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UPEC Community Conservation Grants

The 2024 round of grants is now closed — thanks to everyone who applied!



UPEC’s Community Conservation Grant Program is designed to challenge UP communities to promote conservation values within their watershed or local area. The program honors the late Tom Church of Watersmeet, a long-time UPEC member whose bequest made this fund possible. The program is also supported by the Saari Family Fund and many individual donors.

In the past short-sighted actions by corporate or individual landowners often degraded the UP landscape. Today, state and federal environmental programs as well as the private conservancy movement work to protect natural areas for public benefit and to safeguard significant populations of wildlife and the ecosystem processes that support them. UPEC’s Community Conservation Grants initiative focuses on communities that want to step up the protection of conservation values in their locality. 

UPEC wishes to encourage more proactive stewardship with this program. Grants could be awarded for finding ways to enhance native plant and animal life and the systems that support them. They can be for starting a community forest or preserve, or restoring a stream or wetland, or putting on a program about local medicinal plants, rare frogs, or top predators. These are only examples; local communities can come up with their own ideas.  

As of March 2023, UPEC has given away $217,700 so far under this program: $30,000 to three grants in 2016 for land acquisition; $12,500 to three grants that were not for land acquisition in 2017; $25,500 to three grants in 2018, one of which was for land acquisition and two to enable future land acquisition; $21,500 for three grants in 2019, one for land acquisition and two for educational campaigns (wind towers in wilderness areas and glacial archeology); $32,000 for four grants in 2020, three for land acquisitions and one for a water monitoring educational campaign; seven grants for $36,700 in 2021, two for land acquisition; $32,000 for four grants in 2022, two for land acquisition, one for river protection, and one for restoration; and $19,000 for four grants in 2023, three for land acquisition/public access assurance, and one for Native land rematriation. Our priority has been to further the permanent acquisition of ecologically rich parcels of land with an eye to community support and vulnerability to loss.

The grants, up to $10,000 each, are for planning or implementing local conservation projects that engage a variety of stakeholders within a community, from recreational and sportsmen’s groups to naturalists, township officials, churches, and schools. The UPEC Board anticipates the program will stimulate grassroots conservation activity in localities throughout the UP.


Community Conservation Grant FAQs

  • WHO? Conservation activists inspired to step up the practice of conservation values within a community are the target. Most of these activists have been affiliated with a local land conservancy seeking to set up a community forest or related land protection initiative (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Keweenaw Land Trust, Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, Northwoods Alliance). But other groups have also applied for educational exhibits at museums and a county-wide watershed education program. Applicants must have 501(c)3 status, and the project must take place in the UP.

  • WHY? Despite extensive public land in the UP, land in private ownership (corporations and individuals) offers new opportunities to enhance protection through community action. Degraded landscapes can be restored, and good ones protected from development by creative use of tools such as conservation easements and by educational campaigns.

  • WHAT? Grants may be used as a local match to purchase land, but other purposes related to a community land initiative are also suitable, such as educational videos, legal expenses, or wildlife inventories. A detailed budget is expected, as well as a final report on how the money was actually spent. Grants may not be used for salaries.

  • HOW MUCH? Grant awards have varied from $1500 to $10,000, depending on the likelihood of the award to contribute permanently to conservation values in a community. Will the grant have a lasting impact? Are diverse community stakeholders engaged? Motivated activists and strong groups are the keys to long-range protection.

  • WHEN do I need to apply? Applications for the 2024 round of grants were due February 15, 2024. We will announced the 2025 round later this year.

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