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Developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Forest and Water Resources in Alger County, Michigan

Created: 3/25/2013 - Updated: 5/06/2019

Photo attributed to Andrew Jameson. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.


The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust (SWP) partnered with the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP) to develop an adaptation plan for Alger County, Michigan. SWP conducted vulnerability assessments of the county’s forest and water resources and economy in a changing climate and developed adaptation actions for implementation. The final plan was released in December 2011.


Alger County is located on the southern coastline of Lake Superior and contains the Munising Bay Watershed, which spans over 36,000 acres. The landscape contains 521,765 forested acres and 80 miles of coastline that provide habitat for black bears, whitetail deer, gray wolves, and the endangered Kirkland warbler, among others. The forests are transitional, straddling the southern boreal and northern hardwood forest types, and primarily managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Michigan. These species, habitats, and water resources, and the economic sectors which depend upon them, will all be impacted by climate change. Over the last few years, the region has experienced more intense and extreme weather events, increased air and water temperatures, and extended droughts.

SWP is a non-profit organization based in Michigan that is engaged in conservation, protection, and public education initiatives in different communities, including Alger County. SWP participated in MFPP’s Climate Solutions University in order to conduct vulnerability assessments of the natural resources and human communities of Alger County and develop a series of adaptation responses.


The MFPP Climate Solutions University process includes four steps:

  1. Local communities create stakeholder action teams.
  2. Teams assess vulnerabilities and opportunities for action.
  3. Teams develop actionable adaptation strategies.
  4. Strategies are implemented and evaluated.

To create a plan for Alger County, SWP followed these steps, collecting data and consulting with regional experts to assess risks and develop an adaptation plan. Multiple stakeholders were engaged throughout the project, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. Resources used included Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on our Communities and Ecosystems and the Munising Bay Watershed Restoration Project and Water Quality Management Plan. The project team conducted assessments of the climate-related risks and vulnerabilities of Alger County’s forests, water resources, and economy. The risks and vulnerabilities were assigned low, medium, and high rankings; these rankings incorporated both the likelihood of change and the probability that the change would cause harm.

Based on the outcomes of these assessments, the project team developed five adaptation goals; the goals included:

  1. Maintain the ecological and economic viability of Alger County’s forests.
  2. Increase public awareness regarding climate change impacts.
  3. Increase ecological integrity and function of county watersheds.
  4. Improve public awareness of climate-related public health and safety issues.
  5. Identify and take advantage of potential economic opportunities presented by climate change.

Each goal was assigned associated actions with which to implement these initiatives over the short (1-3 years), medium (3-10 years), and long (10-25 years) term; each action was also assigned a lead organization or agency to guide its implementation within a specified timeframe.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Projected outcomes of the Alger County adaptation plan include protection of threatened and endangered species and habitats, preservation of local economic opportunities, reduction in infrastructure and property damage, enhancement of climate-related education and awareness, and improvement of public water resources infrastructure, among others.


Information gathered from interview with project contact March 25, 2011, publications, and other resources.


Gregg, R. M. (2012). Developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Forest and Water Resources in Alger County, Michigan [Case study on a project of the Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated October 2012)

Project Contacts

Project Lead

Natasha KossProgram

The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Superior Watershed Partnership implements a variety of conservation and public education projects including:

Since “two-thirds” of U.S. fresh water originates on forested land, forest management, water resources and climate change go hand in hand. The Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP) is addressing the urgent issue of climate change by training climate resilient communities through its premiere training program, Climate Solutions University.


Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Flow patterns
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type: 
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Host adaptation training or planning workshop
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptation plans

Related Resources

Sector Addressed: 
Land Use Planning
Tourism / Recreation
Water Resources