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$1 million Forest Legacy Program grant for Charlevoix County

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that approximately 750 acres and nearly three-quarters of a mile of Thumb Lake frontage in Charlevoix County will be protected, available for public use and managed as a working forest thanks to a Forest Legacy Program grant award.

The project, known as the Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest (Ottawa for “Big Finger Water”), includes the state acquisition of a conservation easement on 750 acres of rolling northern hardwood forests that is strategically positioned to connect larger blocks of protected lands and habitats. The property is adjacent to state forest land on three sides and contains the Thumb Lake frontage on the fourth side.

Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, said state acquisition of the conservation easement means that the property will stay in private ownership, but will be open for public recreational use and will be managed as a working forest under a forest management plan approved by the state forester.

“Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking or one of the many other recreational opportunities our forest land has to offer, this project ensures this area will be sustainably managed for the enjoyment of current and future users,” said O’Neill, who also serves as Michigan’s state forester. “In addition to protecting the recreational values of the land, this project also takes into account protection of wildlife habitat and ensures sustainable timber management continues on the property. This is great news for all forest stakeholders.”

Along with sustainable forest management and public recreational access, the Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest project will:

Help to protect a portion of the tri-county fall color tour area along Thumb Lake Road (County Road 48);
Protect the drinking water quality in the area, as the property is located in a high-ground water recharge area; and
Offer the potential for hikers on the North Country National Scenic Trail, located on nearby state forest land, the opportunity to hike to Thumb Lake.
The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program, which is providing 75 percent of the funding for this project, is to ascertain and protect environmentally important forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The Forest Legacy Program seeks to promote forest-land protection and other conservation opportunities. The program, nationally competitive and administered by the U.S. Forest Service, is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

O’Neill said that with the grant funds now awarded, the DNR will begin the detailed work with the landowner and project partner, Little Traverse Conservancy, so that the project can be successfully completed.

For more information about the Forest Legacy Program, visit