Determining priorities

HOUGHTON – Balancing the protection of natural environments, recreation activities and economic interests is part of the purpose of the Keweenaw Land Trust.

Tuesday, members of the organization conducted a public forum to hear what residents consider important to reach those goals.

In the multi-purpose room of Houghton High School, members of KLT conducted a discussion on conservation priority themes, moderated by KLT Executive Director Evan McDonald.

McDonald introduced KLT intern Nathan Miller, who explained to the audience of about 15 people the purpose of the forum.

Miller said the forum was to get information to help the KLT set priorities for its efforts, and to help them get accreditation from the national Land Trust Alliance.

“These are very important projects for a land trust to complete as we move toward accreditation,” he said.

Miller said conducting public forums helps KLT members to be proactive toward establishing goals, rather than waiting for projects to come to them.

“It keeps us from being too opportunistic,” he said. “This is the first step toward developing our goals.”

Miller said about 200 people answered a 20-question online survey conducted in December to learn what things residents of the Keweenaw think are important, and some of the interests included hiking, biking, star gazing, photography and berry picking.

The survey included land use priorities, Miller said, and those taking the survey ranked them by importance. Those included protecting water features and wetlands, and reducing the threat of the fragmentation of natural areas.

“We’re trying to protect the special interests and wild areas,” he said.

Audience members were sitting at four tables, and McDonald gave each group a sheet with questions about their best vision for the future of the area, and what strengths and assets exist in the community to achieve those goals.

After discussing the questions for about five minutes, McDonald asked people at each table to report what they decided on regarding the future of the area, and answers included: rejuvenating old communities; maintaining solitude; improving education of the geology of the area; having development in harmony with the environment; developing local food production and protecting green space.

McDonald said he was pleased with the responses the groups gave.

“That was some great stuff,” he said.

As for the strengths and assets in the area to achieve those goals for the future, answers included: access to Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University, strong school systems, the fact people want to be here, the availability of recreation clubs, access to Keweenaw National Historical Park and Isle Royale National Park, and strong work ethic.

After the discussions with the group about priorities and assets to achieve those goals, McDonald said there will be two more forums, one at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Mohawk at Horizons Alternative High School, and at 6:30 p.m. April 17 at C.J. Sullivan Elementary School in L’Anse.

McDonald said the information gathered from the forums and the online surveys – which can still be taken at – will be put into a final report in the middle of May. The KLT board of directors will then use the information to set the organization’s priorities.