For sale: UP lakes, forests, shoreline
Some fear impact on recreation,
July 26, 2002
BY HUGH MCDIARMID JR. AND DAN SHINE
Detroit Free Press
A tract of Upper Peninsula forest and lakeshore almost
five times the size of Detroit will go up for sale this
year, prompting fear among conservationists and some residents
that nearly 390,000 acres could be lost.
But others see it as an opportunity for the state and
conservancy groups to form a partnership to keep more
than 200 lakes and the land free from development and
open for recreation.
In New York last month, Gov. George Pataki, the Nature
Conservancy and a timber company worked out a deal to
keep nearly 44,000 acres open for recreation by buying
some tracts and paying for the right to restrict development
on other parcels. The timber company is able to continue
logging portions of the land.
The amount of land for sale in the Upper Peninsula,
however, is much larger.
The Kamehameha Schools Trust of Hawaii, which owns the
land in 10 UP counties, expects to make more than $150
million on the sale, according to Martin Wilk, president
of Shelter Bay Forests, the company that manages the trust's
The land, much of it formerly owned by a mining company
and later part of a failed high-tech timber business,
includes several miles of Lake Superior shoreline, most
of a small island, and more than 200 inland lakes, Wilk
"It should be placed on the market by the end of this
year, and sold by early next year," Wilk said. An investment
banking firm will coordinate the transaction.
The trust -- one of the world's wealthiest charities
with a net worth estimated at $6 billion -- was a financial
partner with Benson Forests, a company with ambitious
plans for a high-tech logging operation using satellites
and computers to manage the harvest. When Benson Forests
abandoned the enterprise in 1994, the trust bought the
Wilk said the trust has decided to change its investment
allocation, reducing the amount of real estate it owns
-- hence the sale of the UP acreage.
Ray Fenner, executive director of Superior Wilderness
Action Network in northern Minnesota, said the UP land
must be preserved by whatever means.
"It would be a tragedy if future generations wouldn't
be able to see that land," Fenner said. "If it all goes
private, it's gone."
Some UP residents fear a company will develop homes
and log the forests. If this happens, thousands of miles
of snowmobile trails could be taken out of use.
Gov. John Engler was unaware of the pending sale late
Thursday, said his spokeswoman Susan Shafer.
Currently, the land is covered by the Commercial Forest
Act. The owners receive a tax break in exchange for keeping
the land open for snowmobilers and hunters. New homes
could cut off such access.
"The UP is being looted," said Doug Cornett of the Northwoods
Wilderness Recovery, a nonprofit group based in Marquette
that advocates the protection of forests in the Upper
Fred Rydholm, a Marquette-area historian, said UP natives
are likely to be wary of outsiders' plans for the land.
The Benson company, he noted, alienated residents by
building miles of fences on land that had been accessible
to hunters, trappers and anglers.
Fenner said given the size and price tag of the property,
it will "take a concerted effort" by the state officials
and environmental groups to acquire it.
The trust was established in 1884 through the will of
Princess Bernice Pauahi Biship, a descendant of King Kamehameha,
who ruled the Hawaiian islands in the 18th Century.