Late 2013 Funding Update

We are building on the success of our Community Forest grant to acquire the downstream 276 acre tract north of the Pilgrim River, and have secured pledges that should cover the matching funds required for that part of our project. We have been working with Forest Resources Division staff of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to prepare and submit another application to the U.S. Forest Service, this time requesting financial support under the Forest Legacy Program (FLP). If funded, an FLP grant would acquire conservation easements on both the Upstream 360 acre tract and the larger 724 acre downstream tract south of the River, with the funds we already have in hand serving as match for the grant. While we anticipate that some additional fundraising will still be needed in order to accomplish the entire Pilgrim River Watershed Project, an FLP grant would be a major step forward. It would help us accomplish our overall goals sooner than originally anticipated and substantially reduce the total amount that we need to raise. The possibility to conserve 1084 acres at once with FLP support was an opportunity we did not want to miss! We will learn the status of the FLP grant application in early 2014 and that will determine our next steps with the project. Meanwhile, our progress establishing the Pilgrim Community Forest continues.

Watch for more information in spring 2014, and please contact us if you have any questions.
The Pilgrim River Watershed Project on YouTube

What is the Pilgrim River Watershed Project?


A recent change in ownership of a 1382 acre commercial forest property in the Pilgrim River watershed has created the opportunity for a project supporting sustainable forestry, watershed protection, public recreation and education. The property includes over 3 miles of the Pilgrim River, including a good portion of the River's headwaters. The land is currently enrolled in the Michigan Commercial Forest program and is enjoyed by the public for hunting and fishing. The new owners support these goals for forestry, conservation and expanded public recreation and encourage the community to develop approaches to accomplish a project that permanently achieves these land uses.

The Site's Conservation Values:

  • Encompasses over 1382 acres of privately-owned property in Portage Township which is undeveloped, intact, and which has diverse forests and varied terrain
  • Healthy watershed with over 3 miles of Pilgrim River and headwaters with year-round cold water flows supporting excellent native brook trout fishery
  • Important wildlife habitat
  • Highly scenic with many vistas and bluff overlooking the river

The Project's Community Values:

  • Close proximity to urban area with population of over 15,000
  • Serves as a green space and buffer for steadily developing communities
  • Outdoor classroom - forestry, biology, and ecology demonstrations for local K-12 school and Michigan Technological University programs
  • Opportunity for many recreational uses:
    • High quality trout fishery
    • Quality hunting for deer, bear, rabbits, and grouse
    • Bird watching
    • River canoeing and kayaking
    • High potential for development of trails for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and Nordic skiing

Conservation Strategy:

Accomplish many land-use goals by pursuing a combined strategy of conservation easements and land acquisition to establish a Pilgrim Community Forest:
  • Permanent public access for multiple recreation uses that expand on Commercial Forest benefits
  • Property managed for sustainable forestry which benefits local forest products economy while protecting ecosystems
  • Easement land remains in private ownership and on the tax roll as Commercial Forest, thereby benefiting local property tax base
  • Multiple stakeholders in project with broad benefits to the community
  • Leverages awarded federal grant funding for a Community Forest on one tract, combined with cost-effective conservation easements on two other tracts