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      Million dollar grant will give public more room to roam

      A large plot of forest land in Charlevoix County will be enjoyed by the public thanks to a one-million-dollar grant.

      A large plot of forest land in Charlevoix County will be enjoyed by the public thanks to a one-million-dollar grant.

      The Department of Natural Resources announced the 750 acres of Thumb Lake frontage in Charlevoix County will be protected and enjoyed by residents thanks to a Forest Legacy Program grant award.

      The project, known as the Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest (Ottawa for "Big Finger Water"), includes the state acquisition of a conservation easement on 750 acres of rolling northern hardwood forests that is strategically positioned to connect larger blocks of protected lands and habitats. The property is adjacent to state forest land on three sides and contains the Thumb Lake frontage on the fourth side.

      Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division, said state acquisition of the conservation easement means that the property will stay in private ownership, but will be open for public recreational use and will be managed as a working forest under a forest management plan approved by the state forester.

      "Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking or one of the many other recreational opportunities our forest land has to offer, this project ensures this area will be sustainably managed for the enjoyment of current and future users," said O'Neill, who also serves as Michigan's state forester. "In addition to protecting the recreational values of the land, this project also takes into account protection of wildlife habitat and ensures sustainable timber management continues on the property. This is great news for all forest stakeholders."

      O'Neill said that with the grant funds now awarded, the DNR will begin the detailed work with the landowner and project partner, Little Traverse Conservancy, so that the project can be successfully completed.