Thursday, April 12, 2012

Letter to Forest Service on Wildcat Falls

Hemlock forest near Wildcat Falls, Ottawa National Forest. (Photo © and courtesy standfortheland.com)

Chuck Myers, Regional Forester
Eastern Region, USFS
626 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Dear Mr. Myers,

I am a resident of the U.P., currently living in Marquette, Michigan. A long time ago, or so it seems to me, I grew up in White Pine, in the western Upper Peninsula. My extended range was roughly enclosed by Ironwood to the west, Lake Gogebic on the south, Copper Harbor to the north, and Marquette by an occasional visit to the east.

When I was 24, I married and moved away, living in various cities around the Midwest including Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago and Milwaukee. When I got divorced, all I wanted was to move back home...to the U.P.

Now, you might realize that it isn’t uncommon for many of us to call the U.P. "home," rather than our houses, neighborhoods or towns. It is the unspoiled character of the place, the undeveloped areas around lakes and streams, the dark and mossy forests that unite people across the region, from Marquette west into northern Wisconsin, with a shared feeling of "home."

They are the people who signed the online petition to "save" Wildcat Falls and the old-growth forest (1,000 signatures in only three weeks) -- they, and their friends and family and acquaintances who know what will be lost if this land is traded away. As an expatriated Yooper, I would have signed it. I am home now.

A month or so ago, word of this proposed land exchange came to me from the western U.P. A friend in Iron River had joined the team, fighting it. My dad, living in a small town just south of Houghton, got on board. I found out that a favorite pal in Marenisco was involved.

The author of this letter, Catherine Parker of Marquette, hikes to Wildcat Falls with her Dad, Jack Parker of Twin Lakes. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Garske)

Three weeks ago, my Iron River friend and I went to see the Falls for the first time. They were our destination and they were beautiful, but there was so much more to the place than that. We moved slowly, stopping to appreciate gnarled old trees hugging moss-covered boulders, 12-inch quartz nuggets nestled in dry leaves, huge cedars leaning overhead, massive walls of rock, hemlock groves, and deer droppings seemingly everywhere.

We peered into holes and saw water. It trickled from the outcroppings, ran from the ground, pooled in the beaver pond and poured over the falls.

"I wish I could live here!" I said to my friend. But places like this are meant to be shared, and that is why I’m writing to you today.

Somewhere around 100 people gathered near the Falls on April 1, summoned by a few but united by a common desire to preserve the falls and forests and outcroppings as a public space, available to all of us, forever.

If we lose this land, there will be an outpouring of anguish that will be heard across these territories and beyond. Please take these parcels off the negotiating table.

Consolidating land near the Porkies is certainly desirable, but the price the Forest Service is planning to pay is far too dear.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,

Catherine Parker*

*Editor's Note: This letter is reprinted with permission. See also "Hike to Wildcat Falls draws large crowd."

1 comment:

cousin jack said...

Michele; I don't really think of you as my schoolmarm. I like you and your bravery and the way you work so hard to do good work. You're a good egg! Thanks for printing the two Forest Service articles - a lot of good people worked together on them.
Cousin Jack.