DNR announces $550,000 Forest Legacy Program grant for Houghton County project

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that nearly 1,300 acres and 3.5 miles of Pilgrim River corridor in Houghton County will be protected from development, available for public use and managed as a working forest, thanks to a $550,000 Forest Legacy Program grant.

The project, known as the Pilgrim River Forest, includes the state acquisition of a conservation easement on 1,299 acres of prime forest land on the Keweenaw Peninsula that is strategically positioned adjacent to the Pilgrim River Community Forest. The property contains 3.5 miles of undeveloped Pilgrim River frontage and serves as a wildlife travel corridor.


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