Environment Picture

UPEC’s Celebration of the U.P. on a roll

What started out as a good idea has blossomed into a growing celebration of all things Upper Peninsula, thanks to the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC). 

A hugely successful “2010 Celebration of the U.P.” in March has energized efforts for a bigger, better event in Houghton/Hancock in March of 2011. 

The celebration was a feast for the eyes and the intellect. The energy and excitement of a Friday evening kickoff presentation continued through a dozen sessions the next day—all part of the second annual Celebration of the U.P., sponsored by MEC member group UPEC. 

Renowned biologist Rolf Peterson shared his intimate knowledge of the dynamics of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale with mesmerizing slide images to an overflow crowd. 

Filmmaker George Desort presented memorable footage from his video “Winter Study,” scenes captured while accompanying Peterson on Isle Royale earlier in the year. 
A persuasive range of presenters drew sizeable crowds on Saturday, including a noted wilderness guide and a builder of birch bark canoes, a naturalist and two homesteaders, an environmental essayist and a well-known birder, a pair of wilderness canoeists and an Ojibwe wild rice harvester, several poets, a historian of Michigan’s most iconic state park (the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park), a landscape and wildlife artist and a new media expert. 

Themes ranged from the skills and gear needed for a remote midwinter snowshoe expedition to the robust role citizen campaigns have played in both Upper Peninsula conservation history and in stopping metallic sulfide mining in neighboring Wisconsin. Deep affection for the landscape and waters we know as the U.P., and a quiet resolve to pass those blessings on to generations still to come, was present throughout the day. 

A well-attended panel discussion titled “Protecting the U.P. Landscape: A How-to Guide for Landowners, Large and Small” capped the event. Land conservancy experts, biologists and foresters moderated a lively discussion of the nuances of conservation easements, land trusts, tax incentives, carbon credits, and landscape issues with an audience of private property owners and land stewards. 

UPEC members believe they have found a sweet spot in the Celebration of the U.P. Front-page media coverage, heightened visibility of UPEC in the broader community, notable attendance, and an elevated public discussion of the role of good stewardship in the U.P. have been some of the benefits during the event’s two-year history. 

Metallic sulfide mining proposals continue to be a dark cloud looming over the U.P. landscape. U.P. conservation campaigners know that threat. They also know the wisdom that Mole Lake Chippewa elder Fran Van Zile put so well, “It’s not about the mine, it’s about the water.” 

Celebrating the rejuvenating qualities of our pristine waters, and evoking public affection for the U.P.’s legendary landscapes, is an essential part of a strategy to enhance the U.P. quality of life and protect its tremendous natural assets. 

—By Eric Hansen
Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition
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