Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Conservation District purchase adds Point Isabelle, Bete Grise wetlands, Lac La Belle shoreline to Bete Grise Preserve

Point Isabelle on the Keweenaw Peninsula, seen here from Mount Houghton, is now part of the Bete Grise Preserve and will be permanently protected in its natural state and open to the public for non-invasive recreation, research and education. On June 21, 2013, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) closed on the purchase of 181.5 acres and 9100 Lake Superior shore feet (1.7 miles) at Point Isabelle. (Photos © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) has announced the final closing, on June 21, 2013, in a group of Keweenaw Peninsula land acquisitions that will double the size of their Bete Grise Preserve.

The combined land acquisitions include the following:
  • Protection for approximately 1800 acres of dune-swale and other primarily wetland habitat types
  • 9100 feet (1.7 miles) of Lake Superior shoreline
  • 3500 + feet of shoreline on Lac La Belle effectively protecting all of the slough frontage and providing a new kayak/canoe access site on the south side of Lac La Belle
  • A Roadside Park that was previously on private land and approximately 2.5 miles of natural beauty along the Gay-Lac La Belle Road
"This project protects a rich mosaic of coastal wetland habitats, Lake Superior shoreline and 3500 feet of formerly private Lac La Belle sloughs for thousands of native and migratory, aquatic and terrestrial species," said Gina Nicholas, HKCD Board of Directors chairperson. "It also provides current and future generations with permanent access to beaches, fishing, kayaking and canoe waters, roadside parks, berry picking spots, picnic
areas and one of the most beautiful scenic drives anywhere."

This photo of the shoreline on Lac La Belle -- part of Bete Grise Wetlands -- was taken from a kayak.

As part of the Bete Grise Preserve, this land is permanently protected in its natural state and open to the public for non-invasive recreation, research and education, Nicholas explained. HKCD will be working with partners to update the management plan for the expanded Bete Grise Preserve in the coming months, and a formal dedication will be held in 2014.

HKCD closed on Pt. Isabelle (181.5 acres and 9100 Lake Superior shore feet) on Friday, June 21, 2013, and on Bete Grise Wetlands (1493 acres and 3,500+ shore feet on Lac La Belle) on December 19, 2012. They also bought 120 acres from Michigan Technological University on May 17, 2013.

Present at Copper Range Abstract and Title Agency for the June 21, 2013, closing on Point Isabelle are, from left, Amanda Messner, Copper Range Abstract and Title Agency; Jim Tercha, attorney for HKCD; Trina Anderson, AFC (American Forestry Consultants) and representative for the seller, GMO; Sue Haralson, HKCD Administrator; Gina Nicholas, HKCD chairperson; and Kyle Messner of Copper Range Abstract and Title Agency.

This project was supported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Coastal Zone Management Program, through Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes.

Funding for the project came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (NOAA/CELCP) -- a grant awarded in 2010. This project would not have been possible without the generous support provided by the J.A. Woollam Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

"Significant in-kind service was provided by HKCD and Jim Tercha as well as  great guidance from Matt Warner, DEQ Coastal Zone Grant Administrator, and Liz Mountz, NOAA/CELCP Grant Administrator," Nicholas noted. "Many, many other  individuals and organizations contributed to the success of this project and HKCD sends our gratitude out to each of you."

At the closing for Bete Grise Wetlands Dec.19, 2012, are, from left, Gene Arntsen, the seller; Amanda Messner, Copper Range Abstract and Title Agency; and Jim Tercha, attorney for HKCD.

Together, these acquisitions provide significant advances toward the locally-driven initiative to protect the larger coastal wetland complex (more than 8000 acres) known as the Bete Grise Wetlands.*

This 2010 map shows the Bete Grise Coastal Wetlands Complex near Lac La Belle. Point Isabelle is in the center of the map, with Bete Grise Bay just above it. Click on map for larger version. (Keweenaw Now file map courtesy Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District.)

These wetlands contain a broad variety of habitats, hosting remarkable numbers and diversity of plant and animal species. The area is known to contain a rare type of wetland called a patterned fen. Wildlife species calling this area home include bald and golden eagles, sandhill cranes, moose, wolves and black bears.

This photo shows the interior of Bete Grise Wetlands looking toward Lac La Belle with Mt. Houghton in the background.

The Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program provides grant funds to assist in the development of vibrant and resilient coastal communities through the protection and restoration of Michigan's sensitive coastal resources and biologically diverse ecosystems. The goal of the program is to promote wise management of the cultural and natural resources within Michigan's coastal boundary by fostering environmental stewardship, furthering research to support science-based policies and regulations, and providing excellent customer service.

Funding for the program is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through a state and federal partnership established under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

This photo shows a view from the south end of the new property, looking back toward Pt. Isabelle.

The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD), organized over 61 years ago, is a local unit of state government and part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. In 1994, the Conservation District Law was made part of The Compiled Environmental Code. It is now Part 93 of Act 451 of 1994, as amended. HKCD's mission is to advise and assist the people of Houghton and Keweenaw counties to wisely manage and use our natural resources through education, information, technical assistance and land stewardship.

* Editor's Note: For background on these acquisitions see our Feb. 25, 2010, article, "Sen. Levin announces conservation funding for new Bete Grise Wetland area."

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