MARQUETTE — If you don’t care about the protected wilderness areas in the Upper Peninsula, you should, according to officials who protect those areas.

The 50th anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act was the topic of a symposium today at Northern Michigan University. The Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy wants more NMU students to be involved in wilderness activities.

The nonprofit Land Conservancy protects lands through conservation easements or lands that have been donated to them. It’s expecting to add 25,000 more acres soon.

“We have 3,100 total right now and hopefully early next year we will be at 25,200 – we have several (land donations) in the works,” said Jeff Caldwell, board member of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy. “The ones that we added, I don’t know exactly where all of them are, but two of them are right outside Marquette, so there will be two more in Marquette County right on the city limits.”

NMU supports “academic internships” (with UPLC), said NMU Professor John Rebers, head of the NMU Biology Department. “Dmitri spent the summer working on the north shore of Lake Michigan helping to protect Piping Plovers,” Rebers said. The Piping Plover is “an endangered bird that nests on the shorelines.”

The U.S. Forest Service protects millions of acres national forests in northern Michigan including the Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests.

America’s monarch butterfly population is disappearing by the millions. However, there was a record number of Monarchs this summer along Peninsula Point on the Stonington Peninsula.

“Recreational use of wilderness is relatively moderate on the Hiawatha (National Forest) but even quiet recreation can occasionally impact efforts to maintain water quality,” said Jo Reyer, forest supervisor for the Hiawatha National Forest/U.S. Forest Service.

ABC 10 News Director Greg Peterson asked Reyer, “Aren’t we in big trouble with monarchs now?”

“Worldwide, yes, although this fall we had one of the biggest migrations ever (on the Stonington Peninsula)” Reyer said.

The Wilderness Act was passed by Congress in 1964 to protect areas where few humans venture and where there’s virtually no development.