Bete Grise to be protected

BETE GRISE – The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District recently closed on the purchase of 181 acres of private land, which will be added to the Bete Grise Preserve and permanently protected in its natural state.

Nearly $1 million in grant funds – including part of the $1.7 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program grant acquired in 2010 with support from Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit – was invested in the purchase, which was completed June 21. Funding also came from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the J.A. Woollam Foundation and the Nature Conservancy to purchase the property from GMO LLC.

“This is for Point Isabelle, a coast strip of land south of the original preserve which runs down to a small park area. Most people thought it was a public park, but it was actually on private land. Now it’s open to the public and permanently protected,” said Gina Nicholas, chair of the HKCD Board of Directors. “This is the culmination of a lot of people working together.”

The purchase is the second phase of a two-part land acquisition process, with the first phase being 1,500 acres of the Bete Grise Wetlands, which was acquired Dec. 19, 2012.

“We invite everybody to please come visit. It’s open year-round for non-invasive (non-motorized) recreation,” Nicholas said. “People can go berry picking, have a picnic, bring a kayak or canoe or go fishing.”

Together, along with the May purchase of about 120 acres from Michigan Technological University, the purchases represent about 1,800 acres of dune-swale and other wetland types, 1.7 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, about 3,500 feet of Lac La Belle slough frontage and the aforementioned roadside park. The larger Bete Grise coastal wetlands complex is about 8,000 acres.

The HKCD will be putting up signage and updating management plans to incorporate the new areas. A formal dedication of the area is expected to take place during the summer of 2014.

For more information on the land acquisitions and the preserve, call the HKCD at 482-0214 or Gina Nicholas at 370-7248.