As of September 29th, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve took ownership over 688 acres of northern forest along the beautiful Yellow Dog River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The group spearheaded a campaign to create a protected area called the Yellow Dog River Community Forest which will result in ensuring permanent public access this important area, fending off development pressures, and maintaining the property as a forested, natural landscape.
The Yellow Dog River Community Forest begins along the scenic County Road 510 in northern Marquette County. The property comprises both banks of the river and follows it downstream until it reaches private property. In addition to river frontage and waterfalls, visitors can find upland mixed forests, old growth hemlock stands, granite rock outcrops, wetlands, and rare plant and animal species. You might also find the lone fisherman or backpacker wandering the river in search of some solitude.
“Our community saw how special this area was to both the environment and to the people,” says Emily Whittaker, Special Projects Manager for YDWP. “We wanted to keep it the way it is now so that future generations can enjoy the unencumbered ability to spend time in this area.” YDWP first decided to take on the project when it became known that a local timber company decided they wanted to sell the land. They gave the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve an opportunity to purchase the acreage first in an effort to create a protected area. However, in the event the group did not succeed in purchasing it, the company would move on to selling it off in small, divided lots to private individuals. Fragmented parcels have a heavier ecological impact and detrimental effect on the community’s ability to access the forest.
After the multi-year, multi-pronged fundraising efforts, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve raised $1.1 million to complete the purchase and become the official owners. The property was purchased with the aid of several funding sources including a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program. In addition, support was provided by the J.A. Woollam Foundation, the Carls Foundation, a very generous anonymous donor, Max and Mary Putters, and many other individuals, small grants, community organizations, and fundraisers.
The next step in the project is to create the long term plan for the Yellow Dog River Community Forest with a strong emphasis on community involvement in the decision making process. This will be accomplished through the Public Participation Process. YDWP applied to the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and was selected to receive assistance in designing and implementing a solid process for informing and including the public. “We are working with NPS staff now and they are providing their expertise as well as letting us essentially use their template for community planning,” says Whittaker of YDWP.
There will be two public workshops in which the community will be invited to participate and learn about the Community Forest. The first meeting is set for November 1, 2016 from 6:00 to 7:30pm in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library. This initial workshop will focus on providing attendees with information about the Community Forest, such as general location, forest information, plant and animal species, and a list of current ways that people use the area. People will be asked what would be their overall vision for the future of the forest. In addition, there will be break-out sessions where people can talk with YDWP, the Community Forest Committee, and others on specific land use topics so they can determine what goals the community desires for each use.
The second meeting will be held on December 6, 2016 from 6:00 to 7:30pm in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library. This secondary workshop will focus on developing a roadmap for achieving the community’s goals as well as designing methods for keeping the forest protected on a long term basis. Once all of the public input is collected, it will be compiled by the Community Forest Committee who will finalize the makeup of the plan. The information will then be assembled into a written document and the community will have an opportunity to provide final input before the Committee approves the Yellow Dog River Community Forest Plan. The planning work has been generously funded by the Laura Jane Musser Fund.
For those who cannot attend the meeting but would like to still provide their input, YDWP will be creating an online form to solicit input via their website on November 1st. More information about the can be found on our Community Forest page.