Press Releases




Pilgrim Community Forest Established

December 2014 Press Release

This past year our coalition of conservation and recreation partners has continued to make progress to ensure that 1,382 acres of Pilgrim River Valley land remain wooded, undeveloped, and always open to the public for quiet, non-motorized enjoyment.

With the dedication ceremony on September 11, the 276 acre tract north of the Pilgrim River, off Paradise Road, officially became the Pilgrim Community Forest, now owned by the Keweenaw Land Trust. This accomplishment was made possible by a $286,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service and a very generous matching donation from the John A. Woollam Foundation. KLT, with community input, is developing a management plan to balance multiple uses.

In July, Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CCCTU) announced support for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources ten year study of coaster brook trout restoration. If this study is approved by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, special fishing regulations will be established in the downstream coaster breeding area of the Pilgrim and several other Upper Peninsula rivers. Fish census data will be collected periodically to monitor restoration success.

Also in summer 2014, CCCTU applied for and obtained a five year permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to restore and improve fish habitat in the Pilgrim River. This approval enables the continuation of habitat improvement work of past years.

In October, the Michigan Tech Cross Country Running Club cleared the last of the downed trees from the 2013 tornado damage on the Hovel Family's property. The Club's efforts make the Boundary Road Trail more accessible.

The Michigan DNR, in cooperation with the Keweenaw Land Trust, has applied for funding from the current round of USFS Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grants for financial assistance in acquiring conservation easements on the upstream 360 acre tract off Onkalos Corner Road and the 730+ acre downstream main tract off Boundary Road. Because of a lack of full congressional appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, last year's FLP application was not funded even though it made the President's list. Our high ranking confirmed that we have a very strong Project that warranted a strengthened and updated resubmittal. Though we have raised the funds to proceed on the Upstream 360 headwaters tract alone, we are on hold on that aspect of the Project to strengthen the FLP application. If the FLP grant is successful, the funds we have amassed to date to complete the Upstream 360 will go a long way to generate the match needed to complete the entire Project. The effect of your contributions will thereby be multiplied.

An FLP grant, if successful, can fund up to 75% of the easement value, but seldom does fund at that level. With your additional support we hope to keep momentum alive and wrap up these project goals next year with Forest Legacy support. With your help we are very close to feeling the same pride on the whole Project that we already are experiencing for the Pilgrim Community Forest.

On August 12, Congressman Dan Benishek met with local groups involved in the Project and toured a portion of the forest and river off Boundary Road. Congressman Benishek pledged his support, which should strengthen the appropriation process associated with our FLP application. Also in the summer, Forest Legacy representatives from the MDNR and the U.S. Forest Service conducted field visits that confirmed the high quality and values of our Project.

Steady fundraising in support of conservation easement acquisition has continued. Since announcing the Project in late 2009, there have been 527 separate donations and one anonymous pledge that total $254,000 in addition to the Woollam Foundation match mentioned above. None of the donated funds have been used for administrative support of the Project partners. Donations and pledges continue to be received and are essential as matching funds for grants.

Past donations have placed us all in an enviable position with this Project, allowing us the confidence to apply for the Forest Legacy grant and bring the Pilgrim Community Forest to fruition. Continued financial support is necessary to finalize the Project and will be very much appreciated. While we are focused on fundraising, our shared underlying goals of conservation and perpetual public access for enjoyment of this wonder of nature is what the Project is all about.



Fundraising Challenge for Pilgrim River Conservation Easement Reaches Initial Goal

December 12, 2012
Contact: Bill Leder bleder@charter.net 482-0158

Latest News

The ongoing effort to raise funds to acquire conservation easements in the Pilgrim River Watershed recently reached the initial goal of $200,000. More than 350 separate donations have been received, most from members of the local community. Bill Leder: "We can now move forward with our plan to acquire a conservation easement on the upstream 360 tract of the 1,382 acre project. Thanks to our many donors, we can ensure continued recreational opportunities for our community, conserve a forest with high ecological value, and protect the headwaters of an excellent trout stream, just three miles from Houghton and Hancock."

Thank You

Bill Leder: "The Pilgrim River Watershed Conservation Project is very grateful for the ground swell of support. Working together, we have achieved a major milestone that advances our shared vision of protecting a natural wonder in the Pilgrim River Valley."

Conservation Project Background

The Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited and a coalition of local partners are working together to protect a 1,382 acre pristine part of the Pilgrim River Valley, only a few miles from Houghton. The goal is to purchase conservation easements from a private landowner to ensure that the land is managed for sustainable forestry, for healthy water quality and habitats, and to secure permanent public access for a variety of recreational uses that are compatible with forestry and protection of natural resources. (Property owner contact information: Joseph Hovel, 715-479-8528)

An arrangement like this is sometimes called a "purchase of development rights." But the Pilgrim River Watershed Project would accomplish much more. The easement would protect the health of the watershed, preserve scenic viewsheds, and allow public access for traditional uses such as hunting, fishing and trapping, expanded to include year-round public access for non-motorized uses that are compatible with forestry and natural resource protection. With opportunities to be gained by fishermen, hunters, hikers, bird watchers, berry pickers, mushroom gatherers, mountain bikers, back country skiers and snowshoers, this project has drawn wide support from individuals and organizations interested in its goals. The landowner and the project partners want to foster community use with features such as trails, wayfinding signs, improved parking areas, recreational and educational programs, and the continuation of stewardship activities.

The land in the project area is privately owned and currently enrolled in Michigan's Commercial Forest (CF) program, and timber harvests on this land have been supporting the local forest products economy. The CF program requires the landowner to allow seasonal public access for legal hunting and fishing, but the landowner does not have to allow public access for other activities. A landowner can withdraw its forestland from CF enrollment at any time, and land use conversion is then possible, with all public access rights terminated. This is a primary concern for the community partners pursuing conservation of these lands.

The project aims to create a winning outcome for the landowner, the watershed and the community. The landowner sells development and broad public access rights, and also agrees to use and manage the land in a way that protects the watershed and natural resources. The land remains in private ownership and on the property tax roles, and the owner would still retain the rights to sell, lease or will its land. The Project continues supporting the local forest products economy and can remain enrolled in the CF program. The community gains expanded and permanent public access for recreation and traditional uses, a healthy watershed and natural habitats.

Community Forest Grant

The $286,000 Community Forest Grant to the Keweenaw Land Trust, reported in the Daily Mining Gazette on October 12, 2012, complements the ongoing conservation efforts. The grant covers 320 acres of the downstream tract, north of the Pilgrim River and is an important part of the larger project. Bill Leder: "The award of this grant from the U.S Forest Service enables us to begin fund raising for our next goal. We have already begun raising the $286,000 matching funds, with gifts totaling over $3,000 in recent weeks. It’s a great start."

Who We Are

The Pilgrim River Watershed Conservation Project, spearheaded by the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, is a joint effort of seven local non-profit natural resource conservation organizations. For more information go to: www.pilgrimriverwatershed.org

Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Keweenaw Land Trust
Keweenaw Trails Alliance
Houghton-Keweenaw Conservation District
Copper Country Audubon
Northwood Alliance
Partners in Forestry




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

November 16, 2011
Contact Bill Leder, bleder@charter.net, 906.482.0158

The Pilgrim River Watershed Project, a coalition of seven local conservation and recreation partners spearheaded by the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, intent on purchasing a conservation easement (deed restriction) to ensure a prime 1,382-acre parcel of the watershed remains wooded, undeveloped and always open to the public for quiet, non-motorized recreation, has received a welcome shot in the arm.

Recognizing the value of the Pilgrim River Watershed, the J.A. Woollam Foundation of Lincoln, Nebraska, has pledged a $20,000 matching challenge to the project on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The pledge expires December 31.

"There is incredible power in matching grants," Dr. John Woollam said, "I love offering a grant and seeing how much a community can do to make the project happen."

The Woollam Foundation has funded charitable activities for more than a decade; 80 percent of the foundation's work comprises land conservation in Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, the Caribbean and Canada. The remainder is for scholarships and local needs. The foundation partners with land conservancies to protect shorelines of the Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers and streams for the public to enjoy.

The 1,382-acre forested watershed encompasses more than three pristine miles of the Pilgrim River with excellent native brook trout fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and wildlife habitat for deer, bear and ruffed grouse hunting.

"Our plans to outright purchase the development rights means this blue ribbon trout stream tract will always be available to the public no matter who owns the property in the future," explained Bill Leder, PRWP fundraising committee chair. "Lands enrolled in Michigan's Commercial Forest Program are open to the public only seasonally for fishing, hunting and trapping; whereas the Pilgrim River tract will include a trail system for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, back country Nordic skiing, bird watching, wildlife viewing and berry picking."

"CF lands can also be withdrawn at any time and public access lost," he added. "There is no state or federal land near Houghton/Hancock. With your help, we can secure public access in perpetuity to the tract just minutes from downtown and only a couple miles upstream from the popular Nara Nature Trails."

The area can also be utilized as an outdoor classroom for forestry, biology and ecology demonstrations and studies for local K-12 schools and Michigan Tech University programs.

"Our strategy has been to first protect the upstream 360-acre parcel," Leder continued, "protecting the watershed requires safeguarding the headwaters. To date, more than $64, 000 has been donated by almost 200 contributions toward our initial goal of $200,000 for the upstream parcel's conservation easement."

"This is a shining example of conservation at the grassroots level," said Joe Hovel, Northwood Alliance, Conover, WI, "the easement will ensure the land will be open to the public for non-motorized recreation forever, while remaining on property tax roles as a working forest, regardless of future ownership."

"The project sponsors are very grateful to John Woollam for demonstrating such confidence in our community," Leder stated. "By working together, we will leave a legacy for future generations to experience the beauty of the Pilgrim River Valley that is so inspiring to us today."

The Pilgrim River Watershed Project, spearheaded by the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, is a joint effort of seven local non-profit natural resource conservation organizations that include Partners in Forestry, Copper Country Audubon, Northwood Alliance, Keweenaw Land Trust, Keweenaw Trails Alliance and Houghton County Conservation District. For more information, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit pilgrimriverwatershed.org.



Pilgrim River Watershed Project Receives $20,000 Challenge Pledge

October 5, 2011

PORTAGE TOWNSHIP -- Recognizing the value of the Pilgrim River Watershed, The J.A Woollam Foundation of Lincoln, Nebraska, has pledged up to $20,000 to the Pilgrim River Watershed Project on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis.

The J. A. Woollam Foundation has funded charitable activities since January, 2000. 80% of the foundation’s work comprises land conservation in Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, the Caribbean and Canada. The remainder is for scholarships and local needs. J. A. Woollam Foundation partners with land conservancies to protect shorelines of the Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers and streams for the public to enjoy. John A. Woollam, Trustee, attributes his passion for protecting natural land to having spent more than forty years in northern Michigan with his family.

In many situations, as is the case with the Pilgrim River Watershed Project, the J. A. Woollam Foundation supports dollar-for-dollar matching grants. “There is incredible power in matching grants,” Dr. Woollam said. “I love offering a grant and seeing how much a community can do to make the project happen.”

At this time, donations total $54,600 to support purchasing development rights (a deed restriction) on 360 acres of forestland, the first phase of ultimately acquiring a deed restriction on 1,382 acres along three miles of the Pilgrim River. The deed restriction, also referred to as a conservation easement, will ensure that the land will be open to the public for non-motorized recreation forever while remaining on property tax rolls as a working forest, regardless of future ownership.

Bill Leder, Chair of the Pilgrim River Watershed Project Fundraising Committee, said “The Project sponsors are very grateful to John Woollam for demonstrating confidence in our community. By working together, we will leave a legacy for future generations to experience the beauty of the Pilgrim River Valley that is so inspiring to us today.”

The Pilgrim River Watershed Project, spearheaded by the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, is a joint effort of seven local non-profit natural resource conservation organizations. For more information go to: www.pilgrimriverwatershed.org

Contact:
Bill Leder
bleder@charter.net
906-482-0158


Northwoods Native Plant Society

www.northwoodsnativeplantsociety.org
June 16, 2010

The North Woods Native Plant Society is hosting a hike to the Pilgrim River in Houghton County on Saturday, June 26. The public is invited to join us on a hike through a 1360-acre forest parcel proposed for protection as part of the Pilgrim River Watershed Project. Meet at 9:30 AM eastern time, on Boundary Road (five miles south of Houghton), one-half mile east of the intersection with Superior Road.

The Pilgrim River Watershed Project began in 2006, and is being led by the Keweenaw Land Trust, Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, willing private landowners, and other organizations and individuals. The goal of the project is to obtain a conservation easement for two nearby parcels along the Pilgrim River, guaranteeing they will forever be undeveloped and managed for sustainable forestry, watershed protection, and public recreation. For more information, visit www.pilgrimriverwatershed.org.

The hike will be led by U.P. botanist Ian Shackleford. Bring sturdy footwear, rain gear, insect repellent or headnet, binoculars, field guides, daypack, water, snack, and a lunch. For more information, call Ian at 906-932-3779. Maps are available at www.northwoodalliance.org/pilgrim_river.htm.

To find the meeting location from Houghton, go south on Superior Road through Dodgeville, or take M26 south to Green Acre Road. From the intersection of Superior Road and Green Acre Road, travel south another 2.5 miles on Superior Road to the intersection with Boundary Road. Go east on Boundary Road 0.5 mile and park.

From the south, go north on Highway M26 as if you were going to Houghton. In the town of Painsedale, turn east on Kersea Street, go two blocks, then turn right on Goodel Road. Follow Goodel Road about three miles downhill until it meets P67 (Onkalos Corner Road). Cross that road and continue northeast on Superior Road, following it 1.8 mile to the intersection with Boundary Road. Go east on Boundary Road 0.5 mile and park.

The North Woods Native Plant Society is a group of professional and amateur botanists interested in learning about and preserving the native plants and ecosystems of the western U.P. and northern WI. We plan free field trips to special places every summer. The trips are open to folks at all levels of botanical knowledge.