The purchase of 23,338 acres in the Two-Hearted watershed is part of TNC's larger Northern Great Lakes Forest Project.
Two Hearted River Forest Reserve The purchase of 23,338 acres in the Two-Hearted watershed is part of TNC's larger Northern Great Lakes Forest Project. © Ron Leonetti

Places We Protect

Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve


Creating a model for forest restoration in the Great Lakes Basin.

The Nature Conservancy has identified the Two-Hearted River watershed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a priority landscape for conservation within the Great Lakes ecoregion due to its diverse and high-quality terrestrial and aquatic systems. With the 2005 acquisition of more than 23,800 acres, now known as the Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve, TNC initiated a conservation strategy that includes sustainable timber harvesting. Hopefully, lessons learned from this project will help promote this strategy throughout the northern Great Lakes Basin.

Due to decades of industrial timber harvest, most of the Two-Hearted’s upland hardwood forest lacks the structural and tree species diversity typically found in unmanaged, older forests. A mature, unmanaged hardwood forest has several different types of trees with a range of size and age, the oldest reaching well over two feet in diameter and 150 or 200 years of age. The current forest is dominated primarily by one or two tree species, nearly all of which are less than 18 inches in diameter and less than 80-90 years old. With this lack of diversity in size, age and type of trees, the forest lacks important habitat attributes to support diverse plant and animal species.

TNC’s goal is to restore some of these older-forest characteristics to the property. Left alone, the forest will certainly continue to grow and eventually, after many decades, attain those characteristics. However, thinning the forest can increase the growth rate of remaining trees, so they attain larger sizes faster, and promote the regeneration of the uncommon trees to help improve diversity. Selling the harvested trees will generate income for other conservation projects in the area and create jobs for the local economy.

With the combination of ecological and economic benefits, the Conservancy hopes to use this project as a model to replicate around the region. By demonstrating to other forest owners the possibility to manage forests in a way that promotes ecological values and reaps direct economic benefits, the effects of this project should reach well beyond the boundaries of the Two-Hearted River.

Why TNC Selected This Site

The variety of wildlife at this preserve is truly astounding. Many of these creatures need vast expanses of unbroken land to survive, and the large acreage at the Reserve provides ideal habitat for them. The original purchase of 23,338 acres in the Two-Hearted watershed is part of a larger project called the Northern Great Lakes Forest Project.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The Nature Conservancy’s Two Hearted River Forest Reserve received its first-ever certification in Michigan from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) after an extensive process that started nearly five years ago. After starting a timber inventory and Forest Management Plan of the Two Hearted Forest in 2006, the Conservancy submitted the initial management plan to the State of Michigan in 2007 as required by the Commercial Forest Act. (For a copy of the entire plan, please contact the UP office at 906-225-0399 or During 2008, the first timber harvest on the Two Hearted River Forest was planned and the management plan was expanded to encompass all FSC standards.

The Forest Stewardship Council is the only global forest certification system whose standards for responsible forest management encompass conservation, social and business values. Its trademark allows corporations and consumers worldwide to recognize products legally harvested from well-managed forests.

Forest certification, the premier market-based, non-regulatory conservation tool, is designed to recognize and promote transparency in forest products trade. Its use is central in efforts to halt illegal logging, and it holds the potential to transform international forest trade while conserving forests around the world. Through certification, forest management practices are evaluated by an independent third-party according to an agreed-upon set of standards.

As part of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality 319 watershed grant, the Superior Watershed Partnership created a Watershed Management Plan for the Two Hearted River Watershed. This plan identifies many sources of sedimentation and barriers to fish migration. The Conservancy is working to address these issues.

TNC actively manages this property to improve its ecological health, including some carefully planned timber harvesting. Timber harvesting is not conducted on Preserve lands. We will have 1-2 harvests on the Reserve for the next 5-10 years.

Early May and late July through October are the best times to visit this preserve to take advantage of northern Michigan’s beauty while avoiding the biting insects. Come prepared with head netting and insect repellant when visiting this reserve, since the black flies and mosquitoes are as plentiful as the other species.

Permitted Activities

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Trapping
  • Foot access for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, etc.
  • Bird-watching
  • Educational studies
  • Geocaching
  • TNC has also partnered with the Tahquamenon Snowmobile Association to allow use of sections of an existing snowmobile trail that cross portions of the property.

Prohibited Activities

  • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles are allowed off of primary roads, including but not limited to automobiles, off-road vehicles (ORVs), all terrain vehicles (ATVs), motorcycles, snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles, and bicycles.
  • No cutting or removal of vegetation.
  • No transportation, handling, dumping, or disposal of liquid, solid, natural or man-made waste, refuse, or debris.
  • No camping, bonfires, fireworks or other fires.
  • No permanent ground blinds or tree stands.
A Good Cut The Nature Conservancy is taking a unique approach to restoring forests in Michigan's Upper Peninsula - by cutting them down.