Established in 1981, the Northwood Alliance has spent nearly four decades working to establish sustainable forest initiatives all over the state of Wisconsin and Michigan. Founded by Conover resident Joe Hovel, the NWA has tackles issues such as land and water conservation, environmental education and acting as an advocate in local communities for sustainable practices.
The latest project the non-profit group is working on is Wildcat Falls. Located nine miles from Watersmeet, Mich., Wildcat Falls had been part of the Ottawa National Forest until a controversial land swap. The United States Forest Service exchanged 240 acres of Ottawa National Forest land for 420 acres of cut-over acreage near the Porcupine Mountains.
The Northwood Alliance opportunity took the opportunity to negotiate and eventually purchase the Wildcat Falls property, which they are now hoping to turn into a permanent, publicly beneficial conservation solution.
"The NWA is striving to develop a community forest for the property and if fundraising keeps momentum through this year, we will apply for a Community Forest and Open Space Conservation program grant from the Forest Service, state and private forestry through the Michigan State Forester in 2019," conservation coordinator Casey Clark said.
Partners in support of the effort include the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Friends of Sylvania, Jack Parker Associates, Keweenaw Land Trust, Partners in Forestry Co-op and The Wilderness Society, as well as the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, which recently approved a $10,000 award to boost local fundraising.
The NWA met on Monday, June 11 at the Land O' Lakes Public Library to create strategies and discuss the latest news with the project. Because the group primarily communications via email and phone, due to members being spread out across the Northwoods and the state of Wisconsin, volunteer director Joe Hovel said it's important to all get in the same room from time to time to stay updated.
"A working community group is essential to the success of this project," Hovel said.
Hovel and Clark, along with many other volunteers, have spent countless hours recently documenting the trees, plant and wildlife that is present in the forest land, in order to provide an accurate representation of what the forest has to offer. Between the waterfall and other geological features, the Wildcat Falls area is truly a diverse area.
To make the ultimate vision of creating an operating community forest, though, donations are still needed. Although Hovel said they've had a strong couple weeks of fundraising, there is still much left to be done for the concept to become a reality.
To learn more about the project or how to donation, visit northwoodalliance.org.