The land of Hiawatha

Editor’s note: The following story was provided by the Hiawatha National Forest

MUNISING – The Hiawatha National Forest recently detailed the forest’s mission and benefits in its continuing effort to educate the public on these areas enjoyed for a wide range of uses.

Congress established the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration at the height of the conservation era. In many ways it was – and is – the quintessential conservation agency. Then as now, the Forest Service promoted science, efficiency, professionalism and integrity.

Nationally, the U.S. Forest Service is known by its motto: “caring for the land and serving people,” which boils down the agency’s multifaceted mission and vision statements.

If you look at those full-length mission and vision statements, however, you see that the Forest Service has one of the most complex and broadly beneficial missions of all public land management agencies.

Congress envisioned national forests as a multiple-use lands providing sustainable supplies of a wide range of resources – from timber and clean drinking water to habitat for endangered plants and game and non-game species; from recreation opportunities like off-highway vehicle use, mountain bike trails, and dispersed camping to primitive wildernesses experiences; from heritage sites to utility rights of way to firewood cutting permits to national recreation areas.

As one of 155 Forest Service units charged with carrying out these overarching directions, Hiawatha National Forest manages a wide portfolio of uses.

“Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the national forest to meet the needs of present and future generations through conservation,” Hiawatha Forest Supervisor Jo Reyer said. “As a result, Hiawatha National Forest provides a broad assortment of services and resources to benefit local communities and the nation as a whole.”

While Hiawatha National Forest has many similarities to other national forests across the country, each forest has its own particular footprint. For instance, as the only national forest with lands touching lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan, the Hiawatha is known as “the Great Lakes National Forest.”

The forest’s lakeside setting makes it unique among national forests, resulting in distinctive wetlands habitats, “lake effect” recreation opportunities, and Great Lakes-influenced resources such as islands, heritage sites and lighthouses.

“Our employees’ vision is that ‘your Great Lakes national forest’ inspires unforgettable experiences and sustains ecosystems and livelihoods through collaborative, science-based land management,” Reyer said.

This forest-specific vision supports the Congressionally-mandated function of the agency, but also hints at local flavor. With almost 1 million acres altogether, Hiawatha National Forest’s east and west units play a distinctive and important role in supporting the quality of life enjoyed in the Upper Peninsula.

The national forest sustains healthy ecosystems across the land.

As stated in the 2006 forest plan, Hiawatha National Forest manages lands for a wide variety of integrated natural and cultural resource purposes. For example, federal forests provide timber production; wildlife and plant habitat for game and non-game species; wild and scenic rivers; fire protection; wilderness; developed recreation (like campgrounds, cabins, ski trails and snowmobile trails); utility corridors; heritage sites; and more.

“All of these uses relate to the health of the ecosystems we manage – as well as to the livelihoods of local families who benefit from what forests provide,” Reyer said.

For instance, last year Hiawatha National Forest sold about 44 million board feet of timber, which translates into a significant benefit for the area economy. Further, national forests protect the watersheds that provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean drinking water. In addition, the Hiawatha’s roads and scenic landscapes provide access to many attractions that serve and inspire visitors from far and near, supporting quality of life and tourist economies in communities throughout the eastern and central U.P.

From the soaring cliffs and sandy beaches of Grand Island National Recreation Area to the monarch research plots at Peninsula Point Lighthouse, from the meandering fall color drive along Whitefish Scenic Byway to the tranquil campsites at one of its 18 developed campgrounds, from more than 160 miles of designated snowmobile trails to the stellar cross-country ski trails, Hiawatha National Forest offers an impressive array of campgrounds, trails, historic sites, and interpretive programming.

“In everything they do, our forest employees work toward what I believe is an undeniably important mission,” Reyer said.

For information about the Forest and its resources, visit the Hiawatha’s webpage at or call a local district office.