Great Lakes

Northern Forests: Protecting an Ecological and Economic Resource

Story Highlights
  • Northern Forests provide habitat for many species, international resources for day-to-day products and clean the air we breathe.
  • Northern forests are susceptible to threats from invasive species and climate change.
  • The Great Lakes Project is protecting large-scale forests through acquisition, conservation easements and third-party certifications of sustainable practices.

A halo of trees forms a great ring that extends across the United States, Canada, Russia and Europe. These northern forests are an international resource that provides wood and fiber for many day-to-day products, uptakes carbon and releases oxygen to the very air we breathe. And, they are providing habit to a vast array of plants and animals, including migratory songbirds, gray wolves, bear, elk and moose.

In the Great Lakes region, a wide swath of intact forest spans northern Ontario, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. These northern forests help moderate regional climate and reduce sediment flowing into the headwaters of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.

They also drive local economic activity, support year-round recreation and tourism and provide raw materials for industries from furniture to home construction to paper.

In recent years, the management and ownership of forests in the region has changed. Large, industrial forests are being parceled and sold. Smaller, non-industrial forests are increasingly fragmented by roads and other encroachments. Regardless of their protected status, these northern forests are susceptible to threats such as the invasive emerald ash borer and climate change.

Despite our reliance on northern forests, we are not prepared for their long-term protection in the face of these changes. Decisions made in light of today’s economic realities don’t take into account the decades, if not centuries, it takes a forest to re-grow. We must plan and act now for what our forests must be in 50 or 100 years.

To address the changing circumstances and implement long-view conservation, the Great Lakes Project helps:

Keeping the northern forests intact, bolstering their resilience and connecting large tracts of land all form the basis of our Great Lakes forest strategy. Collaborations and supportive policy decisions make it easier for all entities that manage forests to do just that, now and in the future.


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