Bete Grise awarded $1 million for wetland, habitat protection
WASHINGTON, D. C. -- Bete Grise South, identified by The Nature Conservancy and Michigan's Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality* as the single most important estuarine marsh remaining in the Upper Great Lakes, will receive a $1 million grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program for fiscal year 2005.
Located in Keweenaw County, Bete Grise South, an area along the
eastern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula, south of Lac La Belle and the Mendota
Lighthouse, includes a stretch of both shoreline and near shoreline dune and swale
|This photo, taken in early October 2004, shows a view of the beach at Bete Grise
South on the eastern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Along the beach is
a delicate wetland area considered a rare Great Lakes Marsh. The Nature
Conservancy is in the process of negotiating the purchase of this land,
through grant funding and donations, for
preservation and public access. (Photo © 2004 Michele Anderson)
The grant will allow the purchase, from International Paper/Lake Superior Land
Co. (IP/LSLC), of 1,800 acres adjacent to the Bete Grise Bay of Lake Superior,
near Lac La Belle. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), Houghton/Keweenaw Conservation District,
the South Shore Association (SSA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality (MDEQ) will add a partners' share of $488,443 to the grant, for a total cost of $1,488,443.
"We think it's tremendous!" said Jeff Knoop, TNC director of land protection for the western Upper Peninsula, at the news of the grant. "The main reason we think this is important is that it protects the largest remaining coastal wetland system in the Upper Great Lakes."
The Nature Conservancy recently negotiated a purchase of 1045 acres of the Bete Grise South wetland area with IP/LSLC. They have an option to buy 60 acres along the shoreline, formerly slated for residential development; and they are now negotiating the last part of the parcel, which includes 775 acres, mostly wetland.
|This aerial photo shows the Lake Superior shoreline
at Bete Grise South, with Lac La Belle in the background and the Mendota
Canal at right. Although Lake Superior Land Co./International Paper has received a permit to build a bridge and access road to the area for
potential residential development, The Nature
Conservancy has an option to purchase the 60-acre shoreline area, part
of a delicate Great Lakes marsh ecosystem, for habitat protection, education and non-invasive public access.
(Keweenaw Now file photo by Michael Jordan. Reprinted with permission.)
The protection of the whole area depends on TNC finalizing these purchases. The actual funding would probably be available in 2005, Knoop explained.
Tom Collins, president of the South Shore Association, a partner in the
project, has been involved in fundraising for Bete Grise South, along with other
residents of Lac La Belle and visitors to the area.
excited about the current progress of the project," Collins said. "The South
Shore Association has been a partner, fund-raising for the effort approximately
$35,000. We'll continue to partner, providing stewardship in the form of
volunteers, helping in the management and maintenance of the land."
The Keweenaw Land Trust is another partner in the project of protecting the
ecosystem at Bete Grise.
"Several conservation groups and local individuals have long wanted to protect Bete
Grise," said Evan McDonald, KLT executive director. "Once potential funding opportunities arose, this partnership coalesced around the goal of protecting this area. We are very encouraged by this grant success, and we hope the community will appreciate the conservation value and support the project."
Nicholas, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) board member, noted thanks go
to Steve Beyer of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Christie Deloria and Michael Vanderford from
(USFWS), who visited Keweenaw several times and developed the proposal and presentation that resulted in Bete Grise receiving this grant funding.
"Thanks also to Doug Sherk (Eagle Harbor Township supervisor) for letting all of us work at his home during the initial proposal work and site
visits," Nicholas said.
Sue Haralson, HKCD administrator, added, "It's their long days of hard work, including Gina's, that made this happen. We are so fortunate to have these players on our team."
Rachel F. Levin, spokesperson for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),
Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, said USFWS awards these grants to the states for
projects "based on their merit in terms of wildlife and habitat that the
projects will conserve or restore or enhance."
In 2003, International Paper/Lake Superior Land Company received a permit
from the Department of Environmental Quality for a road and bridge to access a proposed residential
development along the Lake Superior shoreline at Bete Grise South. However, at
that time, Walt Arnold, IP/LSLC director of marketing and sales, said the company
hoped TNC would be able to purchase the property. The permit was necessary, he
said, for the final appraisal, which set
the value for negotiating the sale.**
company had been negotiating with the DEQ for more than two years in a contested
case following the DEQ's denial of their permit application in July 2000.
While the original application was for an access road through the wetland to
access the upland development site, the plans were changed to
include a 140-ft. timber bridge over the wetland. TNC plans to buy the land in
order to prevent the bridge and road from being built in the wetland, which is
part of a delicate ecosystem.*
Bete Grise South is one of 16 projects in 10 states that will receive grants totaling $13 million and supplemented with nearly $13 million from state and private partners. The grants will be used for long-term conservation benefits to wildlife and habitat. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced the awards on Oct. 28.
"Citizen-stewards are often our most effective conservationists, and programs like the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant program
empower them," Norton said. "People working in partnership will help us ensure that we can pass along to our children and grandchildren a country that is as healthy and whole as the one we inherited."
National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants are awarded to states through a competitive process. The program is funded by the 1990 Coastal
Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding for the program is generated from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat and
small engine fuels. These taxes are deposited into the Sport Fish Restoration Account of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
To date, the Service has awarded nearly $152 million in grants to states and a U.S. territory under the program. When the 2005 grants projects
are complete, they will have protected and/or restored almost 22,000 acres. Nearly 189,000 acres will have been protected or restored since the
wetlands grant program began in 1990.
Wisconsin projects to receive funding
The Bete Grise project is the only one in Michigan to receive funding from
these 2005 USFWS grants. In nearby Wisconsin, three projects will each receive funding
of $1 million or nearly $1 million from USFWS.
Clough Island Preservation and Restoration Project. Acquisition
of 350 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat at the westernmost tip of the Great Lakes. Of these 350
acres, 133 acres of impaired wetlands will be restored. Clough Island is in the St. Louis River
estuary and is surrounded by the metropolitan areas of Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. The State of Minnesota
will work with Wisconsin to implement the proposal.
Partners: Duluth Audubon Society, Friends of Superior Municipal Forest, Lake Superior Chapter of Muskies Incorporated, McCabe Chapter of the
Izaak Walton League, Save Lake Superior Association, and Twin Ports Bass Masters
(Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation), and Western Skyline Preservation Alliance.
North Bay-Mud Lake Ridges Land Acquisition. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will acquire or purchase conservation easements on 655
acres surrounding the North Bay of Lake Michigan in Door County. The project will protect important feeding, spawning and nursery grounds for
a number of fish, including northern pike, small-mouth bass and whitefish. Partners: The Nature Conservancy and the Ridges Sanctuary.
Washington and Detroit Island Acquisition. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources will acquire or purchase conservation easements on
about 250 acres, including 11,200 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline in Door County.
These islands are at the tip of the Door Peninsula, and provide spring and fall migration stopover habitat for songbirds and birds of prey.
Partners: Door County Land Trust and the Washington Island Art and Nature Center.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69
national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological
services field stations.
The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores
wildlife habitat such as wetlands and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program,
which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
For more information about the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program contact the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant
Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA
22203; or Division of Federal Aid, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203; or check the program's
Internet home page at http://www.fws.gov/cep/cwgcover.html.
*In a July 29, 2002, Briefing Addendum on Bete
Grise South to IP/Lake Superior Land Co., the DEQ states: "The wetland
that would be impacted by the proposed development is a poor fen type of
coastal wetland. Lake Superior wetlands are distinctly different from the
wetlands of the other Great Lakes due to climactic and chemical
differences, and this type of coastal wetland is unique to Lake Superior.
This wetland is one of two of the highest quality Lake Superior wetlands
ranked by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and is the best example
of this type of wetland known from Michigan due to its size, diversity,
and hydrological intactness."
**Keweenaw Now was unable today to reach Walt Arnold. IP/LSLC director of marketing and
sales, for a
comment on the grant award.
For background on efforts by The Nature Conservancy and local citizens
to purchase Bete Grise South for protection and public access, see the
Feb. 14, 2003, article, "Conservancy seeks funds for Bete Grise
South" and the May 11, 2003, article by Gina Nicholas, "Help TNC acquire Bete Grise South."
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