The Great Lakes region is no stranger to resource degradation, from the intense logging that swept through the area at the turn of the century to the enormous urbanization still occurring along lake shorelines. But there are still pockets of wild along the great lakes where lynx and wolves roam free, bald eagles and goshawks hunt, and old-growth hardwoods stand as they have for hundreds of years. To safeguard these areas for future generations of species, the Center’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Campaign has worked to ensure that the rivers that feed the Great Lakes — 95 percent of our country’s fresh water — are protected to the fullest extent mandated by law.
The national forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula contain some of the most prolific native trout and steelhead fisheries, most primitive wild rivers, and most beautiful scenic rivers in the Midwest. In 1992, Congress passed the Michigan Scenic Rivers Act, designating more than 500 miles of rivers within the state as wild and scenic and creating a study classification for hundreds of miles more. But instead of creating comprehensive management plans to protect and enhance these rivers’ ecological value, the Forest Service continued to authorize destructive activities such as timber harvests and off-road vehicle use in sensitive riparian areas. In 2001, the Center, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, and the Superior Wilderness Action Network filed suit against the agency for its mismanagement of rivers in the Ottawa National Forest, which contains some of the best wildlife habitat in the state. We’ll continue to monitor federal agencies with management authority over Michigan’s riparian areas to make sure that rivers such as the Ontonagon, the Paint, the Sturgeon, and the Presque Isle remain as wild and scenic as their designation implies.