Bete Grise Wetlands Preserve shoreline along Lake Superior at dusk.
Bete Grise The 62-acre Bete Grise Wetlands Preserves consists of just over 4,000 feet of sandy shoreline along Lake Superior. © Jason Whalen/Big Foot Media

Stories in Michigan

The Legacy of the Keweenaw Peninsula

Since 1982, TNC has been working with partners to ensure the protection of the Keweenaw Peninsula for people and nature.

The remote and beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula is cherished by residents and visitors alike. This unique landscape features ancient volcanic rocks, cascading streams, scenic Lake Superior coastlines and lush forests that harbor globally rare plants and wildlife. It is also the heart of one of the most unfragmented and climate-resilient areas in the northern Great Lakes region.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is an important natural legacy for Michiganders, which is why The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked to support its conservation for decades. As a result of these efforts and the work of other conservation partners and organizations, people have many opportunities to enjoy and celebrate the peninsula’s natural beauty.

The Meaning of “Conservancy”

TNC’s land protection efforts are for conservation purposes that benefit the community. We protect Michigan’s lands and waters for people and nature, which includes public access to TNC-owned lands where feasible.

TNC’s Role in Protecting the Peninsula

TNC’s work to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends is grounded in science and time-tested best practices. Land protection—through purchasing land, establishing conservation easements or assisting partners with their protection efforts—helps us achieve this mission. But land protection is just one strategy among many that TNC employs to benefit people and nature.

In the Keweenaw Peninsula, we:

  • Protect and restore forests that provide habitat for diverse wildlife and songbirds and support healthy freshwater systems, from headwater wetlands, lakes and streams to the Great Lakes.
  • Promote nature-based climate solutions that support healthy forests and sequester and store forest carbon, which is necessary to help meet Michigan’s emission reduction goals and achieve carbon neutrality.
  • Partner with the community on projects that balance the needs of people and nature. The Keweenaw Peninsula is fast becoming a regional and national outdoor recreation hub.
  • Demonstrate sustainable forest management practices on TNC’s working forest reserves in Michigan and share that expertise with Keweenaw partners.

Our Pathway to Conservation in the Keweenaw Peninsula

TNC has been active in the Keweenaw Peninsula for decades. Our efforts are reflected in the three preserves we own and manage on the peninsula:

However, our impact goes far beyond our preserves. TNC has helped conserve approximately 15 miles of Lake Superior shoreline—practically the entire tip of the peninsula! This includes a collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a momentous project in the early 2000s, which protected more than 6,200 acres and five miles of the Montreal River.

We continue to work with public and private partners on innovative protection solutions. 

What Is a Conservation Easement?

Conservation easements are one way to protect land. These legal agreements restrict future development on a property and protect its conservation value in perpetuity. In exchange, the property owner may receive tax benefits. The easement holder—either a unit of government or a qualified conservation organization such as TNC—acquires certain rights and obligations to uphold the easement terms.

The Future of the Keweenaw

The Keweenaw Peninsula has globally significant opportunities for nature-based carbon solutions and land and water protection, all contributing to the health of one of the world’s largest freshwater systems, the Great Lakes. It is also a focal point for issues faced by forests around the world, and by the communities that depend on them—from habitat fragmentation to economic instability.

TNC hopes to continue to support the Keweenaw community as it builds a future around the sustainable use and management of the rivers, lakes and forests of this globally unique landscape and the outdoor recreation and environmental services (like carbon sequestration) that it offers.

TNC has been talking with local leaders and interest groups to listen and learn more about their goals and plans, and to provide support where we can. This includes exploring potential forest protection projects and partnerships that could continue to provide for local sustainable timber and recreational economies.

The Keweenaw Peninsula represents an opportunity for both learning and impact: the solutions we develop together here could be shared with other communities pursuing a resilient, nature-based future, across the Great Lakes and beyond.

Photos from the Keweenaw

The Keweenaw is home to diverse landscapes that feature ancient volcanic rocks, cascading streams, scenic Lake Superior coastlines and lush forests that harbor rare plants and wildlife.

A close-up of the sandy, rocky Keweenaw shoreline with trees in the distance under a blue sky.
A mink frog wading in greenish water.
Lichen on shoreline rocks at Horseshoe Harbor.
Lake waves crashing against rocks under a blue sky.
A person kayaks in Lake Superior along the Bete Grise Preserve on a cloudy day.
Snow covers the sandy shore of Bete Grise Preserve along the shore of Lake Superior.
A landscape view of rolling forested hills overlooking a large body of water under a vast blue sky.
A landscape view of yellow and orange trees at Brockway Mountain.
A forest of tall green trees.
The sun sets over a calm lake as clouds roll across the sky.

Our Work in Michigan

Learn more about our conservation projects across the Great Lakes state.

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