1,300 acres near Pilgrim River protected

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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - DNR officials, land owners and local forestry enthusiasts came together on Tuesday to celebrate 25 years of work towards the Pilgrim River Forest conservation project.

"This is a great example of a public-private partnership where we have the land owner, the federal government, state government and local governmental coalescing around conservation easements. This actually protects about 1,300 acres, about 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River," said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh.

The DNR purchased conservation easements with a $550,000 U.S. Forest Service Legacy Program grant.

Joe and Mary Hovel sold their easement as part of their ongoing passion to protect forests. They wanted to ensure the public will be able to hunt, fish, hike, bike and more in the forest.

"That kind of gives us what I'm going to call the social fabric of this whole deal. That's going to maintain this place for these people in the neighborhood and the visitors in the future," said Joe Hovel.

Hovel and his wife will reinvest earnings from this sale in land conservation elsewhere.

Another landowner donated land that has been in his family for generations.

"I am the rare Finn without relatives and I've had a will for many, many years, revised many times. One of my younger friends has told me multiple times, you should make all decisions regarding the disposition of the property while you're lucid. I have done so and am at peace and happy," said landowner John Ollila.

The land will be a protected and peaceful section of forest for both the creatures that live in the forest and the people that visit for years to come.

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