality wildlife source populations rather than reduced game opportunities for hunters.

(2) The articles also suggest conservancies are to blame for declining tax revenues in Keweenaw County. This is inaccurate because the remaining 3.5% is simply not enough land to make a significant improvement in tax revenue for Keweenaw County. Most conservancy lands are actually in remote areas or large wetlands, which would be very difficult to develop for year-round access or prime building sites. Instead they provide a direct benefit to the local economy through the large numbers of tourists attracted to the area, who then visit local businesses.

Keweenaw sports-people and conservation groups should unite around common interests of preserving high quality habitat as the best way to ensure that everyone will be able to hunt, fish, and explore the Keweenaw for many generations to come. By establishing a few conservancies no one is trying to destroy hunters’ rights to access Keweenaw County. The same cannot be said of corporate controlled forestland owned by hedge fund GMO, which pays minimal taxes per acre, and motivates their land management by providing maximum profit to rich investors, not conserving game habitat or your right to access its land.

Zach Gayk