Home News Bid to designate 50k acres in UP as ‘wilderness’ highlights tension over public lands

Bid to designate 50k acres in UP as ‘wilderness’ highlights tension over public lands

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Ontonagon County, Michigan — The Ehlco forest area has 16,000 acres of gentle slopes covered with hardwoods and conifers, bisected by the Big Iron River, and is home to deer, black bears, and wolves.

The 25,000-acre land on the western Trap Hills includes northern and northern hardwood forests, cedar swamps, steep slopes, and cliffs with up to 40 miles of visibility.

Both regions are one of four large federal lands on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and defenders want to be designated as “wilderness.” This is the level of national protection given to the roughest lands, which permanently bans and almost limits logging, mining and the extraction of other resources. All vehicle access.

The Keep the Upper Peninsula Wild The coalition wants a proposed designation of about 50,000 acres of Ottawa National Forest. The effort began last summer, but Congress has not yet been officially addressed. Congress decides which land to make the “wilderness”. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines it as “a place where the earth and its community of life are not shattered by humans.” Where the man himself is a visitor who does not remain. “

This effort has received a great deal of support from environmental, nature maintenance, climate groups, Democrats and environmentally friendly companies. But this summer, Lansing’s timber industry and Republicans began to catch fire. They believe that the proposed changes are not only unnecessary, but also potentially harmful to the local economy, which is linked to logging and other forms of outdoor recreation that are banned under the designation of the wilderness. .. ..

On June 30, Republican-led Senate Michigan approved a resolution against the designation of the wilderness created by Senator Ed McBroom of R-Vulcan.

“When I met these groups to discuss this issue, they very much said that the only important difference that occurs in their minds with this designation is that they cut trees from cutting trees to never cut trees. I made it clear, “McBroom said. Said In the Senate floor remarks. “It’s unacceptable to the people of the Upper Peninsula who continue to need resource-based economics to keep our community alive.”

The Wilderness Proposal represents a new issue in the debate over public land in Michigan. That significant area has long been a headache for those who say that if land is owned by state and federal governments, local tax revenues and potential economic development are compromised.

In this case, the land is already owned and defended by the federal government. Arguing The wilderness designation would benefit the local area by attracting visitors who want to hike in remote and scenic environments. In addition, it will enshrine protection forever.

“The biggest advantage of doing this is to provide permanent protection in these areas,” said a policy to keep the Upper Peninsula wild at the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. Advocate Tyler Baron said. “If these areas are simply maintained as US Forest Office land, they are at permanent risk, such as logging, which should never be allowed.”

In addition to the Elco and Trap Hills areas, the coalition has designated 8,000 acres near Belgrund, called the Norwich Plains, and 2,000 acres in the existing Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, one of Michigan’s 16 existing federal wilderness areas. I would like to add the wilderness of. Together, it contains 294,000 acres on both the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.

The exact boundaries and areas of each area have not been determined, but the goal is to create 40,000 adjacent wilderness areas adjacent to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and just south of the Trap Hills, Elco, and Norwich areas. That is.

The effort started later 2019 law Named after the late Congressman John Dingell, it designated more than 1.3 million acres of new wilderness nationwide, expanded its national park system, and protected land near Yellowstone from mining. Defenders of the Upper Peninsula wilderness have begun new pushes after seeing bipartisan support for the bill received in Congress.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the effort last year when Douglas Welker, a longtime defender and former Forestry Corps, collapsed and died during a filming session at Sturgeon River Gorge.

Welkers helped select areas for potential designation. The property was specially selected due to the nature of the wilderness and the lack of a major ATV or snowmobile trail network.

Under the designation of the wilderness, certain activities other than timber harvesting and mineral extraction are restricted. Only walking is allowed. Like cars such as ATVs and snowmobiles, mountain biking is prohibited. Camping, hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, mountaineering, canoeing, rafting and kayaking are generally OK.

Motorized wheelchairs are granted special access under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Access bans are a commitment for some who question whether the economic benefits of wilderness-based tourism outweigh the potential benefits of other outdoor recreational uses. Mountain biking is part of UP’s outdoor economic growth.Especially in the Kewinnow Peninsula, where there are different coalitions Trying to protect 32,000 acres near Copper HarborHas become a popular mountain bike destination.

Baron says there is an existing 20-mile mountain bike trail in the Elco area that can be excluded from the wilderness depending on how the final border is drawn, but it’s probably no longer available in the wilderness designation. ..

Baron said the wilderness designation would not change the operating costs of the US Forest Office and the amount local governments would pay in lieu of taxes, as real estate is already a federal government.

The Upper Peninsula Environmental Union, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Audubon, and the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association are among the 350 listed supporters of Keep the UP Wild.

“From a tourism perspective, our number one seller is the openness of our land,” said Tom Nemacheck, director of the UP Travel Association. It is a wilderness park and therefore attracts people. It attracts different types of consumers. “

Mountain bikers already have many “maintained very high quality designated trails”, Nemacheck said. “At this point, there is no conflict that everyone is not enough to do what they want.”

The coalition, like the Michigan Township Association (MTA), does not have an Upper Peninsula Land Reserve that is neutral to the proposal. The MTA has “accessibility and public security concerns,” said spokeswoman Jenn Fiedler.

Andrea Denham, head of the Land Conservation Department, said the organization is still considering a proposal and wants to see where local governments and indigenous peoples fall.

“Most of our economy depends on a healthy ecosystem and the presence of people who use it, but it is also based on the need for work and safety, hospitals and places to live, development and protection. Is balanced, “said Denham.

“It’s always tense.”

The Michigan County Association opposes the designation not only because of traditional economic concerns about the removal of public land from the tax office, but also because of restrictions on its use, said Dina, director of government affairs. Bosworth said.

“If you take more sections of land and intend to limit those activities, it limits more outdoor tourism activities,” Bosworth said. “These small areas really depend on much of their tourism for their financial stability.”

Bosworth was one of those who submitted testimony to the Senate Natural Resources Commission at a hearing on June 15, and McBloom explained his discussion and commented on representatives of the logging industry.

Henry Schienebeck of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association insisted on maintaining the status quo of the land, saying it was previously logged decades ago and lacks wilderness features. Schienebeck repeated McBroom’s resolution. 2006 evaluation by Randy MooreHe is now the Director of the Forest Department and has determined that the potential for land as a wilderness is small.

“I carefully examined the potential of Ottawa’s entire land as a wilderness and determined that a single roadless area in Ottawa meets the criteria for inclusion in the country’s roadless area inventory (Ehlco area). I did, “Moore wrote.

“The Ehlco area has been added to the inventory of areas without roads, but we have found that this area does not have the features or conditions that deserve to recommend wilderness exploration. The Ehlco area has low to moderate levels. Possibly wilderness. Although the area is relatively distant, few people are attracted to it and the quality of recreation is poor. Privately owned areas that have been logged in the last 40-70 years are relatively relatively It’s not particularly scenic because of the flat terrain with young jungles. There are opportunities for loneliness, but it’s affected by the noise and operations of the nearby White Pine Industrial Estate. “

Trap Hills has guaranteed a special interest designation for “the region’s unique geological, scenic, recreational and botanical features,” Moore writes.

To advance the wilderness designation, you need a parliamentary champion to maintain the UP Wild. We hope that US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) Will introduce it to the Senate Agricultural, Nutrition and Forestry Commission.

The Stabanow office just told MLive, “I haven’t made any promises on this issue.”

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