Saving Lake Superior ecosystems

Land trusts working in the Great Lakes basin understand that protecting fresh water means protecting the land.

By Laura Eklov June 1, 2021

Land trusts working in the Great Lakes basin understand that protecting fresh water means protecting the land. Here are some of the ways they are helping keep the Great Lakes great.

The Amnicon River, named after an Ojibwe word meaning “spawning ground,” is integral to the Lake Superior Coastal Plain. The river’s outlet is a mosaic of natural communities that serve as a stopover corridor for migrating birds and a spawning ground for coastal fish. As development pressures increase, stormwater runoff within this Lake Superior tributary affects habitat quality. This has resulted in a surge of research and interagency planning to lessen impacts of peak storm events, including the transport of phosphorous and sediment to the lake.

The accredited Landmark Conservancy began work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seven years ago to protect land and waterways along the Amnicon River, which is a valued Lake Superior brook trout stream. To date, this partnership has protected nearly 5,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, including a 500-acre camp.

Camp Amnicon offers a great diversity of habitats. Over 118 bird species are found there every year. Traveling south, migratory birds fly counter-clockwise along the western tip of Lake Superior and find at the mouth of the Amnicon River what they need on their journey — a place for rest and food. Run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1966, Camp Amnicon provides a wealth of experiences and memories for hundreds of young people who camp there, many from troubled backgrounds.

“We have generations of people who come back and say there is just something about this camp, about this land, and now we know that’s going to keep going for generations to come,’’ says Alana Butler, former Camp Amnicon executive director.

Landmark Conservancy worked with the Camp Amnicon Foundation, an ELCA-affiliated ministry, to create a conservation easement to forever protect the camp, including its fragile clay bluffs, two-plus miles of Amnicon River frontage, and Lake Superior shoreline. The easement supports the stewardship mission of the ELCA ministry and offers unfettered access for bird researchers.

“We don’t know a lot about the needs of the migrant birds that fly through twice each year and use this area for a stopover. This property offers not just a variety of intact habitat for [birds] to use but an opportunity for us to see what their needs are, what their choices are for habitat,” says Kim Grveles, avian ecologist for the Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau of the Wisconsin DNR.

Learn more at Next week, watch our blog for one more way land trusts are making a difference in the Great Lakes basin.