North Michigan forest church leader works to protect old forest from proposed rocket launch site – Episcopal News Service

The UP Wild Church gathers in the Huron Mountains, a few miles from the proposed rocket launch site. Photo: Makari Uprising

[Episcopal News Service] A religious leader in North Michigan fights to protect a natural area where members worship so that it does not become a commercial rocket launch site. The proposed facility would not only affect their spiritual connection with the earth, he says – it would also threaten the old trees that have grown there for hundreds of years.

UP Wild Churchthe ministry of the Diocese of North Michigan in collaboration with the Evangelical Lutheran Church at the North Lakes Synod of America, organizes non-denominational prayer services and wilderness walks in the rich natural surroundings of the Upper Peninsula: its pine forests, inland lakes and the shores of Lake Superb.

But in addition to providing a natural refuge from the chaos of modern life, UP Wild Church also engages in environmental crises that threaten these places, educating people about past and present industrial devastation. Now they are facing the most urgent challenge. The proposed facility, the Michigan Launch Initiative, would be built on private land immediately adjacent to one of the sites of worship.

For four years the UP Wild Church has met about three times a month, mostly near Marquette, although it is expanding to other areas, founder Lanni Lantto said. The group meets all year round and has about 30 regular participants.

The UP Wild Church meets at various locations in the Upper Michigan Peninsula. Photo: Lanni Lantto

Last December, UP Wild Church held a service entitled Going Deeper with Christ in a publicly accessible old forest on the shores of Lake Superior, just outside Marquette. Some trees are estimated to be 200 to 400 years old, Lantto said.

“These trees were wonderful,” said Episcopal News Service. “We had this transforming experience. And I realized there was an old growth there. I’ve lived here all my life. I am 42 years old and I never knew it was 10 to 15 minutes outside of town. “

Old trees in the Upper Peninsula are relatively rare due to the logging industry that has existed there for a long time. This particular area remained relatively intact as the rocky, boulder-strewn shore of the lake made access difficult.

“We really fall in love again and honor how holy these places are,” said Lantto.

With this discovery, Lantto joined the Old Growth Forest Network, a non-profit group that identifies and tries to protect old forests across the country, becoming their coordinator in Marquette County. So when the news about the proposed launch site of the rocket appeared 1 ½ miles from where the group met at the December service, she immediately became concerned.

The proposed Michigan Launch Initiative site, planned by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA), would be used to launch commercial satellites into orbit. Private “spaceports” are an increasingly important and competitive industry, and state and local governments are struggling to attract investors in the hope of providing jobs for their communities.

However, as the industry grows, there is growing opposition to these places for environmental reasons. Critics have pointed to the environmental damage already caused by some newer launch sites. The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the SpaceX rocket launches at their spaceport in Texas reduced the number of pipe seedlings – an endangered species of coastal bird – in the area and potentially harmed other coastal birds and sea turtles as well.

In the Upper Peninsula, environmental issues include threats such as the spread of toxic materials in the area and the failed launch of rockets falling into the Upper Lake. However, Lantto’s biggest ecological concern is the risk of a forest fire destroying the irreplaceable old trees around the site. In September, a rocket launch at a SpaceX site in Texas set off a fire that burned 68 acres of protected nature reserves.

According to the proposal, an evacuation zone would be created around the launch site that would cover a large part of the old forest, including some places where UP Wild Church meets. This means they won’t be able to meet there when the rocket launch takes place, Lantto said.

“When they propose to put a rocket launch site directly in the middle of it, the Wild Church community was very concerned, not only because it’s where we’re going, but because this old growth is benefiting our wider community and our children’s generations. We cannot help but feel that we have to protect him. “

Lanni Lantto plants trees during a trip to the Church of the Wild. Photo: Chauncey Moran

Last August, as OGFN County Coordinator, Lantto worked with a private landowner in the area to dedicate 92 acres of old forest to conservation via the network. The move protects parts of the affected area from development, and was also intended to draw attention to the threat posed by the launch site.

Lantto said she and the other members of the UP Wild Church and OGFN who work with her are not opposed to the rocket industry itself; they just claim that this page is inappropriate place.

“We’re entering a new era of commercial space venture and we don’t really have a plan for it,” said ENS. “We never really did this. And for a Christian we say as a church, how do we deal with the future of technology and how does it affect us and how will it affect our ecosystem? ”

At this stage, Lantto and other residents, including some Wild Church members, focus on raising awareness of the threat to the old scrub in their backyard. Developers are undertaking feasibility studies and are still several years away from the official start of the permitting process.

“For Wild Church members who have taken on this task, it is very important to them because it is part of our Christian governance,” she said. “These are holy, holy places that God has given us, and there is only this much left.”

– Egan Millard is assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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