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GLIN==> Great Lakes Fishery Trust News Release



NEWS RELEASE

GREAT LAKES FISHERY TRUST PARTNERS WITH THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND AND HURON-MANISTEE NATIONAL FOREST TO PROTECT CRITICAL HABITAT
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CONTACTS: 
Jack Bails, 517/371-7468
Great Lakes Fishery Trust
Al Raymond, 612/338-8494 ext. 104
The Trust for Public Land
Tracy Tophoven, 231/775-5023
Huron-Manistee National Forest


MICHIGAN-The Great Lakes Fishery Trust (GLFT) joins The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the U.S. Forest Service in announcing the protection of nearly 6,000 acres of river frontage and upland forest land across seven Lower Michigan counties.

Located within the Huron-Manistee National Forest, the lands are a mixture of wetlands and old growth forest, including almost six miles of river frontage on the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers.  With its variety of rivers, streams, and forests, the property provides numerous recreational opportunities along the North Country National Scenic Trail and protects critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

Once owned by the Consumers Energy Company (formerly Consumers Power), the lands total 5,973 acres throughout Alcona, Crawford, Manistee, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oscoda, and Wexford Counties.  In a 1996 court settlement, nearly 11,000 acres of land were transferred from the company to the GLFT, which was authorized to sell the lands to generate funds to support Great Lakes fishery restoration projects.  The Forest Service approached the TPL to help protect GLFT lands within the boundaries of the Huron-Manistee National Forest.  TPL purchased the lands from GLFT and conveyed them to the forest.

Funding of the acquisition was approved by the U.S. Congress through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with critical support coming from members of the Michigan Congressional delegation, especially senators Carl Levin and Spencer Abraham, and Congressman Dave Camp.

"In many years of working on behalf of Michigan's natural resources, this project stands out as a unique and ingenious effort to ensure the health and vitality of our state's rivers, streams and fisheries," stated Senator Carl Levin.   "I was pleased to be a strong supporter of this special project, which will benefit Michigan's residents and visitors for years to come."

Senator Spencer Abraham said: "I am pleased to have worked successfully on behalf of this unique land conservation project.  Setting aside such sensitive land brings multiple benefits to Michigan's natural resources and ensures protection of our forests and fisheries for future generations."

"Our work to acquire this land is a unique opportunity to protect the habitat of one of mid-Michigan's most famous birds - the Kirtland's warbler - and other animals, as well as to preserve a wide variety of wetland habitats," Congressman Dave Camp said.  "It is a great example of teamwork between the federal government and conservation groups."

These lands include some of the most critical wildlife habitat in the state of Michigan, sheltering threatened and endangered species such as the Kirtland's warbler (the most rare migratory songbird), Karner blue butterfly, and bald eagle.  This remote mixture of river frontage, forest lands, and wetlands also supports a range of other wildlife, including wild orchids, sandhill cranes, and black bears.

Support from the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) was instrumental in obtaining the necessary funding.  James Goodheart, Executive Director of MUCC and a trustee of the GLFT, said:  "The transfer of this property to the United States Forest Service will accomplish two major public purposes.  By placing these lands in public ownership the natural resource values can be protected while providing excellent opportunities for hunters, anglers and others who can now use them for a wide variety of recreational purposes.  In addition, the funds generated from this sale will be used by the trust to enhance the Great Lakes fishery resources through grants to government agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations and universities for fisheries research, habitat protection, education, and fishing access."

By securing this property, the TPL and the Huron-Manistee National Forest are helping to prevent development on these critical lands and to aid in the protection of wildlife and fishery resources that contribute to high quality of recreational opportunities in Michigan.  "This purchase includes many tracts that fit into our current National Forest ownership like missing pieces of a puzzle," said Acting Forest Supervisor John Serfass.  "With the decreasing amount of undeveloped land remaining in this part of Michigan, these new public lands will become increasingly important as havens for wildlife and fish, as well as for people who enjoy our natural environment."

The Great Lakes Fishery Trust is a private foundation established in 1996 to mitigate for damages to the Great Lakes fishery caused by the Ludington Pumped Storage Facility.   Since its inception, the GLFT has provided over $8.6 million in grants to government agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations and universities to improve Great Lakes fishery. 

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