Friday, December 09, 2011

Updated: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommends funding for Brockway Mountain parcel in Eagle Harbor Township

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund press release and Eagle Harbor Township

Brockway Mountain Summit west vista, showing Lake Superior, Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor, Eagle Harbor Township. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

LANSING -- The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) Board of Trustees has recommended Eagle Harbor Township to receive $498,000 to acquire 320 acres of property, including the summit of Brockway Mountain. The parcel will add to the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor for conservation and recreational access.

As stated in the grant proposal document, "The KEWEENAW COASTAL WILDLIFE CORRIDOR BROCKWAY MOUNTAIN is an acquisition of a critical portion of the overall KEWEENAW COASTAL WILDLIFE CORRIDOR that extends between Eagle Harbor on the west and Copper Harbor on the east. The Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor encompasses approximately 16 miles of some of the most scenic and pristine coastal wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula."*

Aerial view of Brockway Mountain and Lake Superior, in Eagle Harbor Township, Keweenaw County, Michigan. (Photo © and courtesy Neil Harri. Reprinted with permission.)

Eagle Harbor Township and several partner organizations have been raising the 25 percent match required for the grant -- about $172,000. The township has so far received donations approaching $50,000 toward that match.

"Eagle Harbor Township, in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), will raise the necessary funding for the match," said Jeff Knoop, TNC Upper Peninsula director of land protection.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which owns the nearby Mt. Baldy property in Eagle Harbor Township, has agreed to match any donations up to $100,000, if needed, Knoop added.

Panoramic view to the southwest (left) and the west (right) from the summit of Brockway Mountain. Labels show, from left, Lake Medora, TNC's Mount Baldy, Lake Bailey and Agate Harbor. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

The MNRTF Board's recommendations go to the Michigan Legislature for their review and then through the appropriations process. The Legislature will then forward a bill to the Governor for his approval. Typically, this part of the process is completed by the end of the summer following the Trust Fund Board’s recommendations.

"It is anticipated the closing will happen in 2012," Knoop said.

Eagle Harbor Township Supervisor Ed Kisiel said one of the goals is to raise the funds without using any tax dollars.

"So far we're on track to accomplish that goal," Kisiel noted. "We still have roughly about $40,000 to raise by next summer."

Eagle Harbor Township has donated $20,000 from the township's land acquisition fund (not from taxes) toward the match, Kisiel added.

In addition to the township and TNC, partners in the project include the Copper Country Audubon Club, the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) and the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT).

Bird migration protection and study will also benefit from this conservation purchase. Copper Country Audubon performs many activities on the project site, including guided educational fieldtrips and bird counts. Recently they conducted the 2010 Keweenaw Raptor Survey at the summit of Brockway Mountain, collecting scientific data for this important migration flyway.**

Bill Deephouse of Copper Country Audubon said the club also conducted a three-month survey on Brockway from March 15 to June 15, 2011; and another one is scheduled for the coming year.

"Last year our hawk counter tallied 14,000 raptors exactly," Deephouse said. "We are excited to see the 2012 survey get underway next spring."

Copper Country Audubon has donated $10,000 toward the match, Kisiel said. Other partner groups have donated smaller amounts of cash and in-kind services toward the project.

Since the 1930s, the 320-acre Brockway Mountain property has been owned by three generations of the Wescoat family, who have allowed public use of Brockway Mountain and have refrained from sub-dividing or developing this parcel.

Access by car on Brockway Mountain Drive, which has been designated a historic and scenic route under the Copper Country Trail National Byway, allows great views of Lake Superior, smaller lakes, wooded steep cliffs and deep, lush valleys.

This view from Brockway Mountain Drive along the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor shows Copper Harbor on Lake Superior, at left, and Lake Fanny Hooe, at right. (Photo courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

According to the grant proposal document, the overall plan for the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor "seeks to create a larger coastal conservation wildlife corridor. It will provide part of the Keweenaw Trail, a recreational silent sport trail along the Keweenaw coast that will link the conservation areas of Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor and allow access to the historical, recreational and esthetic benefits of the area while supporting the Copper Country National Byways program and the local economy."

This trail map detail shows the location of the 320-acre Brockway Mountain parcel in relation to the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor (black dotted line), the Keweenaw Trail (red dotted line) and other trails and protected areas near the Keweenaw Tip. Click on image for larger map or see p. 33 of the MNRTF Grant Proposal for the full map.* (Map detail courtesy Eagle Harbor Township. Reprinted with permission.)

This Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor Brockway Mountain conservation project is one of 99 development and acquisitions projects, totaling $39.6 million, recommended by the Trust Fund Board on Dec. 7, 2011, to be funded in 2012. They were selected from 145 applications that were competitively evaluated based on scoring criteria developed by the MNRTF Board.

"Natural resources and recreation continue to be among Michigan’s greatest strengths," said Governor Rick Snyder. "The board’s recommendations are a wise investment in Michigan’s economic future and quality of life. I appreciate the work of the trustees and look forward to enhanced outdoor and recreational opportunities across our state."

The Trust Fund board can recommend funding for both development projects and acquisitions to local and state agencies. This year, the Trust Fund board awarded 63 percent of its funding ($14,835,800) available for acquisitions to local units of government, and 37 percent ($8,775,000) to the Department of Natural Resources. For recreational development projects, the board recommended 93 percent ($14,854,400) of the available funding for projects proposed by local units of government, and just 7 percent ($1.2 million) for projects proposed by the DNR.

"The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund continues to be a vital program for communities around the state to enhance their livability and provide outstanding recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors," said Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes. "These projects will provide hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, and protect special places that make our state unique."

The MNRTF is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide a source of funding for public acquisition of lands for resource protection and outdoor recreation. The funding is derived from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned mineral rights. In 1985, Michigan voters chose to make the MNRTF part of Michigan’s constitution, ensuring this program’s future.

Other MNRTF recommendations

Other MNRTF recommendations for land acquisition in the Upper Peninsula are as follows:

Negaunee Township (Marquette County) is recommended to receive $202,700 to acquire 176.84 acres to preserve and extend the township’s non-motorized trail system.

Upper Peninsula Eco-Regional Land Consolidation is recommended to receive $950,000 to acquire various properties within the Upper Peninsula to improve DNR ownership by eliminating in-holdings within DNR project areas.

Statewide, various rail-to-trail acquisitions by the DNR will be recommended for $1 million in funding to extend, connect or enhance the state recreation trail network, including lands for trailhead support facilities.

In Houghton County, the Trust Fund Board made two development recommendations:

Calumet Township is recommended to receive $29,000 for trail improvements at the Calumet Lions Park.

The City of Hancock is recommended to receive $262,500 to develop 382 feet of universally accessible boardwalk in the Navy Street Park.

Editor's Notes:

* Visit the Eagle Harbor Township Web site Township News page and click on the link titled Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor Brockway Mountain MNRTF Revision 1.pdf to read more about the ecological, recreation, historic and aesthetic values that will be conserved by this land acquisition project.

** Click here to read about the raptors of Brockway Mountain on the Keweenaw Raptor Survey Web site.

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