By taking nature into account, we can make better-informed and more strategic decisions that lead to long-term prosperity.
— Keweenaw Peninsula Report

The natural capital assets
around the Keweenaw peninsula are irreplaceable.


Stamp Sand, Buffalo Reef  Credit: Charles Kerfoot

Stamp Sand, Buffalo Reef
Credit: Charles Kerfoot

The ecosystems around the Keweenaw Peninsula risk being impaired by mining waste called stamp sands. Gaining a better understanding of the economic value of the services provided by these ecosystems will provide important information to be taken into account in management decisions, including the restoration efforts targeted at removing or containing these stamp sands in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Along the Keweenaw Peninsula, copper mines and mills dotted this “Copper Country” at the turn of the 20th century. These mines produced tailings called stamp sands — sand in both coarse and fine particle sizes left over from processed ore — from 1860 until 1968. During that time, miners dumped millions of metric tons of stamp sands along rivers, waterways, lakes, and the shores of Lake Superior on the Keweenaw Peninsula. These stamp sands left behind from historic mining activities are now having significant environmental effects.

This study finds that the indirect, non-market values of ecosystem services provided by the Keweenaw Peninsula region are substantial. Under the analysis in this report, the total ecosystem services value provided by the lands and waters in the study area are at least $613 million to $1.5 billion each year.

Study Area
Click to Enlarge

Buffalo Reef supports tribal, commercial, and recreational harvests:

  • The total average harvest of Tribal commercial, non-tribal commercial, and recreational harvests of Lake Trout and Whitefish within 50 miles of the Reef is almost 450 thousand pounds each year.

  • Approximately 170,000 pounds of harvest could be lost due to Buffalo Reef habitat destruction by stamp sands.

  • The replacement cost of that lost habitat is valued at roughly $5 million annually.

The aquatic and upland environments in and around the Keweenaw Peninsula provide immeasurable cultural value to residents and indigenous communities throughout the region. 


Interested in learning more or working with us? Contact us today!

Fletcher, A., Cousins, K. 2019. Ecosystem Services Valuation of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Earth Economics. Tacoma, WA.

Funding for this project is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We would like to thank Elizabeth LaPlante and Kevin O’Donnell of the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) for their assistance and support.