Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New ownership may signal change for U.P. forests, researchers say

One of the things that endears me to the Upper Peninsula is the wonderful road trips one can take on US2. Now it looks like corporate and real estate interests may make these scenic views not as scenic as US2, along with other UP routes have been for the past 50+ years. Along with that, there may not be as much of public accessibility as in previous decades. Check out this article in the Detroit Free Press.

  • New ownership may signal change for U.P. forests, researchers say

  • TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A long-cherished way of life may be changing in the Upper Peninsula as new owners take control over vast forest tracts, environmentalists and university researchers said in a report issued Wednesday.
  • Investment and real estate companies that have acquired more than 1 million acres of U.P. woodlands in recent years have different priorities than the timber companies that previously owned them, the report said.
  • The new corporate landowners tend to regard the forests as an investment rather than solely as a timber source. The changing mind-set may bring more uncertainty for logging and tourism, both crucial sectors of the peninsula's economy, the report said.
  • It also may reduce public access to forestland - particularly with scenic waterfront vistas - and promote disruption of the landscape by road, buildings and other structures. [read more]
I wanted to check more into this. I found a link to Michigan Environmental Council in this article. The link takes you to the front page. I found this in the website.
  • Report: Tradition of public access to UP forests threatened by ownership changes

  • Place without fences’ already seeing more restrictions on free-roaming hikers, hunters, snowmobilers as commercial forests change hands

  • The Upper Peninsula’s unique identity could be changing as commercial forest ownership changes signal a break with the past, according to a report released today by university researchers and conservation groups in Michigan.
  • The region’s constants – wide open spaces accessible to the public, sustainably managed forests and an economic foundation of forest industries and tourism – need better incentives to remain in place for future generations, the report concludes.
  • For more than a century, timber companies and forest products firms have been key owners of large-scale tracts of UP land. They actively managed their lands and enrolled them in a program that gives them tax incentives for allowing public access to their forests and waters...
  • In states where this large-scale shift has already occurred, people have seen restrictions on public access; physical fragmentation of the landscape by roads, buildings and other infrastructure; reductions in wildlife habitat; and a loss of public access to high-value natural features like lakeshores and streams.
  • “Our research shows that the sprawling forest tracts that have long been part of the UP’s allure are already getting smaller and more fragmented,” said Robert Froese, of the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University. “Land along Great Lakes shoreline and along streams and rivers are increasingly owned by small private interests and therefore less accessible to the public.”
  • Additionally, the forest products industry and tourism economy that is the backbone of the UP economy may change without better education and forward-looking public policy adaptations, the report concludes...
  • Mark Lorenzo of the National Wildlife Federation said the report’s recommendations are key to keeping a vibrant UP: “The report makes clear that the changes underway in the Upper Peninsula pose a challenge to Michigan’s outdoor heritage,” said Lorenzo. “The good news is that state leaders have the opportunity to act before it is too late by embracing solutions that will allow citizens to hunt, hike and recreate in Michigan now and for generations to come.”
Click the above link to read the rest here.

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