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Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition to meet in the Sault for first time

Group's mission is to help region recover from many years of natural resource exploitation
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SAULT STE. MARIE, MICH. – Everything from the area’s Native American origins to recent endeavours to clean up toxic hotspots for the benefit fish and wildlife habitat will be explored in a celebration of the St. Marys River and Eastern Upper Peninsula Sept. 16 at Lake Superior State University’s Walker Cisler Center.

Celebrate the UP, a day-long program of local, natural themes, is the creation of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition. The public is welcome.

UPEC’s annual forum has been celebrated for nine years in the central and western U.P., but the Sept. 16 event will be its first in Sault Ste. Marie. The EUP’s longstanding Sierra Club chapter, Three Lakes Group, is organizing the event.

“We are planning a positive, festive environment,” said Dave Aho, a TLG member and UPEC board member. “We are interested in getting residents and visitors to better appreciate how fortunate we are to have this vast area of natural resources here where we work and play, and what we need to do to keep it all healthy.”

The event will be set up to allow participants to hear talks from a variety of natural resource experts while visiting with vendors, including area businesses that are connected to the EUP land and water. The programs start at 9 a.m. and will conclude around 4 p.m. Participants may come and go as they please and get lunch on their own in LSSU’s Quarterdeck dining hall, which adjoins the Cisler Center. Area businesses interested in participating should contact Aho or a member of the planning group.

“We’ll have a great variety of speakers talking about so many aspects of the St. Marys River and its surroundings,” said Roger Blanchard of the Sierra Club. “This is the program to attend if you’re interested in learning about the history of the former tannery, or the Native American settlements along the rapids, the islands and wetlands in the St. Marys River and surrounding watershed, trails on land and water, as well as studies by entities from near and far that bring us information on American martens, snowshoe hares, invasive species and much more.”

After the programs, participants are welcome to take guided paddling tours of the lower St. Mary’s islands, check out the newly restored Little Rapids off Sugar Island, take a relaxing nature hike, tour Algonquin ski/bike trails, and much more, including a hands-on tour of LSSU’s Aquatic Research Laboratory.

UPEC is the Upper Peninsula’s oldest grassroots environmental group. It started in 1976, with the mission of helping the region recover from many years of natural resource exploitation. UPEC is a self-styled watchdog to industry and government, but seeks partners and promotes reasoned dialogue as it works to protect the special lands and waters of the U.P.

“The issues have changed over four decades, but UPEC’s steady purpose has not,” said Horst Schmidt of UPEC.

He noted the group has expanded its reach since 2003, awarding many environmental grants to teachers and educational institutions around the U.P. Grants of up to $1,000 are awarded each year to projects that UPEC board members deem most likely to achieve the group’s goals of fueling environmental education, appreciation and respect for U.P. natural resources. The group expanded this effort with the addition of the Community Conservation Grant Program in 2015. In 2016, UPEC and Save the Wild U.P. formed the Mining Action Group, a volunteer, grass-roots effort to defend the U.P.’s clean water and wild places from the dangers of sulfide mining.

Greg Zimmerman, LSSU biology professor, will present the opening session, The Tannery Site Clean-up: A Local Environmental Success Story – Eventually. The rest of the day will feature more programs, with several running concurrently, and a lunch break. During the closing session, several speakers will give brief talks on advocacy, providing some examples on how you can get involved in improving area natural resources and facilities.

Registration and more information on speakers for Celebrate the U.P. 2017 in Sault Ste. Marie is available on the event website.

Read more about UPEC and sponsoring organizations, or find out how you can help, by checking out group websites; and Facebook pages Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and Three Lakes Group of the Sierra Club.