Collaboration between land trusts and ecotourism around Lake Superior
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Land trusts throughout the United States have grown in number over the past 10 to 15 years, and consequently so have the number of protected acres via conservation easements. This increase is largely due to the fact that land is becoming more sacred as our population continues to grow. By the same token, ecotourism is becoming a more recognized way of travel for tourists of all kinds. Its popularity (fueled by departments of tourism and the travel industry in general) is based upon the need for tourists to become more self-aware of how their travels impact the environment (i.e. the land). When viewed side-by-side, it seems that land trusts and ecotourism share the same mission or at least have many common parameters. My project focused on this topic specifically in the Lake Superior region. I began in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and went counter-clockwise around the lake to determine which land trusts exist and how each trust has worked to protect the lake. I also determined whether these trusts were involved with the tourism industry, and whether they shared resources to meet the common goal of protecting the lake. The results of my research varied. In the case of Wisconsin, the state has established a formal green certification program called 'Travel Green Wisconsin,' in which businesses and natural areas meet certain environmental protection requirements. The state of Wisconsin, however, hasn't worked with land trusts to fulfill this mission. The state of Michigan has one notable land trust on Lake Superior (The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust), in Marquette, however, its mission is almost exclusively to protect the lake (not conserve land). Also, in the case of Canada, ecotourism is primarily confined to governmental land (not private land). In Ontario, partnerships that consist of city government, provincial government, non-governmental agencies, and tribal nations all contribute to protecting the shoreline of Lake Superior. And lastly, in Minnesota only one land trust exists for the entire state (the Minnesota Land Trust), which has protected many acres along the north shore of Lake Superior between Duluth and Grand Portage.