PORTAGE TOWNSHIP - The members of the Pilgrim River Watershed Project reached their goal of raising $200,000 for conservation easements on 360 of 1,382 acres of private land in Portage Township, and now they're working to raise funds for another 320 acres.
Bill Leder, Copper Country Trout Unlimited board member and PRWP Fundraising Committee chair, said hundreds of donations were received for conservation easements on the 360-acre upriver tract on the property owned by the Wisconsin-based Hovel family.
"We've had over 350 separate donations," he said.
Photo courtesy of the Pilgrim River Watershed Project
Bob Pound, Copper Country Trout Unlimited board member, center, and two high school students collect aquatic insects during a 2011 study of the Pilgrim River. The PRWP recently completed a successful effort to raise $200,000 for a conservation easement on 360 of 1,382 acres of private land in Portage Township, and now they’re working to raise funds for another 320 acres.
The donors were individuals and foundations, Leder said, and most of them were local.
The conservation easements will allow public access to the Hovel property in addition to non-motorized recreation activities outlined in the Michigan commercial forest law, which are fishing, hunting and trapping. Further activities which would be allowed by a conservation easement include hiking, biking and other non-motorized activities.
The Pilgrim River Watershed Project formed in 2009 and consists of Copper Country Trout Unlimited, the Keweenaw Land Trust, Partners in Forestry, Copper Country Audubon, Northwoods Alliance, Keweenaw Trails Alliance and the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District.
Leder said the next goal for members of the PRWP is to raise a 50 percent match for a United States Forest Service $286,000 grant to acquire conservation easements on 320 acres of the down river 1,022 acres.
A newsletter was recently sent to PRWP supporters informing them of the success of the campaign to raise funds for the easements on the 320-acre parcel and to ask for further contributions to match the USFS grant, Leder said. The deadline to make the match is November 2014.
Leder said even with the conservation easements, the Hovels will still be timbering on the property, and that's fine with the members of the PRWP.
"We take a balanced approach," he said. "We're not against development."
Having access to the Hovel property will be important for attracting some people to come to live and work in the area because it will add to the area's quality of life.
"This is an invaluable recreational opportunity," he said.