Fundraising efforts continue for conservation easements

PORTAGE TOWNSHIP – A fundraising effort to raise money for conservation easements on commercial forest land in Portage Township is continuing, and an effort to purchase land on the property has begun.

The Pilgrim River Watershed Project formed in 2009 consists of Copper Country Trout Unlimited, the Keweenaw Land Trust, Partners in Forestry, Copper Country Audubon, Northwoods Alliance, Keweenaw Trails Alliance and the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District.

Late last year, $200,000 was raised by the PRWP for conservation easements on the 360-acre upriver tract on the 1,382 acres owned by the Wisconsin-based Hovel family. The conservation easements will allow public access to the Hovel property in addition to non-motorized recreation activities outlined in the Michigan commercial forest law, which are fishing, hunting and trapping. Further activities which would be allowed by a conservation easement include hiking, biking and other non-motorized activities.

Bill Leder, Copper Country Trout Unlimited board member and PRWP Fundraising Committee chairman, said the group is working to purchase a 276-acre parcel on the Hovel property with a $286,000 United States Forest Service 50/50 Community Forest Grant, and the fundraising effort for that has begun.

“So far, we have raised $32,000 (towards $286,000),” he said.

Appraisals of the 320-acre easement portion and the 276-acre portion intended for purchase are being done, Leder said.

Evan McDonald, Keweenaw Land Trust executive director, said the organization is seeking large private foundation grants, among others to complete the $286,000 for the purchase of the 276-acre parcel.

“We’re pursuing multiple grants,” he said. “We’re looking at everything we can.”

McDonald said some of the possible larger donors want to support projects with large-impact donations.

“They want to see the whole thing happen,” he said of the entire PWRP.

Leder said the PWRP will conduct a mailing of its members in the fall to seek donations for the community forest purchase, but anyone can donate at any time. For more information about the PWRP and donating, go online to