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.
TNC’s land protection efforts are for conservation purposes that benefit the community. We protect Michigan’s lands & waters for people & nature, which includes public access to TNC-owned lands where feasible.
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.
An Iconic Landscape
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:
- The Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor, on the northern shore of the peninsula, one of our most popular preserves with visitors.
- The Helmut & Candis Stern Preserve at Mt. Baldy, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding forests and wetlands.
- The Bete Grise Wetlands Preserve, which features a mile and a half of white sandy beach.
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.
Our History in the Keweenaw
Member Mary Macdonald helps TNC establish our 1st preserve in the Keweenaw, with a gift of 500 acres of land. This becomes the 1st piece of the Mary Macdonald Preserve, which TNC has since expanded to 1,200 acres.Explore the Preserve
The Helmut & Candis Stern Preserve at Mt. Baldy is established, thanks to generous donations from the Sterns.Explore the Preserve
Ensuring that its stunning beach remains open to the public, TNC protects the 64-acre Bete Grise Wetlands Preserve as part of a much larger cooperative effort with the Houghton-Keweenaw Conservation District.Explore the Preserve
Every year, birders record thousands of migrating raptors from the summit of Brockway Mountain. In 2013, TNC helps Eagle Harbor Township acquire 320 acres that include this migration site, keeping it open to the public.
TNC’s Mary Macdonald Preserve reaches its current size of approximately 1,200 acres, which includes four miles of Lake Superior shoreline.
TNC adds 200 acres to the eastern edge of the Helmut & Candis Stern Preserve that not only increase its acreage to its current 1,700+ acres, but also connect it to Michigan Audubon’s Lake Bailey Wildlife Sanctuary.
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.