(FOX 2) - Michigan is a little bit closer to securing a vital conservation easement that will help protect about 73,000 acres of land in the Upper Peninsula after two funding announcements on Thursday.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced two grants totaling around a million dollars will go toward helping the DNR conserve the Michigamme Highlands, while also connecting a federal wilderness area with a state park.
The state has been working to secure $20 million in funding to help manage the landscape, which spans three counties and includes forests, lakes, wetlands, and critical habitats for fisheries and wildlife.
One grant came from Walmart's Acres for America Program, which sent $5.6 million to 10 different projects. The Michigamme Highlands makes up half of the wildlife habitat receiving funding. The other grant is through the Life Time Foundation, which donated a million dollars to the DNR, as well as a smaller project in Maine.
The state is hoping to secure $15 million through a 2024 Forest Legacy Program grant. According to the DNR, the highlands project has been ranked second in the country for funding.
The 73,000 acres that's sought for conservation is being done in partnership with the Lyme Great Lakes Timberlands and the DNR.
The landscape spans Baraga, Iron, and Marquette counties with the hope of securing an easement that would combine the land and prevent it from being broken up. It would also enable more public recreation in the area and better forest management.
"The acquisition of a working forest conservation easement in the Michigamme Highlands will protect critical fisheries and wildlife habitat," said DNR Director Scott Bowen. "It will also provide for a variety of public recreation opportunities and help secure some of the most climate resilient landscape in Michigan."
The area slated for conservation would connect the McCormick Wilderness, which is part of the Ottawa National Forest, and Craig Lake State Park.