Bete Grise wetlands, shoreline protected through TNC partnership
BETE GRISE -- Once staked for a subdivision, Bete Grise wetlands and Lake
Superior shoreline near Lac La Belle in Keweenaw County will now be forever protected thanks to an extensive partnership organized by the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
Because of its size, diversity and intact hydrology, Bete Grise is recognized by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as the single most important coastal marsh community remaining in the upper Great Lakes region.
Jeff Knoop, TNC Upper Peninsula director of protection, said the expanded project -- more than 1,800 acres -- includes spectacular wetland and forestland, more than two miles of Lake Superior shoreline and a significant portion of Lac La Belle sloughs.
"I would personally like to thank members, donors, supporters, volunteers and partners who have made this effort to save Bete Grise Wetland a reality!" Knoop writes in a Dec. 16, 2004, letter to project supporters. "It has been a true team effort -- a milestone in the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy -- and we should all feel proud of our incredible accomplishment."
| This aerial photo shows the wetlands and beach at
Bete Grise, which stretches along this Lake Superior shoreline
from Lac La Belle to Point Isabelle. A residential development had been
proposed for 1,103 acres along the shoreline. The present project will
protect about 1,885 acres. Lac La Belle
and some Lac La Belle sloughs are in the background. (Photo ©
2003 Michael Jordan. Reprinted with permission.)
The project has received a $447,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Coastal Management Program. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced an additional award of $1 million through its National Coastal Wetland Conservation Program, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.* Both grants require matching partner funds and The Nature Conservancy is spearheading fundraising efforts in cooperation with the Keweenaw Land Trust, the Houghton/Keweenaw Conservation District,the South Shore Association and numerous private donors to generate an additional
$450,000. (Please see below on how you can contribute.)
The total project cost of purchasing the land from owner International
Paper/Lake Superior Land Company will be $1.9 million. Long-term management and ownership of the preserve will be a joint effort between the Conservation District, the Keweenaw Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, which also received funding from the estate of Isotta Cesari for this and other related projects.
"We're excited about the project," said Tom Collins, South Shore Association president. "The South Shore Association has fundraised about $30,000 for the project so far. We'll continue to be an active partner, providing stewardship with volunteers and helping in the management and maintenance of the land."
Characterized by a high diversity of grasses, coastal marshes are home to a variety of rare and declining migratory and nesting bird species and provide invaluable habitat for spawning fish and breeding amphibians. These areas, which also serve as natural water purification systems, are, above all, the base of the food chain for the entire Great Lakes ecosystem. Over the past 150 years, significant loss of this important wetland habitat throughout the Great Lakes has coincided with a decline in both water quality and the fishing industry, touted as one of Earth's finest fisheries just decades ago.
| This photo shows the Lake Superior shoreline at Bete
Grise South. The "singing" sand at Bete Grise, as well as
unique wetlands, will now be protected for future generations. (October
2004 photo © Michele Anderson.)
"Bete Grise Bay was one of only 16 projects funded nationwide this year, so it shows how significant this area is," said Christie Deloria, who leads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's U.P. Ecological Services Office. "It is a priority worthy of preservation because it's really a unique site, probably one of the last remaining coastal estuarine marshes in the upper Great Lakes. Having partners like The Nature Conservancy and South Shore Association already working together contributed to making this an even more valuable project to fund."**
With the protection of Bete Grise secured, The Nature Conservancy has now helped protect more than 11,000 acres -- including 14 miles of Lake Superior shoreline -- in the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan's northernmost mainland tip. Last year, the Conservancy transferred the final part of a 6,275-acre Keweenaw Tip parcel, utilizing the largest single grant in the history of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.*** The area serves as habitat for more than 900 species of flora as well as large, wide-ranging mammals like black bear and moose. Visitors to the area are likely to spot bald eagles and sandhill cranes, both of which actively nest here.
"With land increasingly fragmented while the cost of shoreline continues to dramatically rise, we have little time left to save these last great places like Bete Grise," said Helen Taylor, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. "We're grateful to our partners for their assistance in stepping forward to protect this remarkable place. We couldn't have done it without their help."
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Nature Conservancy counts at least 1 million members worldwide, including 30,000 in Michigan. The Conservancy and its members have protected more than 80 million acres on Earth, including 84,759 acres in Michigan. The Nature Conservancy embraces a non-confrontational, market-based approach for accomplishing its science-driven mission.
The Nature Conservancy continues to spearhead fundraising efforts to secure the $450,000
in matching partner funds for the grants awarded toward purchase of Bete Grise Wetlands.
Each grant requires a 25% match from the private sector. The goal is to satisfy the match requirement and to provide additional funds for costs associated with acquisition and stewardship of the property.
Anyone wishing to contribute to The Nature Conservancy's fund for purchasing Bete Grise South may send donations to:
The Nature Conservancy
Att: Jeff Knoop
125 W. Washington St. - Suite G
Marquette, MI 49855
Please be sure to indicate that the contribution is for Bete Grise. Contributions are tax-deductible.
* See the Oct. 29, 2004, article, "Bete Grise awarded $1 million for wetland, habitat protection,"
for information on the recently approved $1 million grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) under the 2005 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
See also the Nov. 24, 2004, article, "Bete Grise awarded $450,000 for coastal wetland protection."
** 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."
*** Consult the Keweenaw Now Table of
Contents for articles on the Keweenaw Tip Purchase and the Keweenaw
Point Advisory Committee's work during the past year to assist the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources in planning management of this
Visit the Keweenaw Now discussion forums to comment on this
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