Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sen. Levin announces conservation funding for new Bete Grise Wetland area

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced yesterday, Feb. 24, a $1,715,000 grant for the Bete Grise Wetlands project. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) will go to securing more than 1,475 acres of the Bete Grise Wetland area for conservation. This acreage and over half a mile of Lac La Belle sloughs frontage, pending certain final requirements of the grant, will be added to the existing Bete Grise Preserve.

The grant is awarded through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), which is administered by NOAA.

"The preservation of these thousands of acres of pristine coastline and wetlands will benefit generations to come," Levin said. "The Bete Grise Wetlands provide a rich habitat for a variety of wildlife to flourish, a unique botanical outdoor classroom experience, and an undisturbed historic landscape for all to treasure."

This map of the Bete Grise Coastal Wetland Complex shows the newly funded 1,475 acres outlined in light purple, south of Lac La Belle. Under these new funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wetlands and key parts of the Bete Grise watershed are targeted for protection. The dark blue line surrounds the most significant wetland areas as the map illustrates. (Some working forest land and homes are included in the dark blue outline, and these would not be acquired for protection.) Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District)

Levin wrote a letter in February 2009 to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality urging support of the grant application. The funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Wetlands at Bete Grise. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

Gina Nicholas, chairperson of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District Board, recently sent an email thanking many groups and individuals for their contributions to the Bete Grise wetland proposal. The list includes President Obama for the Great Lakes Initiative that added extra funding to 2010 CELCP.*

This photograph shows the view of Bete Grise Wetlands from the top of Mt. Houghton looking southwest. Lake Superior is in the upper left and along the horizon. Lac La Belle is the largest body of water in the center. Deer Lake is the smaller lake in the upper right. Montgomery Point on Lac La Belle is just below Deer Lake. Lac La Belle Wetlands stretches east from Deer Lake and Montgomery Point to the Bete Grise Preserve on the Lac La Belle sloughs. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

"Protection of Bete Grise has been a collaboration and partnership since its inception," Nicholas writes. "Bete Grise Wetlands is another great example of how all of us working together can accomplish more than any of us can alone."

Nicholas extended thanks to "everyone who worked a beach cleanup or knapweed pull, came to a picnic, attended a class or contributed in many unmentioned ways to Bete Grise Preserve and protection of this last, best coastal marsh of this type in the Upper Great Lakes!"

The addition of Bete Grise Wetlands will increase the size of the existing Bete Grise Preserve to over 3200 acres. As part of the CELCP grant terms, the new lands will be owned by HKCD and have a conservation easement held by Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT). This is similar to the existing Bete Grise Preserve that also includes land owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve to meet Feb. 25

Last year, a new stewardship organization, Stewards of Bete Grise (SBGP), was formed as part of a Coastal Zone Management Grant. SBGP will support partners HKCD, KLT and TNC in raising funds for insurance and easement monitoring and other improvements at the Bete Grise Preserve. SBGP will also conduct stewardship activities and events for the public.

The Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve will meet at 6 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Feb. 25, at the MTU Lakeshore Center (formerly UPPCO building) in Houghton. All interested persons are welcome. Please call Sue at (906) 482-0214 for more information.

"Bete Grise belongs to all of the life -- animals and plants with in it -- all of us and the future," Nicholas adds. "Bete Grise Preserve is open to the public 365 days a year for noninvasive recreation, research and education. Thank you to everyone here today and departed that helped make Bete Grise Preserve and the new addition of Bete Grise Wetlands a reality!"

*Learn more about the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) on their Web site.