The Surprising New Economic Pillar of Les Cheneaux: Birdwatching?

As the 2017 season for bird watching dawns, we share a video by NatureChange.org that looks at how economically important this springtime ritual of nature lovers is to the communities of the Les Cheneaux Island Archipelago. That economic importance increases each year as the effects of global warming continue to shrink winter tourism in the region. A shorter snow season means fewer snowmobilers—and fewer snowmobile tourist dollars. A shorter ice season means fewer ice fishermen—and fewer ice fishermen dollars.

The communities of Les Cheneaux turned to another natural resource they have, but had never actively marketed: the area’s importance to migrating birds. The Les Cheneaux region is an enchanting archipelago of 36 islands 15 miles east of the Mackinac Bridge on the Lake Huron shore of the Upper Peninsula. In spring, as birds wing north from their winter homes, they funnel to the tip of the Lower Peninsula and then fly the short hop across the Mackinac Straits, often landing in the dense shoreline forests of Les Cheneaux, where they find cover and food. For birders working through their life list of bird sightings, the area offers rich opportunity to spot all manner of birds—raptors and warblers and waterfowl—while roaming a beautiful area.

If you are a birder, you’ll enjoy this video’s economic backstory about one of your favorite pastimes. If you’re not a birder, you’ll enjoy that backstory as well, and maybe be intrigued enough to dangle some binoculars around your neck, shove a bird book in your pocket and experience a springtime daybreak on the Les Cheneaux shore.

This video, part of an ongoing series, is produced by Joe VanderMeulen for Nature Change, a Northern Michigan nonprofit dedicated to reporting on global warming, the North’s changing ecology and people who are passionate about protecting nature.

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