Governor Granholm of Michigan and Nature Conservancy Announce Largest Conservation Project in State’s History Supported by The Forestland Group and Foundation Community.

LANSING, Mich. – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and representatives of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan announced today that a legally binding purchase and sale agreement had been reached with The Forestland Group, LLC, to protect more than 271,000 acres through a working forest easement on 248,000 acres and acquisition of 23,338 acres in the Upper Peninsula.

Known as the Northern Great Lakes Forest Project, the parcels stretch over eight counties-from Chippewa to Ontonagon-and link together more than 2.5 million acres of protected federal, state and natural areas across the UP. The Forestland Group was the successful bidder on the land in a 2002 auction conducted by its former owner, the Kamehameha Schools of Hawaii.

“Michigan is literally defined by its environmental treasures and today we take a bold and courageous step forward to preserve those treasures as a legacy for our children and our children’s children,” Granholm said. “Thanks to this unprecedented partnership, the Upper Peninsula’s majestic trees and breathtaking shorelines-magical places that have inspired novels and paintings and countless hunting and hiking vacations-will still exist a century from now. I am so proud to help in bringing this late Christmas present to the people of Michigan.”

Granholm added that the agreement is an extraordinary opportunity to protect Michigan’s timber jobs and local economies while ensuring public access and protecting our forests, lakes and streams.

This agreement:

  • Keeps the land in private ownership and on the local tax rolls;
  • Ensures that the land will remain open to the public for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other outdoor recreation activities;
  • Allows for continued timber harvesting according to the standards established by a widely recognized sustainable forestry certification program; and
  • Limits development and protects environmentally sensitive forest land from fragmentation and conversion to non-forest uses.

“This represents one of the largest projects in The Nature Conservancy’s 54-year history in 29 countries,” said Helen Taylor, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “Long after all of us are gone, future Michiganders will look back and say, ‘thank you.'”

The project will cost nearly $58 million and The Nature Conservancy has raised more than $40 million so far from private sources. Another $18 million will still be needed from public and private sources to complete the transaction.

“One of the strengths of philanthropy is its capacity to invest in projects for the long term,” said William S. White, president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, one of the funders. “While this often takes patience and persistence-just as bringing this project together did-the end result is worth the effort. In this case, generations of Michiganders will benefit from the stabilization and preservation of the UP landscape.”

“Kellogg Foundation stepped up as a significant partner because this represents a special and unique opportunity to work collaboratively with Michigan-based funders, state government and private business to safeguard the natural resource base that will be important to the economic and social well being of the UP,” said Rick Foster, vice president for programs of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

According to an economic impact assessment commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and conducted by Public Sector Consultants, the 271,000 acres covered by the agreement produce approximately 6% of round wood taken from UP forests. Based on this market breakdown, it can be assumed that the lands covered by the agreement account for $200 million of associated economic activity each year and support 3,000 total jobs. The total economic impact of these lands is even greater if you consider the impact of natural resources recreation, according to the assessment.

Highlights of the project include:

  • More than 300 natural lakes, including 74 lakes larger than ten acres;
  • 192 miles of Class I trout streams, including the Two Hearted River (a state-designated Michigan Natural River) and the Presque Isle River (a federally designated National Wild and Scenic River), as well as over 324 miles of additional riparian habitat along major rivers and tributaries (roughly 516 miles total);
  • More than 31 miles of land bordering Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, including 20,000 acres of adjacent buffer;
  • Roughly 10,000 acres of buffer and inholdings to Tahquamenon Falls State Park;
  • Roughly 10,000 acres of buffer and inholdings to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park;
  • More than 52,000 acres of wetlands;
  • Habitat for state and federal endangered species, including bald eagle, common loon, osprey, gray wolf, and a host of state-listed plant species and communities;
  • Approximately 50,000 acres of watershed protection and buffer lands adjacent to Seney National Wildlife Refuge;
  • 23,338 acres of adjacent land and inholdings to The Nature Conservancy’s existing nature preserve in the Big Two Hearted River watershed.
  • Important natural features like unique old-growth hemlock gorges, and high-elevation peatland-forest ecosystems;
  • 30,000 acres of adjacent buffer and inholdings to Hiawatha National Forest;
  • 27,000 acres of adjacent buffer and inholdings to Ottawa National Forest; and
  • Approximately 100,000 acres of adjacent buffer and inholdings to various State Forests.

“The Forestland Group and our partners are delighted to participate in this extraordinary working forest conservation transaction with the State of Michigan and The Nature Conservancy.” Chris Zinkhan, managing director of The Forestland Group, LLC. “We look forward to the opportunity to manage this unique forest property on a sustainable basis for the long-term future.”

The Forestland Group, LLC is a timberland investment management organization (TIMO) that provides investment opportunities for institutional and individual investors. Since 1995, The Forestland Group has acquired more than 1.5 million acres of timberland in 14 states. The firm manages more than 550,000 acres in Michigan. The Forestland Group has consummated working forest easements in New York, Maryland, and Delaware.

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. More information can be found online at http://nature.org/michigan.