Lake Superior: Working to Protect Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Lake Superior: Working to Protect Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

By Doug Cornett, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery

For the past 16 years, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery (NWR) has worked on many projects to protect lands and waters of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Freshwater Future (and its predecessor GLAHNF) has helped tremendously by funding efforts to publish newsletters and our web site ( A recent Freshwater Future grant will allow us to continue reporting conservation news from the North Woods in 2008.

Over the past year, NWR has worked primarily on opposing metallic sulfide mining and uranium prospecting, and looking for solutions to keep undeveloped waterfront from being subdivided and sold for second-home development.

NWR continues to participate in the proposed Kennecott Eagle mine permit applications with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Environmental Quality. The proposed mine site lies in a remote area of northern Marquette County at the headwaters of two rivers, the Salmon Trout and Yellow Dog. These rivers flow to Lake Superior, and the aquifer feeding them has some of the purest water in the US. The Salmon Trout River is also the last spawning grounds on the south shore of Lake Superior for the rare Coaster Brook Trout.

In December 2007 – January 2008, we partnered with Marquette business Up Front & Co. to produce an ad campaign which generated over 3000 letters to the DNR director and Natural Resource Commission, asking they deny a land use permit for the Eagle Mine. The permit was eventually granted, but our efforts gained a lot of media attention. Also, DNR director Rebecca Humphries specifically directed the agency to not allow any ground-breaking until all permits are in order, and all pending legal actions are settled.

NWR has also been challenging mineral exploration permits for uranium prospecting in the Ottawa National Forest. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management require little assessment for mineral well drilling. When we first began nearly 2 years ago, the Ottawa wanted to issue decisions without adequate public review and participation. Now they are conducting a longer process, but assessments are still far from thorough.

NWR has been instrumental in forming an ad hoc group (NWR, Northwood Alliance, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), Lac Vieux Desert tribe, Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Lands and others) to look at options to protect river front property recently put on the market by Upper Peninsula Power Co. and We Energies. The project is now looking at the Sturgeon River watershed, where 2 recent purchases added a 2000 acre inholding to the Ottawa National Forest Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, and nearly 700 acres to the Copper Country State Forest. Still, over 3700 acres of critical waterfront is for sale. Work continues to secure a conservation purchase. A GIS map of the watershed can be viewed at .

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For more information, please contact:

Doug Cornett, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery

PO Box 122, Marquette, MI 49855-0122
(906) 226-6649



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.