What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund doing in the Midwest?

LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Over the past 57 years, substantial Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) investments have protected important places in Michigan and Indiana. Thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act, LWCF can continue to invest in Indiana and Michigan.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a one-of-a-kind outdoor recreation experience. The 400-foot dunes tower over Lake Michigan and include trails and overlooks to take in the 65 miles of the park’s shoreline. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has invested $108.8 million in Sleeping Bear Dunes – among the largest LWCF investments in the country. Thanks to LWCF, the natural beauty of the park has been preserved for visitors enjoying its hiking trails, swimming spots, kayaking and canoeing, wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing.

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Michigan

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’s mission is to build a sustainable future for the Detroit River and western Lake Erie ecosystems, including the region’s islands, coastal wetlands and marshes. Through bi-national efforts from political leaders led by the late United States Rep. John Dingell, conservation advocates and local community activists, the area gained its status as an international refuge. Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge is a truly unique example of public land conservation, not only because of the international efforts on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, but also because it’s located in a major metropolitan urban area. LWCF investment has been used to help protect 6,000 acres of habitat for rare fish, migratory waterfowl and other wildlife right next to Detroit, giving city residents a chance to experience Michigan’s great outdoors closer to home.

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan

Michigan’s Ottawa National Forest encompasses nearly 1 million acres within the Upper Peninsula. LWCF invested over $14.6 million  in Ottawa National Forest. LWCF funding is helping to protect land along the Sturgeon River to ensure the wild and scenic beauty of the river is not lost. Further, LWCF funding has  preserved wildlife habitat, watersheds and provided recreational access for fishing, hunting, hiking and cross country skiing for the public and local residents. 

Detroit-Belle Isle, Michigan

For Detroiters, Belle Isle is the city’s top recreation destination. There are trails, kayaking, an aquarium, a nature center, a Great Lakes museum, fishing spots, playgrounds and a golf range. The park’s unique location, in the Detroit River, also makes it an attractive venue for local events, school trips and a great place to take a break from city life. Belle Isle received an investment of over $1 million from LWCF through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program for renovations to the athletic complex and the multi-use looped trail. This funding will allow Belle Isle to continue to thrive as a local park for city residents and visitors to the Motor City.

North Country National Scenic Trail, Michigan

With 4,600 miles of proposed trail that stretches from New York to North Dakota, America’s longest National Scenic Trail needs funding from LWCF to be completed. To date, over $4.6M of LWCF funds have been allocated by the National Park Service to protect parcels along the trail, while other parts have been protected through national forest acquisitions. In Michigan, the North Country Scenic Trail offers a diverse range of hiking with 1,150 miles — more than any other state along the trails. In 2018, the trail received LWCF funding to protect a key section of the trail in Michigan, but there are many more miles to connect. 

Black River Ranch, Michigan 

Last year LWCF provided $10.6 million to protect 8,800 acres at Black River Ranch – one of the last remaining large, intact forestland tracts in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The project protects more than 14 miles of Black River, East Branch of Black River and Stewart Creek corridor, which are all world-class cold-water trout streams. It also contains the entirety of three lakes, including the 150-acre Silver Lake. Black River Ranch is also home to several threatened and endangered species and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife ranging from elk and black bear to pine marten and Kirtland’s Warbler. This project will eliminate the possibility of fragmentation, ensure sustainable forestry practices and offer full public recreational access. 

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park is a beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape that protects miles of beaches along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. Large sand dunes, which formed over thousands of years, tower nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan. Visitors can fish and swim in Lake Michigan, hike along nine miles of trails and picnic. More than $90 million from LWCF for National Park Service acquisitions has helped protect this incredible natural resource. These two amazing places provide outdoor recreational opportunities for millions of residents in the Midwest and are another example of the synergy between federal and state LWCF investments to achieve broad conservation goals.

Hoosier National Forest, Indiana

The Hoosier National Forest offers southern Indiana residents important opportunities to fish, hunt, hike and swim. Over $17M from LWCF has allowed the forest to protect public access to the shoreline on Lake Monroe, a popular outdoor recreation area that boasts a trophy bass fishery just south of Bloomington. Other LWCF funds protected a key inholding in the 12,000-acre Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area within the forest.

Rev. Charles Williams Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 2018, the City of Indianapolis received $750,000 from LWCF through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program to develop the new Rev. Charles Williams Park. This new park is named after an influential community leader and will include a playground, a performance shelter and bocce ball and horseshoe courts. Other improvements include walkways, a water retention area and an informational kiosk.

White River Greenway, Indiana

The White River Greenway in Morgan County, Indiana – located between the cities of Indianapolis and Bloomington – provides residents with a multi-use, recreational corridor along the park’s namesake river. An investment of $200,000 from LWCF through the State and Local Assistance Program was used to help acquire and develop 29 acres for the greenway’s trailhead and other recreational amenities. Today, the four-mile trail includes ADA accessibility, a picnic area, habitat improvements and a nature observation area.

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana

This year, there is an opportunity for LWCF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect a 1,600-acre tract in Indiana’s Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge with $2.5 million. The project contains forests and wetlands that provide habitat for waterfowl, waterbirds and landbirds, along with upland forests and grasslands that provide habitat for Indiana bats. The tract is adjacent to the Patoka River and will allow for restoration of lands that will improve water quality. It will also enhance public access to existing refuge lands as well as expand public recreational activities, such as wildlife observation, photography, hunting and fishing.

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Authors

Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.

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